Morales (1986) and Walker (1970) represent the theme of race and ethnicity in the short story The Welcome Table and the poem Child of the Americans by Morales. The themes often contradict as practiced by different communities. How does ethnicity and race represent a category of social inequality and injustices in the society? Drawing from the two authors’ work, we will analyze how race and ethnicity function as a tool of division, discrimination, and ranking of individuals in the society.
The race of an individual has genetic inheritance; a person acquires it from its parents and ancestors. It constitutes the skin color of an individual and the associated characteristics that come with the color. Biologically, we may define race as sub-species, where a group of individuals carry anatomical characteristics that differentiate them from all other races. On the other hand, ethnicity describes one’s cultural background. It is a link between genetic inheritance and culture.
Individuals create their own personal identity. Ethnicity and race are mainly historical and cultural constructions by individuals. They bring about social inequality and injustices in the society and erosion of some cultures as outlined in the poem Child of Americans. The poem and the short story narrative use different styles of writing to bring out the same theme.
The theme of race and ethnicity is highlighted in the short story by Walker (1986). The old woman goes to church and, being discriminated against on the basis of color, eventually gets thrown out of the congregation. She does not realize the blackness in herself and worships the Lord peacefully as it is proper in the church. The difference in color and culture made her an outcast in the society. This is ironical; the church does not recognize the presence and sincerity of worship of the old woman.
Walker (1970) narrates the story of the old woman from the perspective of the White race; the Whites describe the woman as lean and angular. Later, the narrative changes to the old woman’s first encounter with Jesus. The changes in the perspective help outline the feelings and thoughts of all the characters in the narration.
The old woman dies as an unhappy woman, but at no point does she denounce her culture and race. This is due to the realization that there is the need to accept one’s origin. She appreciates her race and does not find it an offence to worship in the same congregation with the people of the white skin. She gets to the church and occupies her seat, but everybody else stares at her, comparing her to an evil spirit that has invaded their privacy. According to Walker (1970), “Those who knew the hesitant creeping up on them of the law, saw the beginning of the end of the sanctuary of Christian worship, saw the desecration of Holy Church, and saw an invasion of privacy, which they struggled to believe they still kept” (p. 5). This vivid description of the congregation and ironical tone makes the narration attractive and real. On the contrary, Morales (1986) shows how excited some individuals are to be alienated by cultures of the West. They know they are Africans by genetic inheritance from their parents and ancestors, but they have vowed to never return to their land. In the poem, they declare they are African but can never return to Africa.