Reacting to Injustice


Different people react to different injustices in different ways. Some react suddenly without thinking, others react while thinking of the consequences, while still others accept the facts and submit to them.

In this book, some people react violently, without thinking of the consequences of neither that reaction nor whom they are reacting to. Uncle Hammer is one of them. We can see that when Cassie comes home from Strawberry and tells Uncle Hammer that Mr. Simms threw her off the side-walk, at hearing this, Uncle Hammer becomes really angry and starts towards the Simms house to get revenge. He takes that action without even thinking of the consequences, he becomes emotional and acts under his emotions. He is not wise or calm.

Another example is Little Man in the part where he gets his new book and when he reads the inside cover of it, he throws it on the floor and stomps on it. This was an angry and violent reaction to the name, ‘nigger’, which the whites called him and all the blacks.

Some people react angrily, saying what they think is right on the white’s faces, like Cassie does in the store in Strawberry. She tells Mr. Barnett that he was ‘“waiting on them” ’ before he was on the white girl, and that ‘…it ain’t fair” to serve the white girl when ‘“We been waiting on you for near an hour.”’. She states the facts without understanding and realising the difference the whites make between themselves and the blacks. Moreover she answers back without hesitating and without knowing or thinking what this answer or this reaction might cost her. Mr. Morrison is another example of angry reactions, when we find out that he had a fight with a white on the railways, and because of which he was fired.

However, other people in this story react quite differently. Papa, for example, reacts wisely and calmly, always thinking of the consequences. He fights back, but not in a violent or aggressive way. He says to Cassie that ‘“… there’ll be a whole lot of things you ain’t gonna wanna do but you’ll have to do…just so you can survive.’” But he tells her that; on the other hand, ‘“…there are things you can’t back down on, things you gotta take a stand on.”’ From this we can note that Papa rebels, but silently and calmly. He doesn’t allow his emotions to take the better of him. We see that when he stops going to the Wallace’s store and instead goes to Vicksburg.

Another example is Stacey where he gets revenge on the bus driver for splashing them with dirty water and the white children inside who always laughed and jeered at them. He and the others dig a pit in the middle of the road where later the bus falls. Stacey gets his revenge; he rebels, but silently and wisely. He doesn’t do it openly or aggressively.

There is Mama too; who fights for her rights and stands up to what she believes is right by not teaching the things that are written in the books. She rebels openly but wisely and in a well thought out way. When she is fired from her job, she is angry but she doesn’t show her anger or use violence to express it.

Unlike the ones mentioned above, who in one way or the other rebel and fight for their rights, there are still some who accept the facts and submit to them. Here we have the example of Big Ma, who doesn’t fight back and accepts the fact that they are blacks and that they are inferior to the whites, the way the whites put it. For instance, when she is in Strawberry and Mr. Simms orders Cassie to apologize, despite Cassie’s protests and hesitation, she tells her to do it. Now we know that in that situation Uncle Hammer would have reacted in a completely different way. This shows how different Big Ma is to him. At that time, at that place, she chose to submit to what Mr. Simms was saying and didn’t fight back. She was right in her own way because she was old and starting a fight there by refusing wouldn’t have been appropriate. We can see that even behind that submission there were reasons which were right in their own way, and that even she wasn’t glad to tell Cassie to apologize and call Lillian Jean ‘miz’. We can see that when the author says ‘Big Ma looked at me again, her voice cracking as she spoke. “Go on, child…apologize.”’

However, there are people like Mrs. Crocker who gladly accept the fact that they are inferior to whites and don’t even try to rebel against it. They no longer realise what’s right and what’s wrong, they just do and believe what the whites tell them, and never even dare to think against it. Like when Cassie shows her the book cover and tells her that they called them niggers, Mrs. Crocker says ‘“That’s what you are…”’ and when Mama is putting papers on the book covers she says to her that ‘“…Mary Logan, you are biting the hand that feeds you.”’ This shows that she just believes what the whites tell her and she doesn’t want to think otherwise. She accepts it and submits to it. She is even grateful to them for providing them books despite what they call them.

Then there is T.J, who longs for popularity and friends. The Simms use him and make fun of him behind his back. But when he does find out he isn’t angry, only bewildered and scared. He too accepts the fact that they used him, though he doesn’t understand why. He doesn’t stand up to people; he just lets them to do whatever they want with him, particularly the whites.

Summarising, we can see that the reactions of the people depend on the people themselves: the way they think, their personality, what they believe, their nature, what they think is right and what is wrong. There is a variety of reactions in this book: some use anger and violence to fight back, some use calmness and being wise to fight back, and some just don’t rebel. Each one is right and wrong in their own way. We cannot determine or decide which reaction is right and which is not.