Guitar’s quote analysis

Tia Blossomgame, Maddy Flynn, Jay Petrie, Iliana Papadopoulos, Lesly Tepato

Toni Morrison’s novel Song of Solomon offers a variety of perspectives of African-Americans facing racial inequalities in the early twentieth-century. One character in particular, named Guitar, stands out for his angry disposition towards the treatment of his people. We are able to witness Guitar’s childhood growth of hate towards white Americans develop into a hate that leads Guitar to take justice into his own hands by seeking “balance” through killing white citizens for every black life taken. Compared to other characters who are aware yet passive towards the racial inequality, Guitar offers a refreshing perspective of what it may have felt like to be abandoned by a government that discriminates against people of color and having no one to rely on but your own self/community. Because of Guitar’s “eye for an eye” ideology, readers are able to unpack Guitar’s analysis on his quote “I told you. Numbers. Balance. Ratio. And the earth, the land”. These 5 things were the key to American society during the time the book was written and was clearly distributed unequally between black and white people. African Americans did almost all of the work while white people sat back and reaped the reward. The book From Here To Equality talks about the injustices the African American community has faced throughout history that can be related to Guitar’s quote in Song of Solomon. Therefore, we are able to use Guitar’s quote as a stepping stone to analyze the numerous injustices that the African American community has faced on the road to equality in a deeper context.

The major injustices faced by African Americans throughout history mainly demonstrate an imbalance of power, representation and equality. Ever since the civil rights movement, the fight for equality and balance has been a struggle. It can be seen that the fight for equality has been a long and tedious process. Regardless of how many African American people fought for their fair share of justice and equality, they were always outnumbered by white people. White people had all the power, money and superiority as a whole. By having this power they had the privilege to earn much more (and not just in terms of money) than African Americans or any other race in the country. Which is why they did not want to risk losing all the power and money and their fulfillment of superiority trying to balance that power with people of color. Even if it means that they resort to violence to keep their power. A great example of this is given in Part 5 of From Here to Equality on pg 209, “In 1875, (Gleed) he ran for sheriff of Lowndes County, Mississippi, by which point registered black voters, Republicans mostly, outnumbered white voters, who largely were aligned with the Democratic Party—3,800 to 1,250…The night before the 1875 election, “a mob of whites attacked a parade of his supporters. Four blacks were killed, one on the sidewalk in front of Gleed’s store.” This is one of many examples of the white race in America using violence to maintain power. In Song of Solomon after Guitar sees the imbalance of black deaths to white death, he chooses to balance this injustice by killing white people.

Throughout American history black people have and are still facing discrimantion through pay and representation. With all things there comes a numerical value that can be applied and in each value the African American community is usually on the worst side. As shown in From Here to Equality, “Data from the 2016 Survey of Consumer Finances indicates that median black household net worth ($17,600) is only one-tenth of white net worth ($171,000). That means, on average, that for every dollar the middle white households hold in wealth- measured by assets like homes, cash savings, and retirement funds-the middle black household possesses a mere ten cents.” Data like this demonstrates how different the two groups are from each other, and because there is a big divide in lifestyles and economic statuses between both groups, it becomes even harder to try and make things equal between them since in turn, also affects the future of African Americans because they don’t have the same chances of succeeding in many aspects in life compared to white people because of the imbalance of how much they earn and how they are treated. In Song of Solomon, it is a recurring theme that Macon Dead Jr. owns all of these houses and rents them to African American people. Throughout the book, we see that most of his tenants are not able to pay their rent on time due to the fact that many did not have well paying jobs, and it took a lot of time for them to gather enough money to make sure they can keep their family fed as well as pay rent on their home. This relates to Guitar’s idea on “numbers’ ‘ because there is such a great difference in wealth between white and black people due to the racial injustices they faced for so long.

The American government was supposed to give the newly freed enslaved people land and reparations but either did not give the land or did not fully give the amount they said they would. One instance of this was the Pigford v. Glickman case, “A class action lawsuit mounted on behalf of black American farmers against the U.S. Department of Agriculture-was a boost to reparations proponents. The case, Pigford v. Glickman-named for Timothy Pigford, a black North Carolina farmer, and Daniel Robert Glickman, the secretary of the Department of Agriculture-was settled in the plaintiff’s favor for $1.25 billion in 1999, but ten years later no payouts had been made.” (Part 1 pg 17). This shows how even though by law the government was supposed to pay back to help the communities they delayed the process so they didn’t have to pay the black farmers. When the government decided to finally pay the farmers “Of the 22,505 applicants, 13,348 were approved and received cash or credit up to $50,000. Less than 1 percent pursued larger amounts. The largest award, $13 million was paid to the now-defunct farm collective New Communities, about a dozen farm families in the southwestern countries of Georgia.” (Part 1 pg17). Even though 22,505 people applied for the money only about 60% of the applicants got money back from the case. And even less tried to get larger amounts of money compared to the $50,000.

Even though the American government gave out these reparations there were still some things that could not be repaired. A simple but modern example of this is the reparations given through Joe Cope’s job as Associate Provost for Academic Success. Cope’s job in the education system has to deal with reparations on an academic level. For example, if a student feels they are being discriminated against on their grade, Cope would be called in to investigate any wrongdoing. If found the grade was given wrong, he would make it a pass or fail. Cope said that the pass or fail grade “counts towards a graduation requirement. It doesn’t hurt their grade point average but it doesn’t address the hurt feelings, it doesn’t address the lingering frustration about that.” This means that students would be able to move on academically. Still, the pain and discrimination that started the problem are not addressed, meaning it can continue. Similarly, The United States government gave out small reparations to try and fix the discrimination African American people faced throughout the years. Obviously Cope’s job is much different from the American government, but the way Cope handles reparations in his job is fairly similar to the American Government. These reparations did not resolve the overall pain they felt because of the problem. A great example given to us in the Song of Solomon was how after Guitar’s father dies in the factory, the white owner gives them a few dollars for their loss. Even though the money was given in good faith, it still didn’t help Guitar’s pain of losing a family member.

From Here to Equality shows the real life stories of African Americans’ injustice in United States history. These stories help shape Guitars quote “I told you. Numbers. Balance. Ratio. And the earth, the land” and give reason to his actions in Song of Solomon. There has been injustice towards African American people from the very beginning of slavery and it is still faced now in current events. It is important to our class because in both pieces of writing that we have been working with, racial injustice is prominent in both texts. Song of Solomon is more of a story-telling version of one family’s experience and what they see around them while From Here To Equality is the facts of what has actually happened in America in the past and how it has affected the community as a whole. Guitar’s quote and actions draw from the events of the past that were read about in From Here To Equality. The injustices Guitar talks about are injustices that were often faced by African Americans in the past. The education that is received while attending Geneseo is fully based on equal and fair opportunities for every student. In order to succeed, it all relies more on demonstrating work and dedication to a full potential that the person shows, rather than depending on someone’s race to prove that they have any potential. Looking at the events from the past opens everyone’s eyes to the fact that it wasn’t always this way at universities and not everyone got equal opportunities for the education that we are lucky to have and appreciate today. This was also possible because of policies that were implemented to ensure that a student should not have to experience any form of discrimination or hate based on their race as each student should be seen as an equal since we all strive for opportunities and in each different student’s eyes see success.

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