During the Civil Rights Movement there was a lot of hatred and violence between the black community and the white community all because of skin color. When Whitney Moore Young, Jr. states, “Together, blacks and whites can move our country beyond racism and create for the benefit of all of us an open society, one that assures freedom, justice, and full equality for all”, Whitney means that if all the hate is put aside, the community, even the entire country, can overcome anything. Racism can make or break a community or just a simple friendship.
In The Secret Life of Bees, a novel by Sue Monk Kidd, worlds collide during the time of prejudice and racism. In the novel, a young girl tries to find herself within a black family, and learns more than she expected about herself, then she would anywhere else. She sees how even she, herself, has evidence of slight racism in her mind. When racism takes over of a society, it does not just change the mind of one person. It changes the mind of many, causing relationships and friendships between people to falter or grow.
Racism can cause a dilemma with relationships between people and cause them to be at a thin line. When Lily and Zach are eating lunch after a day of work, Zach explains his dream job and what he plans to accomplish in the future. When Lily hears about it she cannot believe it. She has a sense of annoyance. Without even knowing it, she is being a bit of a racist when she states, “I’ve just never heard of a Negro lawyer, that’s all. You’ve got to hear of these things before you can imagine them” (Kidd 121).
Lily does not realize she is putting Zach down by saying the statement above. Zach became defensive and stood up for himself, but surprisingly did not hold a grudge. It was more of him teaching Lily a lesson that the most famous and intelligent people do not get where they are by being unoriginal and uncreative. They get where they are by imagining what has never been seen before. Right around when Lily and Rosaleen first get there, Lily has a thought that suddenly seems to prove to her that she does have some prejudice in her and she is not as open-minded as she thought.
Her thought after meeting August is, “Since I want to tell the whole truth, which means the worst parts, I thought they could be smart, but not as smart as me, me being white” (Kidd 78). Lily suddenly feels like she has learned a lesson about herself by meeting August and the Boatwright sisters. Until this point, she has understood racism as an act whites only committed towards color people. Nevertheless, Lily respects and feels devoted to August, and this respect and devotion begins to grow the relationship between August and Lily into something similar to a daughter-mother relationship.
This only proves how racism can make or break a relationship, because you can either offend or learn from what you are doing and thinking. Racism does not just go one way and it never will. Everyone as different thoughts and everyone feels differently about certain things. It is a way of life almost. Lily discovers this once she begins living in the Boatwright house when June makes a statement, “But she’s white, August” (Kidd 87). When Lily overhears June make this comment, she becomes angry and thinks how absurd it is to dislike someone for their skin color.
What Lily does not seem to realize right away is that it is the same thing when it comes to the discrimination white people have towards color people. This is an interesting moment in the novel because white people do not usually experience this type of discrimination and it confuses Lily at first but later realizes the reason June does not like her is because of the color of her skin and who she is. It only helps prove how racism can cause a relationship to never even be close to a relationship.
The prejudice that goes around society also influences the way relationships are made and how they grow because society almost influences everything done and how it is done. An example of this is when Zach tells Lily, “Lily, I like you better than any girl I’ve ever known, but you have to understand, there are people who would kill boys like me for even looking at girls like you” (Kidd 135). Zach says this to Lily regarding any potential romantic relationship between them. This comment shows how unfair racism can be and is.
Young love is typically carefree and easy and something you look forward to. However, as young teenagers, Lily and Zach have to think about the prejudices of the rest of the society because how dangerous it can get. Racism is not something that will ever really go away in this country or anywhere else as a matter of fact. It can break apart an entire nation just because of the way people think and look at things differently. Even though that is how things already are, when it comes to something so serious like racism though, there is a very thin line that people seem to cross a lot.
It all just impacts the society and how it works because of a certain group of people see things a different way then it causes people to feel like what they do can be wrong if it is not approved of. People should just respect each other and let everyone be. It can really bring the nation or just a small community together and that moves the generation forward into something so much bigger and stronger. It is how Whitney Moore stated that if we can all learn to move forward as one, it can become an open society, full of all the wonderful things a society should be filled with.
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