Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Hollers - White Man's Home

“At Alameda Street [the car] turned north into Compton and two of the riders in back got out, leaving my boy alone. When it stopped before a house in Huntington Park I rolled up and parked right behind it. My boy got out…He glanced idly at my car, took two steps towards the house, then wheeled about and stared into my eyes. His eyes stretched with a stark incredulity and his face went stiff white, like wrinkled paper. He stood rigid, half turned, as if frozen to the spot” (44).

It makes sense that this scene of (threatened) racial violence would take place in Huntington Park. “Huntington Park was an almost exclusively white community during most of its history; Alameda Street and Slauson Avenue, which were fiercely defended segregation lines in the 1950s, separated it from black areas.” Bob truly would have been an outsider (and seen as an invader) when he drove into Huntington Park. In addition, the area was first incorporated as a suburb for industrial workers in Los Angeles’ factories. Many of Atlas Steel’s white workers would have lived in this area, on the frontlines of racial tension.

It’s interesting that racial identity is reaffirmed through the threat of violence. When he sees Bob, the man’s face takes on the qualities of his race (stiff, white). One could even think of the characters in the scene, then, as fulfilling their roles in the racial conflict. Bob plays the role that white society assigns him (the frightening, violent black man) while the white man plays his role in the eyes of the black community (stiff, white).

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