What does Marguerite do to the "powhitetrash" children that come near her in the store in Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings?

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dymatsuoka eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Because they were instructed to do so by their Momma, Bailey and Marguerite for the most part stood by quietly when the ill-behaved "powhitetrash" children came into the store.  If one of them happened to get close to her, however, Marguerite admits, "I pinched it...partly out of angry frustration and partly because I didn't believe in its flesh reality".

It was not the fact that the children were unruly, "crawl(ing) over the shelves and into the...bins" that disturbed Marguerite the most.  It was the disrespect with which they treated her family which infuriated her, and the subservient way her family was forced to respond.  Without really understanding its full extent, Marguerite was feeling the effects of the racist hierarchy of the Southern social structure of the times.  It did not matter that Marguerite's Momma, grandmother, and uncle owned the store and, as adults, were deserving of respect.  By "virtue" of their color, the "powhitetrash" children were allowed to condescendingly call them by their first names and order them around, and the Negroes had to "take it" (Chapter 5).

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I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

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