Thursday, July 28, 2011

“‘Take for instance,’ [Bob said,] ‘doing something as simple as going downtown to a moving picture show. Every white person I come into contact with, every one I have to speak to, even those I pass on the street—every goddamn one of the has got the power of some kind of control over my own behaviour. Not only that they use it—they use it in every way. Say if I ride the streetcar, the conductor can make me stand there waiting for my change or he can make me ask two or three times for a transfer. Then when I get off and walk down the street the pedestrians can make me step aside to let them pass. The cashier at the theatre can sell me loge seats when she knows there aren’t any, and the doorman can send me on up to the balcony, knowing that there aren’t any loge seats, then the usher will find the worst possible seat for me. And there’s the picture—it’s almost certain to offend me in some kind of way. If there’re Negro actors in it the roles they play will be offensive; and if it’s a play with no part at all for Negroes, if you get to thinking about it, you resent the fact of seeing the kind of life shown you’ll never be able to live. The hell of it is, it’s not just one little thing—say if I bought the wrong ticket I could take it back and have it exchanged, but it’s selling me the ticket and making me go through all the rigmarole. But it’s not only that, it’s the pressure they put on you of being able to do these things to you…’”

Chester Himes, If He Hollers Let Him Go (1945), 166-167

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