Analysis Of Baldwin’s Use Of Race, Class And Social Inequality In Going To Meet The Man

June 23, 2022 by Essay Writer

The author that I chose to analyze for this signature assignment is James Baldwin. The specific story I chose to analyze is Going to Meet the Man. I chose this author and story because I feel that Baldwin accurately describes the oppression that people of the African American culture went through. Baldwin shows us in depth the thoughts of a non colored man during that time. In detail he tells us their thoughts and the things they say and think about colored people. A brief summary of this story is about a man named Jessie who was a warden in a jail downtown. He lays down one night and is not able to sleep. He begins telling his wife Grace who he describes as a very frail woman the events that occurred early in the day. He tells her about a group of African American protestors who would not move from in front of city hall. He and a group of his friends attacked the ring leader of the group to potentially get the group from in front of city hall and to make them stop singing. As he beats the young boy he starts to remember the first time his father and mother took him to see a black man being burned alive. Jessie was a young boy and had an African American friend named Otis and one day realizes that he is missing. His mother and father tell him that he will be going to a picnic that he will never forget and Jessie has so many questions about what is going on. As the men were burning the black man Jessie senses some excitement that he has for torturing people of color. In this story the topic of social responsibility comes up. Upon doing research this essay will discuss how Baldwin’s use of race, class and social inequality will show how men and women of African descent are socially discriminated.

When reading this story race is something that is very distinct when Baldwin discusses the characters. Today race is something very distinct when describing who we are as people. In Baldwin’s story the main character, Jessie, describes his views on what black men and women look like. Jessie starts off by calling them “ugly” (Baldwin 230) and starts saying that he gets tired of seeing them in the place where he works. He then describes them as “no better than animals” who “stands there looking foolish” (Baldwin 231). Today some people may argue that there are people who still views African Americans as such. Baldwin establishes race using his words describing what a white man in that time thinks about black men and women. He makes race something that is unchangeable and very distinct.

Furthermore, class is one other distinct topic discussed in Baldwin’s story. When reading the very first page Jessie, the main character, states that he “couldn’t ask her to do just a little thing for him, just to help him out, just for a while, the way he could ask a nigger girl to do it” (Baldwin 229) when talking about his wife. This shows us class because the “nigger girl” is a woman just like his wife is no matter the race. Jessie and every other white man in that time held their wives to a higher standard than an African American although these women were no better than their wives. Today in our society the same thoughts come up, but not in a racial way. Many woman today are not put in the same class as men because men are thought to be the superior to a woman. Like in Baldwin’s essay the “nigger girl” and women in today’s society are sometimes treated like they are not as equal as everyone else.

The last but not least topic discussed in Baldwin’s story is social inequality. Social inequality broken down is the interaction between groups of people of different races and classes are not equal meaning they don’t hold the same value as the others. Overall race and class fits into this category as well and we will often ask who is really responsible for these actions that we as a whole will inflict on each other. In Baldwin’s story the African American men and women were not equal to white men and women. Today we hold everyone else but ourselves accountable for the topic of social inequality. Baldwin’s story describes the things that happened in that specific time and we as a people could attempt to change the outcomes of what goes on in our world. In the story the people couldn’t change the outcomes of what occurred because only the non-colored people had voices.

Upon doing research on the topics of race, class and social inequality one article stood out to me. The title of this article is Mass Imprisonment and the Life Course: Race and Class Inequality in U.S. Incarceration by Becky Pettit and Bruce Western. This article mainly discusses how African American people are singled out among others. Today in our society when things happen such as routine traffic stops black men and women fear their lives because they know that they are not the superior like the African American men in women in the story by Baldwin. This article states that “Combining administrative, survey, and census data, we estimate that among men born between 1965 and 1969, 3 percent of whites and 20 percent of blacks had served time in prison by their early thirties.” Just like the boy in the story some of these men and women were put in jail for things that they shouldn’t be in jail for. The boy in the story was the ringleader of the protest and they put him in a jail cell because he could not get the people to stop singing. Also within this article class comes up just as well as in the story. Pettit and Western states that “Among black men born during this period, 30 percent of those without a college education and nearly 60 percent of high school dropouts went to prison by 1999.” Just like the wives and people that were white were of a higher class than the black people in the story.

My second and final source is titled Intersecting Cultural Beliefs in Social Relations: Gender, Race, and Class Binds and Freedoms by Cecilia L. Ridgeway and Tamar Kricheli-Katz. This article sums up my thoughts when I discussed social inequality. This article states “We treat gender, race, and class as systems of inequality that are culturally constructed as distinct but implicitly overlap through their defining beliefs, which reflect the perspectives of dominant groups in society.” Like in the story the social inequality was very distinct and major to them. They are what made up the beliefs of the major group presented in the story which was the whites. Today in our society there isn’t one dominant group we are all supposed to be equal.

In conclusion, this essay discusses Baldwin’s use of race, class and social inequality will show how men and women of African descent are socially discriminated. Race when Baldwin describes the African American men and women, class when Jessie’s wife is put before a girl who is no different than she is and finally social inequality when the men and women weren’t equal to other races.

Works Cited

  • Ridgeway, Cecilia L., and Tamar Kricheli-Katz. “Intersecting Cultural Beliefs in Social Relations: Gender, Race, and Class Binds and Freedoms.” Gender & Society, vol. 27, no. 3, June 2013, pp. 294–318, doi:10.1177/0891243213479445.
  • Pettit, Becky, and Bruce Western. “Mass Imprisonment and the Life Course: Race and Class Inequality in U.S. Incarceration.” American Sociological Review, vol. 69, no. 2, Apr. 2004, pp. 151–169, doi:10.1177/000312240406900201. 


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