Study Guide

Alligator Bayou Prejudice

By Donna Jo Napoli


"Francesco! Remember five years ago? […] They lynched seven N****es right on Depot Street. A white man started it, but no one asked who shot first. Don't do anything stupid!" (2.9)

Wow, the reality of being murdered is up front right away in this book (this gets said in Chapter 2), but even with this threat hanging over them all the time, it seems like Francesco doesn't believe it is actually possible—otherwise he wouldn't bring a gun to threaten Willy.

"[…] He says all N****es are filthy except for the servants of the whites […]." (2.28)

This was a common feeling amongst whites people in the South at the time, even though it is ridiculous and intensely offensive.

"She believe what she want to believe, and I reckon a yes-ma'amingboy like you ain't never gonna set her straight." (4.6)

Patricia isn't thrilled about how Calogero is so polite to the people who treat him like dirt, but he doesn't know what else to do when white folks demand respect. He is scared of them because they hold all the power.

"You will someday. You're getting an education. You'll do whatever you want."

"Where you from, sugar, that you think a colored girl can do whatever she want, with or without an education? That Sicily, it's some other kind of world?" (4.26-27)

Calo sees Patricia for who she is—bright and hardworking—and believes she should be able to make good use of her talents in her life, no matter what color her skin is.

"That shaking hands—that's a dago thing," that boy says. "I seen it before." (4.56)

Even the Black boys that Calo meets use racist terms, which is weird since they know how bad it feels to be labeled a word that is meant to insult someone.

It's those Jim Crow laws again—whites and N****es can't be served food in the same eating establishment at the same time. How could I forget? (6.94)

This law is strange to people from outside of the country, so of course Calogero could forget it… It doesn't make sense to any sensible person, and Calo is definitely sensible.

"N****es have been lynched all over the South. Hundreds. Maybe thousands. Killed without trials. Now that's murder, Calogero." (7.45)

There is not much to say about this quote except for that is so sad. Why do people think this is okay to do? How could anyone allow this to happen?

"Be polite. Not like that crazy man you work for. Serving darkies ahead of whites! Ain't you got eyes? I walk in here and I see darkies. That makes me first. You got that?" (11.88)

The trouble is that these white men want to make themselves the most important things on earth and so they create laws to force everyone to treat them like living gods so they can keep feeling important and special. Our mother's taught us not to say anything if we don't have anything nice to say though, so we're going to stop right here.

"Fraternizing with them cotton pickers. That's what Pa calls it. Fraternizing."

"Next thing you know, ya'll be giving the darkies ideas."

"Fraternizing and big ideas. And selling stuff too cheap."

"Yeah. Making deals with the dagoes in New Orleans."

"Ruining the company stores." (15.37-41)

A very real root for the extreme prejudice in the United States is money, and here we see anxiety that the oppressed demographics might team up and create their own little exchange economy.

"Sicilians, they's the worst." It's Mr. Rogers, Willy's father. "More like monkeys than people. I hear they shot the good doctor in the groin. That's how low they stoop." (24.97)

If you say it out loud it must be true, right? Wrong. Nothing that Mr. Rogers says here is true, but it doesn't matter—the white townsfolk act like it is anyway, even after Frank tells them they're wrong.

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