Racial Discrimination and Literature

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Chi Hoang
Mr. Varbel
English 1B
15 January 2008

The issue of racial discrimination has become societal norm in America. Poets like Sherman Alexie show that the injustice still exists. Born in 1966 to the tribe of Spokane/Coeur d’Alene, he suffered a great deal of discrimination against him throughout his childhood because of his Native American culture and an illness of hydrocephalus. He has seen the ugly face of racism and often speaks about it through his works about the prejudice that is accepted and current in America’s past and present. One of his poems, “Capital Punishment,” is a narration of a cook preparing the last meal for an “Indian killer.” Within its fifty-eight of mostly two-line stanzas, themes of race and capital punishment emerge from the poem. The narrator says that “It’s mostly the dark ones/ who are forced to sit in the chair/ especially when white people die” (lines 6-8), indicating the injustice that is presently going on. The man who is being executed is Indian, and because of the color is his skin, he is being punished to be electrocuted on the chair. From the two incidents that the narrator talks about, it seems like only people of colored are being sentenced to death row. However, he doesn’t show any evident emotions to racial inequality but focuses mostly on the meal he is preparing for the Indian. Although the narrator never mentions his ethnicity, one can derive that perhaps he, too, is of the minority, because he says that he “learned how to cook/ by lasting longer than any of the others./ Tonight, I’m just the last one left” (lines 44-46). We can make the assumption that he bears the same fate as the rest of the “criminals,” but because of good behavior, he’s been allowed to stay around for as long as he has. It is interesting to see that he is working in the penitentiary even though he mentions that he has signed up for the last war. The irony here is that he He’s always referring to the man being executed as the “Indian...
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