Social Ostracization

Social Ostracization

In my Lit Theory class we were asked to read “What White Publishers Won’t Print” written by Zora Neal Hurston. In this text, Hurston accuses society, specifically the Anglo-Saxon and non-minority part, of their lack of interest in the lives and emotions of the black community. She then translates this disinterest in the community to disinterest in “Negro” literature in general. Hurston makes the claim that white publishers will not publish works that they do not believe will be of relevance to the public (1024). Huston’s article argues, “It is assumed that all non-Anglo-Saxons are uncomplicated stereotypes. Everybody knows all about them. They are lay figures mounted in the museum where all may take them in at a glance” (1024). Thus, due to the disinterest, publishers will shy away from stories about minorities unless the story involves racial tension of the lower class because whites are ultimately less likely to value the intellectual capabilities of the black community. This disinterest creates tension between the two communities and induces racial lines. Hurston argues the refusal to publish black personal stories is a way for the white community to exclude and prevent the black community from integrating into the white community. Whites keep the lives of the black separate, making it impossible for them to assimilate.

In addition, Hurston’s argument correlates with Harris’s in “Whiteness as a Property”. Harris argues, as the title of the article indicates, whiteness has become a kind of property. This property has derived its power from property functions. The rights of whites to use and enjoy, to hold a reputation and the right to exclude are just some of the ways racial lines are drawn by the white community. Harris emphasizes the racial lines the white community puts forth is in an effort to keep the two communities separate from one another. To relate this to Hurston, because whiteness holds a property value that whites do not wish to jeopardize they marginalize the black community. The value and safety of their reputation and their personal enjoyment is protected by their white properties and whites are simply afraid to risk the loss of it. The refusal to publish black literature that does not emphasize and highlight racial tension and diminish the value of the black culture is just one way the white community continues to draw lines in order to protect their property functions. If this literature were produced whites and blacks would begin to relate with one another and the lines would blur, ultimately demeaning their white property power and status. When we think of whiteness as a kind of property and right to exclude, we can see Hurston’s belief as to how the media plays a role in perpetuating a regime of property that works to keep the complications of black lives out of view.

This social ostracization also reminds me of the social ostracization accounted for in Waquant. It’s a bit of a stretch, however, within Waquant’s article he discusses four peculiar institutions. These institutions induce social ostracization of the black community. Essentially, they all in their own way extract labor from blacks and label them as “different” in order to give them their own social standing. Ultimately, they enforce the color line that “cleaves American society asunder”. The act of confining, defining and controlling the black community is credited to these four institutions. They each in their own individual way box blacks into a certain framework, which is often stereotypical and secluding so that they would not intervene with the white society. Though Hurston’s account of social exclusion is not directly considered an institution in the eyes of Waquant, they both carry the same of effect and produce tension between racial lines. Due to the views whites have on the blacks quality of life, according to Waquant and Hurston, whites are concerned with ostracizing the black community so that there communities remain separate. Whether it is through slavery, Jim Crow laws or the refusal to publish literature that allows readers relate to black culture, whites continuously reject the idea of blending racial lines through marginalization.

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