Black People and Roberta

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In Toni Morrison’s “Recitatif,” the story is about two girls, Twyla and Roberta. They grow up in an orphanage because their mothers could not care for them. Morrison makes it clear the girls come from different ethnic backgrounds but never states which one is black or white. At one point in the story Twyla comments, “We looked like salt and pepper.” I grew frustrated with the story and had to read it several times. I could never determine who was black and white and the lesson I learned should have been it doesn’t really matter.

The story begins with Twyla’s mother dropping her off at the orphanage. She meets Roberta and they become best friends. The bond they share occurs because they were not considered real orphans. They were abandoned kids unlike the other children whose parents had died.

One of the last times the girls see each other was the day of a visitation. On that night, Twyla’s mother was wearing “those tight green slacks that made her butt stick out.” Many people have labeled blacks as having larger butts. She could have been black, she could have been a heavy white woman with a large butt, or a Hispanic woman like me. But I automatically stereotyped and went with Twyla has to be black.

During the visitation Roberta’s mother “had brought chicken legs.” Twyla notices Roberta does not eat the chicken legs. I always thought black people liked chicken more than white people which means Roberta was white since she did not eat the chicken. Or maybe she just wasn’t hungry.

Shortly after that visitation Roberta’s mother came to take her home, leaving the girls devastated. They see each other several times throughout the years. At their first meeting, Roberta was rude and distant because she was high. Roberta tells Twyla she is on the way to see Jimi Hendrix. Hendrix was an infamous black guitarist. I thought at this point Roberta has to be black. However Hendrix’s band was interracial with a diverse audience. Roberta could have...
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