Life on the Color Line is a powerful tale of a young mans struggle to reach adulthood, written by Gregory Howard Williams one that emphasizes, by daily grapples with personal turmoil, the absurdity of race as a social invention. Williams describes in heart wrenching detail the privations he and his brother endured when they were forced to remove themselves from a life of White privilege in Virginia to one where survival in Muncie, Indiana meant learning quickly the cold hard facts of being Black in skin that appeared to be White. This powerful memoir is a testament to the potential love and determination that can be exhibited despite being on the cusp of a nations racial conflicts and confusions, one that lifts a young person above crushing social limitations and turns oppression into opportunity. Williams is defiantly a man of two worlds. In one world he had promise and comfort, in the other he lived in deprivation and repression where one had to work in order to just survive.
Williamss recollection of his life on the color line is a unique testimonial of the life of an individual who has walked in both the shoes of a White man and then those of a Black man. His story provides examples of real life experiences and events that can further the research of social psychologists by offering insight into the understanding of many social psychological theories and concepts, such as modern racism, in-group favoritism and confirmation bias just to name a few.From beginning to end the reader is bombarded with all kinds of racism and discrimination described in horrific detail by the author.
His move from Virginia to Indiana opened a door to endless threats of violence and ridicule directed towards him because of his racial background. For example, Williams encountered a form of racism known as modern racism as a student at Garfield Elementary School. He was up to win an academic achievement prize, yet had no way of actually winning the award because The prize did not go to Negroes.
Just like in Louisville, there were things and places for whites only (Williams, 126). This form of prejudice is known as modern racism because the prejudice surfaces in a subtle, safe and socially acceptable way that is easy to rationalize. Another form of racism experienced by the author is blatant racism which is racism directed towards members of the outgroup that is direct and is in no means masked.
The mod of white boys who shouted Lets get the Niggers and then continued to follow Carl and Gregory down the block chanting Nigger would be an excellent example of blatant racism. Many other examples of blatant racism were found throughout the book, such as after the basketball game the fans threw rotten vegetables, popcorn boxes, and empty Coke cups at us. Then one group near the exit began chanting. Niggers! Niggers! Outside the stadium as we waited for the bus, a small crowd of boys shouted.
Niggers go home! (Williams, 220).Discrimination is another key concern for the author as he is struggling to overcome poverty, racism and intolerance. Discrimination comes in many different forms and is defined by the textbook as being any behavior directed against persons because of their membership in a particular group. As a young man Williams experienced many acts of discrimination directed towards both himself and his family.
For example, after fishing one evening Carl wanted a soda but couldnt get one from the drive-in they were passing because blacks were barred from the drive-in like every down-town restaurant (Williams, 225). Another example of discrimination appears in the text when Black students were unable to obtain teaching positions once they graduated from Ball State University because of the color of their skin.Outgroup homogeneity bias is the tendency to assume that there is greater similarity among members of outgroups than among members of the ingroups as defined by the textbook. An illustration of outgroup homogeneity bias is found in the book when Williamss Uncle Jim expressed his desire to be stationed in France, the captain became angry and said, All you colored boys want is white women I thought you were different. (Williams, 94).
This form of stereotyping may also be seen as subtyping. Subtyping is the ability of individuals to hold negative feelings towards a particular social group even though they may like individual members in the group. Another example of subtyping is revealed in the text when Williams begins to show interest in a sister of a White teammate. Even though the boys get along on the court, the teammate tells Williams not to mess with his sister and threatens violence if Williams continues to have any contact with her. The teammate probably would not have had a problem with Williams forming a relationship with his sister if Williams had been White.
Ingroup favoritism is the tendency to discriminate in support of an ingroup over members of the outgroup. The author experienced ingroup favoritism when the coach of his basketball team decided to drop Williams from the varsity team in order to replace him with a white, B-team player who was not as well developed a basketball player as Williams. Many of the stereotypes we encounter and hold today were formed because of events in the past, which were formed to rationalize and justify past social and political agendas.
Many of the stereotypes that we now hold today were learned long ago and have been passed from one generation to the next. This book has forever inspired me to believe in the value of each child and discourage racist attitudes wherever I encounter them. Gregory Howard Williams encountered many hurdles growing up and successfully defeated them all. He could have easily confirmed the expectations of his negative peers and developed into a self-fulfilling prophecy, but instead he chose to shun his stereotypes and triumph over incredible odds.