Theme for English B
by Langston Hughes
Theme for English B Race Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Line)
Being me, it will not be white. (28)
This line again backs up the speaker's connection to his race. He's just talking about a page on a piece of paper here, but then again, he's talking about the truth. He's saying that if he sits down and writes a page that comes out of him, like his assignment tells him to, it's not going to be white—as in blank, and also as in the skin color. So his race informs his writing, and, if you follow the logic of the assignment, it also informs what's true for him.
You are white—
yet a part of me, as I am a part of you. (31-32)
The speaker directly addresses his instructor here. He states distinctly "you are white," as if this were monumental, some huge deal—and in this time period, for a black student, it kind of is. But despite their difference in color, these two people are a part of each other. They may not want anything to do with each other, but they are part of each other whether they like it or not. The poem says that's part of being American, but maybe it's part of being human. Yet, that doesn't mean there's no racial tension between them.
As I learn from you,
I guess you learn from me—
although you're older—and white—
and somewhat more free. (37-40)
While we've gotten some hints of racial tension throughout the poem, here we get it spelled out. The white instructor is "somewhat more free." This line, in an explorative, even playful poem, rings as bitter and strong, that shock of rich coffee after a sleepy morning. But it's just stating a reality of the time period. Because the instructor is white in the 1950s, he has more opportunities and privileges than his black student. Yet the student doesn't seem to hate him for it. In fact, he claims that both parties learn from each other. What do you think? Is it possible to learn from, or be a part of, someone you're prejudiced against, or from someone who is prejudiced against you?