This paper discusses two literary texts depicting racism toward women are focused on; the 2014 Chimamanda Adichie’s “Americanah” and 1958 Chinua Achebe: Things Fall Apart.
Women and females generally have been subjected to violence, bias, and chauvinism for many ages. Globally, women and females are still being discriminated. Many societies still practice paternal societal systems that push women aside from socioeconomically. As if that was not enough, women are also victims of racism practices all over the world. Several literary texts have been written about racism and the maltreatment of women. Black women are not subjected to racism by men, but also by other women. This paper discusses two literary texts depicting racism toward women are focused on; the 2014 Chimamanda Adichie’s “Americanah” and 1958 Chinua Achebe: Things Fall Apart.
The protagonist of “Americanah”, Ifemelu, owing to her affair with a white young man named Curt, is subjected to racism by white women from America. It surprises the white American women as Curt is introducing Ifemelu to them as his girlfriend. As Ifemelu affirms that their eyes were evidence of their surprise, she asserts “a surprise that some of them shielded and some of them did not and in their expression was the question “why her?” (Adichie, 2014, p. 290). The obvious narrative in this scenario is that the white women depicted a prejudiced notion and attitude to Ifemelu to mean that their belief was that they were superior to a woman of color. This notion is based on an unsubstantiated belief that a woman of color does not deserve a white man as a boyfriend which is the reason for Ifemelu’s assertion, “their faces clouded with the look of people confronting a great tribal loss” (Adichie, 2014, p. 290). This is a general reaction white people would react to seeing a black woman who is in a company of a white lover; she is bound to receive racist glances.
Ifemelu’s experience depicts the white women’s surreptitious racism towards black women, considering them as others. The probable explanation to this sort of treatment would be the historic relationship between white and black women; that had women of color viewing white women to be white bigots since they applied power overly on the black women, even more severely than how the white males racially treated them (Adichie, 2014). Such a relationship between white women and those of color eludes the ideology of sisterhood between the two groups since it is impossible for both groups to share mutual welfares. The book depicts Ifemelu’s racist treatment of hostility and discrimination from her white counterparts as she is accompanied by her white lover, Curt.
Ifemelu’s experience suggests that racism is closely interwoven with stereotypes. Particularly, racism comes out when Ifemelu points out that the notion was that the only acceptable types of hairs were those characteristics of the white women’s hairs; curly, loose and spiral-like. The obvious point is that anyone with hair the kind of whites will be included whereas a person with “kinky hair” will likely be excluded. This description of “kinky” hair is symbolic of the black women’s hair which is usually thought to be coarse and can prove quite a struggle to deal with (Adichie, 2014). The basis for this stereotyping is on the notion that a woman’s hair texture and style does not relate with their performance and stress is put on black women not to wear weaves professionally. The racist society even makes some women to even question the creator’s decision to create them with color which has made their hairs appear kinky, just as Ifemelu’s hair
The white women’s attitude and notion resulted in Ifemelu to bow to their pressures and try to make her “kinky” hair straight since she is desperate. Despite Ifemelu’s love for her hair since she knows the hair is good-looking, the general painting of the hair by the white women tells her that she is ugly by nature (Adichie, 2014). What the white women wanted to imply, is that according to them, everyone ought to adapt to whiteness and that all things associated with whites had to be embraced; an assertion inferring that white is more supreme as compared to any other color and therefore needs to taking by humanity. According to the white women, they saw being white as a representation of justice and the only reality, while viewing black or color as symbolizing ugliness, immorality, and evil.
Moreover, they assert that the color of the skin including other facial aspects such as the nose, eyes, and hair defines race. According to Ifemelu, color in the scenario denotes either inclusion or exclusion. Being white is taken to be normal while being black is considered to be abnormal and often results in being excluded. This is portrayed in simple actions like getting someone’s eyebrows waxed. Actually, Ifemelu’s request for her eyebrows to be shaped is rejected by the female attendant at the spar by excusing herself “ we do not do curly” (Adichie, 2014, p. 292) and as soon as her white boyfriends get in to intercede, the attendant makes up her mind to apologize claiming that “it is a misunderstanding” (Adichie, 2014).
In this scenario, curly has been used to refer to black. Hair has been utilized too in this novel as a way of discrimination. Therefore, because of the color of their hair, African women have refrained from various opportunities. For instance, Aunty Uju is forced to remove her braids as she goes for a job interview since she had to be pre-cautioned that the will be regarded as unprofessional suppose she goes for the interview with her braids on. This agitates Ifemelu and poses a question on whether doctors with braided hair are not available in America. Nonetheless, Aunty Uju warns Ifemelu against querying about this because they are in a foreign country and they have no option but to collaborate with what has to be done so as to be successful (Adichie, 2014, p. 119). Moreover, Ifemelu has to remove her braids ending up hurting herself when relaxing her hair so as to go for a job interview. This occurs out of Ruth’s advice before she went to attend the interview: “My exclusive advice? Get rid of the braids and get your hair straightened. No one will mention this by it is fundamental. We need you to secure this job.” (Adichie, 2014).
Ifemelu further encounters institutional racism at the course of her school career but still looks forward to getting job recruitment. The opposite occurs and her excuse for this the recruitment was bias that the recruiters turned done her when they realized that she is not an American but rather an African. She believed that the major fear of the recruiters is that supposed they recruited her, they would have to “get into the dark immigration tunnel” (Adichie, 2014). This indicates that the female African immigrant is categorized in a compromised state that her documents are considered complicated to process and not worth to process them. Thus blacks end up being restrained from obtaining certain benefits.
It is evident that the American system portrays white dominance and superiority that evocative of a racial attitude (Adichie, 2014). For instance, in the media featuring images, white women dominate those images while black women are no given an opportunity at all. The women’s beauty magazine clearly shows racial discrimination amongst women. Ifemelu notices that only Indian or Caucasian models dominated the pages of the magazine. This simply signifies that white culture is upheld at the cost of the black.
Chinua Achebe’s novel, Things Fall Apart, however, focuses on t both gender roles and stereotypes to disregard the racism towards African women. According to Achebe’s narrative on An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness; he asserts that in spite of insights it should be removed from the literature as a precise task because it is racist (Achebe, 1958). Moreover, Achebe is careful to evade stereotypes propounding white women. The introduction of the first white man is described as “ …he is not an albino but pretty different(Achebe, 1958) and with a foreign presence though not dangerous. No instance has been created whereby a man is brutal.
Okonkwo in the novel gets embarrassed when he discovered that “agbala” was another name referring to a woman which could farther apply to refer to a man title less when the insult is told to the father. Achebe is capable of maintaining a fair narrative in Things Fall Apart when he stereotypes basing on indigenous titles and relating to Ibo culture instead of stereotypes diminishing to a race (Achebe, 1958). He, however, does not entirely demean women in his essay by successfully creating destructions to avoid racism.
Achebe projects the challenges in the communication between the white colonialists with black women. The white colonialists viewed women to be inferior and primitive that they would not even understand the translation done by the interpreters. “When they had all converged, the white man picked up his speech. He conveyed his message by the aid of an interpreter, Ibo man, albeit the conversation was different and harsh.”(Achebe, 1958)
In essence, from both novels, we get a clear picture of racial discrimination against women. In Chimamanda Adichie’s novel, she tends to lean toward feminism clearly asserting how black women experience racial discrimination. On the other hand, as much as Chinua Achebe tends to explain racism discrimination against women, he tries to remain neutral so as not to demean the African black women. From both novels, we get to learn how much discrimination African women experience in life. Therefore, racism is depicted as a negative virtue which is against humanity.