The Hughes poem I found most interesting this week was “America.” Although I don’t know how to characterize it stylistically, I felt it had a very obvious uplift message. Similar to the Brownie’s Book his mention of Crispus Attucks, Jimmy Jones, and Sojourner Truth reference an African American history many people, especially children, probably did not know. What’s more, the poems positive tone elaborates on the values of freedom, equality, and democracy, not in a sort of ironic light as we have seen in authors like McKay, but as something that is being accomplished. Giving the reader the impression that they have a vested interested in the cultivation of these values, just as Sojourner Truth and Crispus Attucks had. Their hopes and dreams (equality, freedom, etc. are in fact the hopes of America.
Who am I?
You know me,
Dream of my dreams,
I am America.
I am America seeking the stars. (53)
Most importantly, I thought it was interesting that Hughes chosen to reference an African American child and a Jewish child. Historically speaking, I know Jewish people have long been persecuted, and probably faced a great deal of prejudice as immigrants to America. It seems obvious that Hughes was acknowledging this and comparing it to the racism facing black Americans.
Out of yesterday
The Chains of slavery;
Out of yesterday,
The ghetto’s of Europe;
However, his comparison also makes a clear point that the Jewish child is white, yet knows something of the pain the black child has to face, as they both struggle for a better life and find obstacles in the present condition of America. He describes these racially and ethnically different children as brothers, both being a needed part of America.
I could not think of any text we had read so far that so clearly emphasized in the indifference of race in the human experience, although Johnston’s ‘Red’ character seems to have no personal indifference to the narrator’s race, and the boys in Cullen’s Tableau seem to disregard race in the interest of friendship. A more contemporary example for me was the Norman Rockwell, “Treat other’s as you want to be treated” painting, which also references that idea that America is diverse, and I think, speaks of unity in the interest that what it means to be American is to be searching for equality. I am also reminded of the Dave Matthews “I am an American” PSA that came out after September 11th.