Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Underground Railroad (5)

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
The Underground Railroad follows Cora, from her days as a field hand on the Randall plantation to her experience escaping on the Underground Railroad. Whitehead imagines the Underground Railroad as a literal railroad built underground. You got to see her grow from someone who is treated like a sub-human, who is hopeless, who is alone to someone who gets to experience freedom and begins to be able to trust others and build relationships and create a life and future for herself.

I had heard about The Underground Railroad when it won the National Book Award last year. And I thought to myself, well I know a fair amount about the Underground Railroad. I learned about it in school. Why is this book important now? And then I read it and realized oh, I may have a broad picture of what life was like under slavery or what sort of dangers someone who worked on the underground railroad may have faced but I did not take into consideration the specific impact being a slave or working on the underground railroad could have had on a person's life. I never thought about which means I never really thought about what the historical impact of slavery really has on today's society.

After reading it i'm left thinking about how much things haven't changed. I don't think it's enough to say "slavery is over" if we haven't really looked at the impact slavery had on everyone - both white and black - in the system. If you grow up being treated like property because of the color of your skin, that affects you. And as generations pass and, let's be honest, white people keep fighting to make sure you are being treated as less than them from legal segregation to the current #BlackLivesMatter vs. #AllLivesMatter debate. I wonder when, and if, and how we can work as a society to actually treat everyone equally.

So much of The Underground Railroad showed how afraid white people were of the black people they were subjugating. This fear lead to more and more atrocities being committed against people who were just trying to be alive.
"True, you couldn't treat an Irishman like an African, white n***** or no. There was the cost of buying slaves and their upkeep on one hand and paying white workers meager but livable wages on the other. The reality of slave violence versus stability in the long term. The Europeans had been farmers before; they would be farmers again. Once the immigrants finished their contracts (having paid back travel, tools, and lodging) and took their place in American society, they would be allies of the southern system that had nurtured them." (Whitehead, p 164) 

5/5 - Changed the way I think about the world while being interesting and entertaining from cover to cover. Heartbreaking and powerful.

No comments:

Post a Comment