Discuss the Langston Hughes poem, "Cross."

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Like so much of Hughes' poetry, "Cross" is about an exploration of one's identity.  The poem is reflective and rooted in rumination about one's own sense of self and how race and ethnicity play a vital role in the construction of how one sees themselves and how others see them.  The inspiration for it comes from individuals who are born to different racial compositions.  These are beings who have different feet in different racial or ethnic worlds and carry the diaspora of such experiences within themselves.  In a world of binary opposition, where roles are clearly defined for one group or another, individuals who carry the blood of different narratives in their own psyches carry with themselves a new form of expression.  We get this through the poem.  The inspiration for this might come from Hughes' own background.  Both of his parents were "mixed," meaning that their racial compositions came from different expressions.  Hughes' himself was the same, being of African- American, Caucasian, and Native American descent.  This left a profound impact on Hughes because it made the search for identity a challenging element that defied simple and conventional means of articulation.  We can see this in the poem, when the speaker's emotions vacillates between hated, poignancy, and a sense of liminality in the world in "being white nor black."

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