Working through “Going to Meet the Man”

I can’t get “Going to Meet the Man” out of my head. I think it’s because this short story has been the most brutal one that I’ve read for any class. What I got from the short story is that Baldwin, through some very disturbing scenes, was trying to explain (maybe just theorizing or examining) how Jesse’s (and the other white men’s) sexual insecurity can be seen as a metaphor for understanding racial oppression. Jesse, as a white police officer, was experiencing the turmoil of the Jim Crow era. Black men were seen as a threat to the dominance that white people exercised, so the threats were neutralized through lynchings, beatings, and torture. Not saying that we have this level of brutality today. Still, the pain and shock that I experienced reading this mirror the ones I’ve felt times and times again when I see a video of or read an article of a black body being brutalized today.

One recurring mechanism behind Jesse’s racism is the objectification of the Black body. And it’s a trope/idea that we’ve seen in many other readings in this class. The immediate one that comes to mind is Native Son. In this short story, it seems like, through the White gaze, black bodies are othered and transformed into animals to justify white supremacy and racism. My understanding of Wright’s argument in Native Son points to a similar phenomenon. Wright’s novel attempted to make the case that rather than black people having an innately depraved mentality, it is white objectification and racism that led to the creation of Bigger Thomas, a character that illustrated the formation of black identity through violence.

Yet, at one point, I did feel sorry for Jesse when he was recounting the stories from his childhood. It was interesting to see how this young child could have been raised to become a terrorist.

One thought on “Working through “Going to Meet the Man””

  1. “Going to Meet the Man” was certainly disturbing, and I also had some of the same thoughts. I found it awful how dehumanizing they were to the black man. The only way they could do what they did to him was to view him as an animal. They didn’t even see him as human, but just something there for their pleasure. I had thought that the title was referring to meeting the black man, but if that’s the case isnt it contradicting? He’s called a man in the title, but an animal in the book. I wonder what that’s supposed to mean. I also found it sad how much Jesse changes from his childhood to adulthood. He had a black friend, but was taught to hate. It’s seen that children are not born hating opposite races, but are taught. I also still can’t wrap my head around how his parents could introduce him to such evil at such a young age. It’s sickening and shows how deep the hatred and evil goes.

    Lastly, I continue to think about why blacks are seen as the ones who are violent in our world today? Many people have more fear with black men than white men, but this seems so backwards to me. Black people were not the ones to torture and do evil to white people. White men were the ones who were violent with slaves, and separated families, and lynched black people, and bombed houses, and killed innocent lives. So how on earth did blacks get the violent stereotype? That’s a thought that kept nagging at me especially during this reading.

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