Study Guide

I Know This Much is True Race

By Wally Lamb

Race

No wife of his was going to do n***** work. (8.11)

Ray never minces words. For him, cleaning houses is work that's beneath white people, which means he also sees black people as being lesser people (as if you couldn't tell by his word choice).

The town of Three Rivers was incorporated in 1653 and grew steadily and legally, the law being white. Conversely, the reservation kept shrinking in acreage, the tribe's numbers dwindling. (13.1)

Three Rivers, Connecticut—the setting of the novel—wouldn't exist if the Native Americans hadn't been run out of town. It's a town built on racial prejudice.

[Mr. LoPresto] advised us not to judge the Indians by our own higher standards. They were indigenous savages and we were the product of ancient Greece and Rome and the rest of Western civilization. It was like comparing apples to oranges, monkeys to men. (13.9)

We don't even know where to begin with all the offensiveness here. The fact that this teacher is teaching racism in school? That he calls Native Americans "Indians" and "inferior"? Or that he equates them with monkeys? Ugh.

"That's the trouble with survival of the fittest, isn't it, Dominick? The corpse at your feet. That little inconvenience." (13.58)

Racism is far from a victimless crime because there's always the oppressed people getting walked all over. Of course, most of the time the oppressor doesn't think about this, because it's not like they consider the oppressed people anyway.

"Hey, <em>You</em>! Hey, <em>white boy</em>! Get <em>f***ed</em>!" (13.59)

Dominick doesn't know if Ralph is yelling at him, a specific white boy, or if his anger is directed at all white boys. For Ralph, either target would be valid.

"Why should you buy some Jap piece of s***?" (29.14)

Ray may have mellowed out in some respects with age, but his casual racism still exists in full force.

I trusted no one else, especially not shifty dark-skinned Indians whose idleness stole money from my pocket! (33.20)

What about light-skinned Indians? Would Domenico trust them? Ugh.

The victim looked up at me from the front page of the wet, limp, Daily Record. He was black, of course; it was always a black man. He had a name now—Rodney King—and a battered, lopsided face, a slit for an eye. (38.7)

We're not sure why Rodney King gets name dropped here, aside from a little historical context and the general over-arching theme of oppression. Does Dominick identify with Rodney King in any way?

That thieving Jew charged my thirty-five cents a pound! (41.195)

Domenico sounds a bit like Ray here, referring to someone's race when it's hardly relevant to the issue at hand.

After all the work I had done for that son of a b****, he sat there mocking my English, mocking me! (45.73)

Racism isn't so nice for Domenico when he's the one being made fun of. He has no problem making fun of Nabby Drinkwater and his Native American heritage, but he's suddenly offended when his accent his mocked.