Bonner 1 Shannice Bonner Professor Wilson English 101 October 31, 2013 What Really Sets You from Fool What comes to mind when we hear the word race? Surely one would agree that we think of the racial categories. But have we ever realized that when asked that question, the response usually begins with black then white. As if forming a contrast between the two immediately. Janet E. Helms defines racial identity as “a person’s quality or manner of identifying with a racial group…….. ” (Helms2). In her article White Attitudes and Racial Harmony, Helms discusses ego statuses that she refers to s a white racial identity model.
Though Helms piece on the ego statuses were based on her observations of white people, Paul Beatty in his article, “What Set You from Fool” goes through some of the stages. Of the six she mentioned, Beatty underwent Contact, Reintegration and Pseudo Independence. The first to be discussed is Contact. Helms describe Contact as the stage of innocence and naivet?©; when a person is not even aware that there are racial and socio political issues that he or she should consider. When Beatty first entered the school in “black” Los Angeles, he ecalled that he didn’t know a negro was only that he shouldn’t be one.
He also said “The only thing remotely black about me then were my skin color and out of control afro… ……… l knew I was black; I Just didn’t behave black”(Beatty 3). Here Beatty is unaware that race means something more than the color of skin and struggles to understand the implications of his blackness. What are these implications? These are more than likely, having to deal with racism and discrimination on a daily basis. According to Helm “Whenever someone says we’re going to talk about race relations veryone turns to look for the nearest black guy as though he or she automatically controls race in the country’.
Mind you, this has been the case for over centuries but still remains a prevailing issue. The next ego status Beatty underwent was Disintegration. When a person operates from disintegration one realizes that one is black and that being black has definite social consequences as well as moral dilemmas in the society. They begin to question the equality of all peoples. Beatty experienced disintegration while he was in third grade and his teacher chose not to lace him in the top secret afterschool group for advanced readers, despite having passed the number two pencil test.
Of course being black was the reason he was not included in the group. “How can all people be treated equally but some people are not quite equal? ” (Helms 3). What then is the definition of equality? Society has shown that only people with power are able to control equality. Unfortunately white people gain power Just by being conceived; simply being born with little eumelanin pigmentation readily determines their status in society. Beattys experience is Just one of many that have plagued the world for centuries.
African Americans were emancipated from slavery; many purchased their freedom but still in todays society are suffering Trom lack 0T employment Decause 0T tnelr race, speclTlcally tnelr sKln color. The final ego status that Beatty faces is Reintegration. Helm’s infers that “a person from this status believes that white people deserve the privileges that they have gotten and that colored people do not deserve these privileges” (3). When Beatty visited his sixth grade teacher and told him that he was attending college he was shocked to realize that he had the ambition to get that far.
He shook Beatty’s hand and stated that he had exceeded his expectations. He further explained his strong belief that Beattys Jive character predicted he would be an electrician and moderately a well behaved citizen. Given the definition of race and the fact that black people were always belittled or thought of to be ignorant and uneducated, this statement by Beatty’s teacher is what is highly described as being “racist. ” It sometimes amuses me given the history of race and whites being powerful over blacks that both races today in the 21st century try to live as equally as possible.
In my opinion, Beatty also experienced the Immersion/Emersion ego status. In this status a person begins to recognize that they have to take some risks to make things better, that fixing the racial tensions in our environment can not be the sole responsibility of people of color but also has to be shared by white people. This is why when Beatty and his friend entered the party less than five minutes they were acknowledged with rap music. I feel as though this was a way of getting approval from the black community in that instant. Beatty also recalled that kept glancing at them.