Song of Solomon
How we cite our quotes:
"He delivered both your sisters himself and each time all he was interested in was the color of their skin." (1.3.71)
According to Macon, the patriarch of the Dead family, Dr. Foster, establishes an obsession with color of skin, and a reverence for lighter skin color. This obsession trickles down the family tree, haunting and infecting his grandchildren, isolating them even further.
Aside from Empire State’s giggle, which was wholehearted, it had seemed to Milkman then that the laughter was wan and nervous. Each man in that room knew he was subject to being picked up as he walked the street and whatever his proof of who he was and where he was at the time of the murder, he’d have a very uncomfortable time being questioned. (1.4.101)
In the barbershop, we see the reality of the politics and racist society play out. Guitar tells Milkman much later on that there are no courts; there is no justice for a black person in America. The barbershop is as close to a court as the black community has in the world of Song. Despite the fact that the barbershop congregants have nothing to do with this recent murder (with the exception of Empire State), each of them are suspects simply because of the color of his skin. Skin color is enough to incriminate a person in America.
He was bored. Everybody bored him. The city was boring. The racial problems that consumed Guitar were the most boring of all. He wondered what they would do if they didn’t have the black and white problems to talk about. Who would they be if they couldn’t describe the insults, violence, and oppression that their lives (and the television news) were made up of? (1.4.107-108)
Milkman can’t relate to Guitar or to the barbershop congregants. He doesn’t deny that "insults, violence, and oppression" are part of their lives, but he doesn’t understand why they aren’t interested in talking about other things. To the congregants, these issues are integral to how and why they live their lives. To Milkman, these issues are peripheral, as though the congregants have a selection of issues to choose from and always end up choosing a discussion of "racial problems." We see how far away Milkman is from these issues.