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Racism & Sexism in Novels of Black Women Writers

More than any other category of authors, black women writers have a mission: to describe the double challenges of race and gender for general audiences. The mission is critical because, even in today's inclusionary nonfiction environment, the full story of racism and sexism is rarely told. On most levels, all that is offered is a sanitized version. The reader learns that blacks and women struggled, but is often left to conclude that the struggle was little different from the challenges that face members of mainstream society.

Racism and sexism are pervasive, oppressive, and dehumanizing. In the following works of fiction, black women authors bear witness of their struggle for emancipation. The evidence they give is uncensored; it will not be found in any history books because it shames those elements of society who seek to marginalize evidence of social inequality.

Celie, the main character in The Color Purple by Alice Walker, is subjected to considerable abuse because she is a woman. The unwritten code of the South where Celie lives is that women are subordinate to men. When women try to assert themselves they get beaten: "domestic violence is often triggered by a woman failing to meet a man's expectations about 'his' woman's responsibility to provide sexual and caring services" (Bowlby, Gregory, and McKie 345). But through the strong women role models in her life, Celie learns her own self-worth, is able to leave an abusive relationship, and find inner peace.

Celie's well-being is constantly in jeopardy from the men in her life. At a young age she is raped by her father (albeit she later learns that the man she assumed was her father was not). Then she is forced to marry Albert, a man she does not love and who does not love her. Albert is a widower with a family of wild children whom Celie, a mere child herself, has to mother. Celie accepts her lot in life without a struggle.

The women in Celie's lif...

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