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Harlem Ren Final Essay Example #1

Harlem Renaissance is one of the most rewarding English classes I’ve ever taken. Each
story we read and each topic we studied gave me something new to think about, and that’s
something I’ve never experienced in an English class before. I will take every lesson I’ve learned
with me as I leave this class, and use them moving forward to help better myself as a person.
One of the most important things I learned in this class is that the whole idea of race is a
social construct. Growing up in a society where race is present in every aspect of life, this is an
idea that had never crossed my mind. I assumed race had always been around, because I had
never lived in a world where this wasn’t the case. Being taught, at the beginning of the year
during our Frederick Douglass unit, that race only exists because white people wanted a
consistent source of slave labor was eye opening. Before this, there was no white and black.
People were just people. It’s crazy to think about how different the world would be if colonists
hadn’t decided they needed a way to justify enslaving other humans. Racism would not exist. As
Coates says in ​Between the World and Me​, “Race is the child of racism, not the father.” Race
was only invented as a way for whites to decide they were superior to those with a darker skin
tone than them, and therefore use these inferior beings as laborers. The idea that race came out of
racism is something I never would’ve thought of without this class, and I’m glad it’s something
I’m conscious of now.
Another key thing I learned in this class is the idea of a single story. The Ted Talk we
were shown several times this year regarding this concept had a big impact on me. Assuming
things about others based on what you’ve heard about them is something everyone is guilty of. I,
for example, thought the U.S. was the only truly developed nation in the world, because that’s
what I had been taught my entire life. I realized how wrong this was when I went on a foreign
exchange to Germany for three weeks and got to experience the other side of the story. Having
first hand experience at how wrong a single story can be, this lesson really hit home for me. I’ve
been trying very hard lately to never get caught in the trap of only hearing one side of the story
again. A second example of this single story was shown in ​A Native Son​, a novel we read second
semester. In this book, Bigger Thomas accidentally murders a white girl. Even though he should
be the prime suspect, very few people suspect him at first. This is because he’s black, and they
believed he would be incapable of killing a white person. This belief gives Bigger the chance to
run away and murder again before he is caught. The single story so many people held of Bigger
led to the death of another innocent women. This did a really good job of showing how harmful
single stories can be.
A third really big lesson Harlem Ren taught me is that hate breeds hate. This can be seen
in almost everything we read this year, but I believe it’s most prevalent in the Malcolm X
autobiography. Being hated by white people for so long actually produced a religion. The Nation
of Islam comes into the spotlight during Malcolm X’s adult years as a religion based on the idea
that the white man is the literal devil. This hatred of the white man by all Nation of Islam
members can be directly traced back to the hatred the white man holds of them. The white man’s
hate only created more hate. Another great example of this is in Bigger’s attitude toward all
white people in ​A Native Son​. He is so hateful and distrusting toward the entire white race, and
this only stems from the hate and distrust he’s experienced from whites his whole life.
The one thing we’ve learned in this class that has made me think the most, though, would
have to be the fact that saying you’re not racist doesn’t make you not racist. This idea is
definitely talked about the most in ​Between the World and Me​. At one point in the book, Coates
writes, “There are no racists in America, or at least none that the people who need to be white
know personally.” He talks about how white people are quick to say they’re not racist in order to
separate themselves from the image they hold of a dumb redneck yelling the n word and spitting
into a can. But that doesn’t make these people not racist. Some of the most racist people are
educated, well-dressed, and respected. These are the same people who will do everything they
can to separate themselves from their image of a racist. So clearly, the words don’t matter. If
you’re really not racist, you’ll never have to tell people that you aren’t.
Silence in the face of oppression only helps the oppressor. That’s something I’ve seen in
many of the stories we’ve read in class, and something I’ve heard my peers repeat. However,
I’ve also heard my peers tell me it is overstepping boundaries as a white person to speak up
about the issue of race. These two conflicting ideas have caused me a lot of confusion and left
me with one big question: What can I, as a white person, do to help? If speaking up isn’t
something I should do, but staying silent isn’t either, what is there to do? I don’t want to help the
oppressors in any way, shape, or form, but I also don’t want to do anything deemed unhelpful by
my PoC peers. Nothing we’ve done in class this year has really been able to help me find an
answer to this question, and until I am able to find one I can’t know for sure what I as an
individual can do to help. As a society, though, I think the best thing we can do is listen. Listen
to what black Americans say is a problem. Listen to what they tell us is racist. And fix it. In
order to work toward a society everyone feels comfortable in, we need to know what it is that is
preventing this from happening. We need to trust what we are being told, regardless of whether
we believe it to be true, because many of us have no right to disagree in the first place. If we can
really listen, and really use this information we’re given, we can make life better for everyone.

Harlem Ren Final Essay Example #2: Change

When you hear the word racist,
what comes to mind?
A white man in a white robe?
A confederate flag yielding, slur yelling, white trash southerner?
Maybe so.
But when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of freedom’s adversaries,
he wasn’t talking about Klan members or confederates,
he was talking about the white moderate.
The man who puts his hand on his wallet when he passes a black man in a hoodie.
The woman who locks her car doors when driving through Detroit.
The millions of Americans with Trump signs stuck in their lawns.
The police officers that pull out their guns before they assess their situations.
These people, and the small racist actions
that they take each day,
are the enemy of equality,
and the obstructions of independence.

II.“ ...one racist act. It’s all it takes.’ ” - Ta-Nehisi Coates

If all it takes to ruin a lifetime of work
is one racist act,
then how do we, as
Americans, defend the history of racism
in our country?
Because if one act of racism
unravels a lifetime of fighting
to overcome,
what does a lifetime of living
in the ruins of a racist society

is no longer a solution
to our society’s inability
to dole out equal protection
under the law.
Imagining yourself
in the position of a black boy
learning to fear police officers,
rather than a white girl
who was taught to love them,
is a privilege.
The ability to sympathize is,
in itself,
immunity from our country’s
injustice and

IV. “I don’t see any American dream; I see an American nightmare.” - Malcolm X

If the American dream is a dream deferred,

it must be the kind of dream
that festers and explodes,
because last year,
more than 100 unarmed
black people were killed by
the police.

The dream of safety

and equal protection under the law
must have already combusted,
because the man who killed Trayvon Martin was acquitted,
and the man who killed Michael Brown was acquitted,
and the man who killed Freddie Gray was acquitted,

Institutionalized racism
is a staple in
American society,
and for the teardrops of
Lady Liberty,
we must learn
to make a change.