During the Civil War and the years following the Civil War, many people say that African Americans were looked down upon, segregated from White people, and altogether, treated unfairly. In 1865, two years after Lincoln freed all slaves through the Emancipation Proclamation, the Ku Klux Klan formed in efforts to terrorize the freed slaves. The following year, Black Codes were used in the South to limit the rights that the freed slaves had recently earned. Almost 100 years later, Rosa Parks was asked to give up her seat on a bus for a White man to sit down. Despite all of these racist incidents, however, there were Black people who resisted the racial subordination. In 1947, Jackie Robinson became the first Black man to play for a Major League Baseball team. Less than ten years later, a court case ruled that schools were not allowed to be segregated by race. Only four years ago, a Black man was voted to be President of our nation. History shows that even though racism is a problem that our country has faced since its very beginnings and even today, not all people of minority races are negatively affected by racism. The five elements of the Critical Race Theory—Critique of Liberalism, Counter-Storytelling, Permanence of Racism, Whiteness as Property, and Interest Convergence—work together to analyze how far the United States is from reaching its goal of true racial equality. When applying the Critical Race Theory to Toni Morrison’s novel, Beloved, Toni Morrison ambiguously shows that not all Blacks are oppressed by racism through her characters, Sethe, Beloved, and Baby Suggs.
The first element of the Critical Race Theory, Critique of Liberalism, says that there are people who think they have made a lasting impact to stop racism, but in reality, they have not. Towards the end of Beloved, before Ella and the other women are able to exorcise Beloved, Sethe thinks she sees the schoolteacher when in reality, it is Mr. Bodwin, and she proceeds to attack him with an ice pick. “It is when she lowers her eyes to look again at the loving faces before her that she sees him. Guiding the mare, slowing down, his black hat wide-brimmed enough to hide his face but not his purpose. He is coming into her yard and he is coming for her best thing…She flies. The ice pick is not in her hand; it is her hand” (Morrison, 261-262). In this scene, Sethe’s attempt to attack who she thinks is the schoolteacher shows her effort to attack a racist man who had caused the destruction of her family. She attempts to remove the source of her troubles regarding slavery, and hence, racism. Because the man turns out to be Mr. Bodwin, however, Sethe fails to remove the negative impact that slavery has had on her. In the next chapter, we find out that before Sethe could attack Mr. Bodwin, Ella stopped her from doing so. Sethe does not end up harming Mr. Bodwin, who is the one white man who had helped Sethe and her family escape the perils of racism. Therefore, in this scene, Morrison’s character, Sethe, tries to prevent racism by attempting to kill Mr. Bodwin, who she believes is schoolteacher, but she is unsuccessful, and this demonstrates the Critique of Liberalism. Because of this, Morrison also proves the point that not all Black people are oppressed by racism because Mr. Bodwin helps the black community of Cincinnati, and Sethe doesn’t kill him, allowing him to continue helping. This supports Morrison’s ambiguous message that not all Blacks are oppressed by racism: it is never specifically said that Sethe attempted to kill who she thought was the schoolteacher in order to free herself from his racism towards her; Morrison also never said that Sethe’s failure to kill Mr. Bodwin would ensure him to continue to help combat racism in the future.
The second element of Critical Race Theory, Counter-Storytelling, discusses racism through narrative while expressing a voice that does not represent all voices....