Study Guide

Having Our Say Injustice

By Sarah and A. Elizabeth Delany with Amy Hill Hearth

Injustice

The reason they passed those Jim Crow laws is that powerful white people were getting more and more nervous with the way colored people [...] were starting to accumulate some wealth, to vote, to make demands (4.10.2)

Now that slavery is done, the powers-that-be need a new way to oppress the masses. Step one: limit their educational opportunities and undermine their right to free speech. Step two: reinforce the fact that white people and black people have different cultural backgrounds in the hopes of inciting tension in the masses.

We may have been little children but, honey, we got the message loud and clear. But when nobody was looking, Bessie took the dipper from the white side and drank from it. (4.10.8)

Bessie and Sadie were born before Jim Crow, so these new regulations don't make too much sense to them. All we know is that Bessie will always say F.U. ("Forget Underwear!") to anyone who tries to hold her back

Knowing people like Miss Moseley and out white grandfather, Mr. Miliam, made this Jim Crow mess seem mighty puzzling. (4.11.7)

The injustice of Jim Crow is downright silly at times. Sadie and Bessie have white family members and friends, yet they wouldn't be able to eat at the same restaurant if they tried.

Like Manross, all the colored veterans came back just as proud as they could be [...] They thought they would surely come home and be treated like citizens. Manross was very disappointed. (5.15.19)

Manross has risked life, limb, and injury to protect his country. Shouldn't that earn him the respect of his fellow Americans? He even visits the parents of a white man whose life he saved but is turned away at the door.

When N****es are average, they fail, unless they are very, very lucky. Now, if you're average and white, honey, you can go far. (5.17.28)

This knowledge drives them to work even harder. That being said, you can't expect everybody to work as hard (and as well) as a Delany—eventually, we need to fix the problems at the roots of the system.

It seems to me that white people were judged as individuals. But if a N**** did something stupid or wrong, it was held against all of us. N****es were always representing the whole race. (5.19.29)

This is one of the subtler ways that minorities are pigeonholed by society. A white man doing something wrong is a freak tragedy; a black man doing the same thing somehow reflects on his whole culture. These stereotypes are reinforced by politicians and the media time and time again.

That incident made me become even more of an activist. Honey, all you had to say was the word "protest" and I was there! (5.21.16)

Bessie doesn't take injustice lying down. Remember: this is the same girl who drank out of the whites-only water fountain just to stick it to the man—you be darn sure she'll fight for her rights any chance she gets.

Like when they sent Japanese-Americans to those internment camps; now, that was wrong! That was racial paranoia (6.27.7)

Black people weren't the only minority group oppressed by the U.S. government. The imprisonment of Japanese-Americans during WW2 ranks among the darker moment in modern American history.

It seems like the momentum was lost when the Vietnam War happened. It was like all the energy of the young people, and the focus of the country, got shifted away from civil rights. (7.30.28)

If we were conspiracy theorists (and we're not, for the record), we'd say that there's no such thing as coincidences. Regardless, war has a way of distracting citizens from problems on the home-front.

We've outlived those old rebby boys!
That's one way to beat them!
That's justice! (7.32.15-17)

How many of those "old rebby boys" reached the heights of success that Sadie and Bessie did? How many of them had best-selling books written about them? Yeah—that's what we thought.