Essay on Racism and religious discrimination in society (Baldwin and Rodriguez comparison)


James Baldwin vs. Richard Rodriguez

James Baldwin with his “Letter from a region of my mind" and Richard Rodriguez with his “Complexion” are outstanding writers who made an attempt and managed to reveal the true essense of the racial issues of the society.  As both of them belong to racial minorities, these two works were written under the influence of experience not only discrimination but a desperate struggle to be equal and have the same life opportunities. Both of these works describe how it was hard back in the times to be “dark” and what was life converted into under the condition of having dark skin. These two works show the deep pain suffered by both of the authors and by the nations they represent. Each and every day of both James Baldwin and Richard Rodriguez was a battle in order to prove that need to be treated as being equal to white people and not just labor force. James Baldwin touches the religious aspects of the life of minorities and Richard Rodriguez speaks about how hard  was to live with the fact that one’s skin was dark.

James Baldwin in the book “The fire next time” wrote an outstanding essay called “Down at the cross - Letter from a region of my mind" which shows the reader the deep psychological and religious pressure that was experienced by all the black people, he opens the eyes to the fact that the principle of equality simply did not exist. One remarkable traits of “Down at the cross” is that Baldwin analyzes the religious aspect and importance of Christianity for black people. He starts this analysis from himself and shows how Christianity was converted into an “escape” for all the black people from the reality of life and their position within the society. The core of the essay deals with the fact that Baldwin condemns the  “black” Muslim trend within black people as an opposition to the “white” Christianity. This basically converted black people into religious and spiritual “guards” of America which increased inner aggression. This aggression was basically the reaction to the oppression and domination faced from the side of people white people. James Baldwin describes this racial attitude through the audience with Elijah Muhammad, who stirred up racial hatred. Baldwin reveals his negative view on this artificial strengthening on the conflict between the white and black people. Baldwin promotes the stop of the sufferings experienced  by people and the fact that religion reinforces this through influencing the minds of people. Nevertheless Baldwin’s essay is a description of how his own personality was formed under such influences: «I love a few people and they love me and some of them are white, and isn't love more important than color?”(Baldwin,327)

Richard Rodriguez in his “Complexion» does not limit the racial dispute to his personality but moves to the whole black nation. The main concern of Rodriguez is the difficulty of the adaptation of the Hispanic community into  the American world. Cultural assimilation, according to Rodriguez is what can lead to the stop of racial hatred aimed at people with dark skin. Richard Rodriguez like Baldwin also uses his personal example to reveal the issue completely. His whole life became the example of hard is to live in American being a mix of various complexions: “Dark skin was for my mother the most important symbol of a life of oppressive labor and poverty.”(Rodriguez. 451). Dark skin was the synonym of being poor or in other words not belonging to a “respected” social group and not having the appropriate social status. If Baldwin speaks more about spiritual moments, Rodriguez, in his turn, speaks about real concrete discrimination when a dark skin boy is considered only as a poor person who ears waking with his hand due to the fact that he simply cannot achieve anything else: “You look like a negrito… you won’t be satisfied till you end up looking like los pobres…”(Rodriguez 447). Rodriguez tells about the fact that having a light skin makes life easier for its carrier. Both Baldwin and Rodriguez make the point that dark skin makes people feel shame, gives them labels and does not make their life easier.  Both of the writings have the same base and reveals similar racial issues, nevertheless Baldwin touches religious aspects of interracial hatred and Rodriguez focuses on the labels that are put on people that have dark skin. Both black and hispanic communities have experienced a lot of difficulties of the skin color and the authors made a great in revealing the essense of the problem.

Works cited:


Baldwin, James (1998).James Baldwin: collected essays. Library of America.


Rodriguez, Richard (1983). Hunger of Memory : the education of Richard Rodriguez. Bantam.



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