Racism In James Baldwin's Going To Meet The Man

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In “Going to Meet the Man,” James Baldwin illustrates racism in the South after the Civil War. This short story follows Jessie, a white sheriff who is struggling with his sexuality. His wife no longer sexually arouses him; he instead finds himself turned on by African Americans and racial violence in the jailhouse. In his depiction of the white sheriff, Baldwin uses his unique perspective as a black homosexual man facing persecution in the 1960s in which he writes to attempt to make sense of what could motivate racial terrorism. In this paper, I will argue that Baldwin uses vivid, explicit sexual language to argue that racism often stems from the fetishisation of African Americans and is frequently a behavior learned from families. This work …show more content…
At the beginning of the story, Jessie can’t have sex with his wife because he can’t get aroused, but after thinking about violence he committed against African American men, “Something bubbled up in him, his nature again returned to him… he grabbed himself and stroked himself … Come on, sugar (to his wife), I’m going to do you like a nigger, just like a nigger, come on, sugar, and love me just like you’d love a nigger” (436). Here, Jessie is aroused by comparing himself to a black man during sex because of the stereotypical sexual superiority of African Americans. Throughout the story, Baldwin portrays Jessie as simultaneously hating and desiring African Americans, wanting to have sex with black women but finding intense pleasure in the injury of black men. While thinking about hurting African Americans turns him on, he also wants to have sex with his wife as if he himself was an African American. This strange juxtaposition is the essence of Baldwin’s argument that racist people, particularly men, are motivated by this sexual attraction and intimidation. One thing he finds so desirable is the excitement of the different ‘off-limits’ or explicit vibes that are associated with black sexuality. This is shown earlier when Jessie talks about having sex like “niggers” and also when he reflects that …show more content…
By demonstrating Jessie’s transformation from an innocent child to a grown man who is sexually aroused by racial violence, Baldwin shows how family ties and traditions can encourage and exacerbate this problem. Many white people during the Jim Crow Era in which the story takes place held a fundamental belief that they were the superior race, leading them to band together against blacks, fearful of and disgusted by this different race while also fetishizing their sexuality. By exploring the racist mindset of a white sheriff in the years following the Civil War, Baldwin seeks to understand the racism that lingers into his own

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