Brennen MichelinDr. Adam BeardsworthEnglish 100128 March 2019Society’s Demonstrations of Systemic RacismSystemic racism defined by Joe Feagin and Sean Elias is “a social science theory of race and racism that elucidates the foundational, enveloping and persisting structures, mechanisms and operations of racial oppression.” (Feagin and Elias 3). In Terrence Hayes’s American Sonnets for my Past and Future Assassin, it sheds light on these social stereotypes that African-American people have to go through in day to day life. Hayes demonstrates systemic racism through areas such as local, historical and political patterns in the USA.
Hayes’s ultimate goal is to show the unfair disadvantages that African-American people have in society and the continuing conflict they have with the American government, he demonstrates this through talking about many public figures who are with or against racism and comparing some social norms to historical event to show how these norms are racist.Hayes talks about many examples of systemic racism that a African-American individual may go through in local areas; this includes negative stereotypes that may take away from the individual’s talents and create false accusations.
One example of local racism is when Hayes states, “There was a African-American male review for ladies night / At the nightclub. There was a African-American male review / By suits in the offices, the courts & waiting rooms.”(7). In Hayes’s statement, when stating “a African-American male review,” it demonstrates society’s constant judging and monitoring of African-American people in a more local scenario. The quotation also shows how African-American people may be treated differently because of the moderating with Hayes’s following statement, “By suits in the offices, the courts & waiting rooms.” The quote eludes to law enforcement with the statement “suits in the offices” and how they are treating African-American people wrong because of the constant criminalizing with the statement afterwards, “courts & waiting rooms.” The whole statement is an allusion to the justice system with reference to the court of law and shows how African-Americans might get treating unfairly in the system when committing a crime. Hayes also attacks another local problem when talking about African-American modern music, Hayes states, “African-American Modern music may begin, almost / Carelessly, to breathe n-words. Yes, even the most / Bespectacled hallucination cruising the lanes / Of America may find her tongue curls inwards.”(15). The quote parades around the use of saying the n-word in music and states how it became a “Bespectacled hallucination;” this metaphor is used to show how people have voluntarily turned a blind eye to the n-word in pop culture music. Hayes also takes a stab at the word nigga’ and states how it’s relatively the same as the n-word, he states, It feels sadder when a black person says Nigga / Because it sounds like Nigger.(44). The quotation shows the disappointment and emotions Hayes feels towards the African-Americans who use this word as he feels like using it will water down the meaning of the n-word shown by his following quote, No word leaves me more graced by shame.(44). Haye’s sonnets ultimately demonstrates the local racism that African-American individuals may go through; and as a result, it links back to systemic racism through the oppression of the court of law. Hayes also demonstrates the use of the n-word and brings light to the fundamentals of the word through society’s norms and music.One of Hayes’s ultimate goals is to shed light on the conflict between the African-American society and the American Government. For example, Hayes states, “Are you not the color of this country’s current threat / Advisory?”(10) Hayes reveals the African-American society’s point of view when talking about the “threat Advisory,” showing that just having the same color person in office doesn’t change the action of others; this also relates to the writers Feagin and Elias who argue that there is a “one-sided emphasis on ‘meaning of race’”(Feagin and Elias 15). Feagin and Elias describe racial difficulties as a problem of color blindness where people become too blind of racial problems that they become racist themselves; this is a correlation to Hayes’s reference to the advisory because the government have become too color blind that they don’t notice the racist actions they might be doing. Another example of the conflict between the American government and the African-American community is when Hayes states, “Maxine Waters, being of fire, being of sword / shaped like a silver tongue. Cauldron, siren, / African-American as tarnation, African-American as the consciousness.”(23) The quote talks about Maxine Waters, Waters is mentioned because of her constant fight with the American government and more importantly Donald Trump. Maxine Waters is a African-American United States Representative that is not afraid to speak her mind on certain topics, she is an activist for the African-American society; this is why Hayes uses her for his sonnet and describes her as a “fire” and “sword.” One of the most well known fights Waters has done is between Her and Donald Trump, she has debunked many things Trump has said and has attacked him for many racist actions he has done over the years.Hayes’s book makes many references to the American president Donald J. Trump, he attacks him for his constant racism not only for African-Americans, but for other non white ethnicities. For example, Hayes states Goddamn, so this is what it means to have a leader / you despise, the racists said when the president / was African-American and i’ll be damned if I ain’t saying I too.(38). The quote represents Donald Trump when referring to leader and attacks him for the racist things that he has said in the past when Barack Obama was president. Donald Trump is a consistent racist who denies his actions as being racist, Hayes knows this is a well known fact and uses Trump as a example to show systematic racism on a government level. The sonnet attacks Donald Trump for his constant defending of thinking he is allowed to say racist things about Mexicans because he has mexican friends and family, Hayes states You are not allowed to say shit about Mexicans when you / Ain’t actually got any Mexican friends-I bet you’ve never / been invited to a family dinner.(38). Hayes is accusing Donald Trump of lying about his friends and family that are mexicans and suggests that even if he does have family and friends that are mexicans, they wouldn’t be friendly to him because of his racist type of character. In conclusion, Terrence Hayes’s American Sonnets for my Past and Future Assassin sheds light on many of the problems society has when it comes to systemic racism. Hayes does a excellent job demonstrating the systemic racism in areas such as local, historical and political patterns in the USA. Hayes sheds light on many public figures that are either fighting racism like Maxine Waters or demonstrating racism like Donald J. Trump, it also shows many examples of racism that have been widely accepted by society and informs the audience that this racism still should be condemned..The poem also demonstrates a good understanding of the struggles African-American people have to go through in society and shows how Hayes is trying to help, he states, America’s struggle with itself has always had people like me at the heart of it.(38); this shows his compassion to help end systematic racism in today’s society.