In Mildred Taylor's young adult novel Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, what does Mary try to teach Cassie about the nature of prejudice in their community?

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lhc | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

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Cassie Logan has learned some unpleasant truths about the community in which she lives when she returns home from a trip to town with her brother and grandmother.  She has seen her grandmother sell her products at the very back of the market, where she must go because she is black; she has seen white people get waited on first at the store even though black customers were there first; and she has been forced to say she is sorry to a cruel white girl for something she (Cassie) did not do.  Her mother, Mary, an intelligent, educated woman of great common sense tries to explain the nature of these things to her unhappy daughter after that fateful day:

So now, even though seventy years have passed since slavery, most white people still think of us as they did back then-that we’re not as good as they are-and people like Mr. Simms hold on to that belief harder than some other folks because they have little else to hold on to. For him to believe that he is better than we are makes him think that he’s important simply because he’s white.

Mary goes on to tell Cassie that she expects Cassie to behave well in front of white people AND black people because it is the right thing to do, and she reminds Cassie that although one has no control things such as skin color, everyone has a choice about what they do with their own life, ending with "I pray to God you'll make the most of yours". 

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gojsawyer's profile pic

gojsawyer | Teacher | (Level 1) Assistant Educator

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This is a very interesting way to ask this question, so it has been left the way that it is to illustrate some key points. First, it is important to define terms. Different terms for a word may mean the same thing, sometimes not. Second, sometimes similar words for terms may be used interchangeably to describe something , but again, sometimes not. If that seems confusing, it is. Let’s try to straighten things out.

The term “racialism” used above may refer to what some online definitions offer as the same thing as “racism.” Racism is a pretty common term for judging someone, usually negatively,  solely on the basis of race. Many times, the “racism” is directed toward members of one particular group, for one reason or for many reasons.

The term “racialism” by itself is a less common term. It refers to a large-scale school of thought that refers to judging many races as inferior as a belief system. Often times, the goal of racialism is that one group should have ultimate superiority over all other groups.

In this case, it is not important to determine a fine difference between “racism” and “racialism.” One online dictionary for kids even simplifies the definition of “racialism” to mean “racism.” So, no matter which word is used to describe the idea, Mamma most likely means that every kid should judge everybody equally and never on the basis of race.

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