Monday, November 22, 2021

"A difference in the eyes which watched them": Historical and experiential interpretations of the racist gaze in James Baldwin's "Another Country"

In James Baldwin's "Another Country", when Rufus Scott walks through Greenwich Village with Leona, his new white girlfriend from the South, he notices "a difference in the eyes which watched them" after his white friend Vivaldo leaves them: people now look at them "as though where they stood were an auction block or a stud farm." With the auction block as an echo of America enslavement, Rufus reads racism historically. After "an Italian adolescent" looks at him "with hatred," though, Leona tells Rufus the boy probably "don't know no better": "You could probably make friends him real easy if you tried." Leona's experiential interpretation of racism risks erasing Rufus's historical interpretation. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 22 November 2021)

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