Someone Knows My Name

by Lawrence Hill

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In Someone Knows My Name, what are some examples that show inhumanity, barbarism, and racism? Also, what are some examples of inhumanity, barbarism, and racism in real life?

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After Aminata arrives on the plantation, the slave owner, Appleby, brutally rapes her. She describes the rape in the following way: "the pain was terrible as he plunged deep inside my body where no one belonged but me." After she is raped, Aminata is covered in blood and ashamed of what happened to her.

When Aminata later becomes pregnant with Chekura's child, she knows Appleby will not let her marry. In another instance of brutality, he does not allow his slaves to marry. When Appleby sees Aminata dressed up in fine clothes, he makes her burn them, and then he shaves the hair she is so proud of. When Aminata's son, Mamadu, is only ten months old, Appleby sells him for five pounds. Appleby laughs at Aminata, and he won't tell her where her son has been sold.

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There are several examples of barbarism in the novel. Some of these examples are from Aminata's youth in West Africa, where she was born in 1745. For example, Aminata's mother explains to her daughter, in Aminata's words, that "some people have their womanly parts torn apart and put back together improperly" and that this must be done to the women in her mother's tribe in West Africa so that men will marry them. This is a form of female genital mutilation, and some girls die during the procedure.

The episode in which Aminata is captured by slave traders is another example of extreme barbarism and inhumanity. The captors strike her mother and likely kill her and shoot her father. As Aminata describes the murder of her father, "Fire exploded from the stick and blew Papa onto his back. He turned his head to look for me, but then his eyes went blank." The captors seize a young girl and put a noose over her head, and they also kill her parents in front of her. Another example of inhumanity is that the captors force the enslaved people to walk naked. Aminata experiences her first menstrual period while she is naked, and blood runs down her legs.

During the Middle Passage, the enslaved men are chained on deck--another instance of barbarism and racism. They are fed so little that Aminata describes one man in the following way: "His ribs were showing, and he looked utterly spent." He is tossed overboard because he is sick. Another example of barbarism is when the assistant cracks his whip on deck and the men are forced to dance. The slaves' captors treat them with extreme barbarism because they are racist and believe Africans' lives are worth little, save for the labor they can provide.

In today's world, there are still unfortunately far too many examples of barbarism. Slavery still exists today. According to the link below, there are 21 million enslaved people today who are treated with barbarism and inhumanity to force them to work in fields such as mining, farming, ranching, and other areas. In addition, 22% of enslaved people today are forced into slavery involving forced sex, and 26% of enslaved people are children. Many of these children are also forced into slavery involving prostitution. These people are regarded as worthwhile only for their labor and are not valued as humans, just as the slaves in the novel were treated.

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