Speak Up

“…this is not much of a democracy if you ask me. Equal chance to pursue happiness means an equal crack at the dough, don’t it?”  This quote by Sugar, the main character’s friend, in Toni Cade Bambara’s “The Lesson” can be interpreted through listening to Barbie’s story, especially when she was talking about not being able to afford heat during the winter.  Bambara’s narrative focuses on a learning moment in Sylvia’s life.  Barbie discusses her experience of being a single mom living in poverty with two small children to care for.  When she told the story of how her daughter still doesn’t know that in the winter, it is supposed to be warm inside, I was stunned.  It was that cold in their house.  How can this be?  It is clearly written in the United States Declaration of Independence that: “…all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”  If this is a value upheld by this country’s most treasured document, how and why can this child not know the difference between outside and inside during the winter season?  Forget about pursuit of happiness; this is an unalienable right—a right to life.  And that right needs to be advocated for those who have no voice in this society.  The marginalized, impoverished, and disadvantaged are silenced and ignored.  Someone needs to listen to them and someone needs to speak up.

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2 Responses to Speak Up

  1. twoheadedmouse says:

    The Declaration of Independence is not a law binding document. It stands to remind citizens of the Unites States about the core aspiration that spurred the Founding Fathers to declare separation from England. From America’s founding to its present, the nation struggles to balance idealism, found in the Declaration, with realism of governing a nation. The experience of Barbie highlights this conflict. People are shocked by the poverty that exists within this country. Shock becomes disgust when the realization occurs that the poverty, at time, is not coincidental, but effects of generations of racism and oppression. Citizens of America have a difficulty understanding why such abuses occur. Using rhetoric of equality and broad declaration of rights are fine, but are of little use realistically. Rhetoric of abstract concepts are shaped and limited by biases of society. The Declaration of Independence is a perfect example. In the present we interpret those rights promoted by the document to protect men, women, and people of all races. How about the immigrant from Mexico? Or the gay couple seeking marriage and social acceptance? It takes little intelligence when reviewing American history to see the interpretations of the Declaration of Independence. From the ratification of the Constitution the three-fifths compromise established the superiority of blacks to whites, and the steady but violent struggle of populations to gain equal standing to the privileged in America. With each passing generation new ideas of equality become espoused and realized. Realism encompasses the concrete actions taken by the oppressed . The Lesson by Toni Bambara teaches this fact. Miss Moore encapsulates the idealistic and realistic. She teaches the children the reality and oppression they live in. She shows them the injustice they exist in, and how that shapes their lives. The only way the Declaration of Independence could be reality is through the actions of individuals overcoming the shortcomings of society and government.

  2. bellajoelleseiz says:

    I agree with the final claim of this paragraph. Someone does need to speak up for these people, but what can we do specifically to help? And do these people even want help? Often, when people don’t know any differently, they don’t want to change. And it’s a lot easier to help those who want the help. People can be very stubborn even when you’re just trying to be nice and help out. The website that Barbie’s clip came from for example (http://www.centerforhungerfreecommunities.org) gave many personal stories and pictures of actual people in poverty. This site works to fight for the rights of these people. There are many other organizations such as food pantries and homeless shelters all across the county. Another problem that came up was what if someone makes too much money to receive aid, but not enough to support their family? This is a terrible spot to be put in, and we need to fight to fix this. Basic necessities should be a right, not a privilege. And when children don’t have a proper childhood, it makes it very difficult for them to change their situation and create a better life for their families in the future. We need to take action to change this vicious cycle of life that occurs in our world today.

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