SEARCHING FOR THE PRIZE- POETRY ANALYSIS
"Searching for the Prize" by George Cassutto is a poem mainly about racism, poverty, and the troubles whites have relating to blacks and their problems with discrimination. The views of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. are addressed in this poem along with an overview of the history of blacks in America.
The author is saying "my skin color gives me some knowledge and the understanding of the terror of what black Americans had to go through to make it today. I can not feel your pain, but I understand what you are going through." The author of this poem is white and is stating that he can never really understand the black experience.
(When white men came to Africa, gold, silver, and ivory were introduced to the rest of the world. Africans were exported to America as being slaves, and no one cared how they felt about it) (Langston Hughes, Pg. 9).
Martin Luther King is the spirit of hope for all mankind. He spoke the truth in his "I Have a Dream" speech. He helps everyone, black and white, join hands and become friends and not enemies like before. No one can stop him from speaking the truth of freedom, friendship, and hope for all mankind. He did not have guards around him when he gave his everlasting speech; all he had was himself, hope, and his views on freedom.
(Martin Luther King Jr. was the leader of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the main speaker at the March on Washington, and the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner. He was killed at the Lorraine Motel on April 4th,1968. He may be seen as the most important civil rights leader of the 20th century.) (Harry Plaski, James Williams, Pg.294)
Malcolm Little dislikes the white man because they enslaved blacks and thoughtlessly killed blacks. He believes no one should be killed because of their race. The children and gangs should stop fighting and try to encourage peace throughout the world.
(Malcolm X called whites "devils". He was suspended from the Muslim Movement by Elijah Muhammad. He formed the Organization of Afro-Americans Unity. He can be seen as one of the most fiery and controversial blacks of the 20th century. He was murdered in 1965.) (Harry Plaski, James Williams, Pg.296)
The author continues to say," No one shold have to be poor, and everyone should be treated equally. No one is stronger than another. Poverty and black neighborhoods means more boys and girls will be in gangs, and more wrongful deaths will result because of this."
(In the mid 1600's, European colonists were selling more than ten thousand Africans per year in the West Indies. The Portuguese first started the slave transport from country to country. The French, Spanish, English, and Dutch soon came into the picture. In 1839 slavery started to come to an end with the Anti-Slavery Society in America. 270,000 blacks, women, children, and men were put into slavery.) (Langston Hughes, Pg.12; Harry Plaski, Pg.127:)
At one point in time blacks Africans were forced to live in a strange land. The circumstances of their arrival made them wish they never came here in the first place. But it became their home, and in time, they did not wish to go back to where they came from. All the wrongs that have been done show that the ideals of this country are not a reality. Equality is a 'promised land," but the promise is like a prize that is never actually won.
(The ancient land is Africa. The African people have been around for generations before the white man came. The Africans were extremely careful reading the records of nature, and they take care of nature.) (Langston Hughes: Pg.7)
The power coming from the past brings more hope for everyone to be free. If we do not learn from the past then we will just repeat it. No one should have to hurt another for something done wrong. If you can't be free, what is the use of trying to get out of the slums? The conditions of the inner city lead to violence and death, a sort of enslavement to the situation.
Skin color should not hold back a person's knowledge and understanding of the world, but the sad fact is that it does. White people can increase their understanding of blacks by trying to put themselves in the place of African Americans, but they may never be able to appreciate fully the black experience. Blacks were not treated fairly and equally by whites, but today that is changing. Hopefully in the future everyone will not only be equal on paper, but will also feel equal to everyone else in reality.
Searching For The Prize: A Poem By George Cassutto
The color of my skin
chains my knowledge and my understanding
of what it means to be black in America.
I will never experience your pain.
Martin King wrote the spirit of the law
with the sword of Gandhi's truth but
no national guardsmen can accompany
the heart on its way to integration.
Malcolm Little raises a fist
at the white establishment from his grave,
his anger wrapped in bloody tee-shirts
and capped like a crown with his cross
a badge of courage worn
in suburbs abandoned by white paranoia
and recently occupied by a black middle class.
Poverty is a slave ship that surrounds
the endangered species of humanity,
bonded to the streets of the city
until freed by a bullet in the night.
Once the heat of oppression
carried the songs of a people
seeking the promised land.
Now the anger of spoken music,
composed from the broken promises
of the lawmaker and the landlord,
teaches the young in their classroom of hate.
The power held in history's hand
raised the brothers and sisters
of the twentieth century to the sound of a different master:
by the whip of the weapon
and the pursuit of property.
The color of your skin
must free my knowledge and my understanding
of what it means to be black in America.
I must learn to experience your pain.
1. Plaski, Harry and Williams, James: Reference Library Of Black America: Gale Research Inc.: 1990: Volume 1.
2. Hughes, Langston; Meltzer, Milton; Lincoln,C.: A Pictorial History of Black Americans: Milton Meltzer, Langston Hughes, Crown Publishers Inc.: 1983
3. Gazourian, Ann; Leth, Kathy; Pennea, Trudy; Weber, Jean: Ethnic Groups, : Social Issues Resources Series Inc.: 1991: Volume 4
4. Haskins, Jim: The Day Martin Luther King Jr. Was Shot: Jim Haskins and Scholastic Inc.: 1992