Black and White, not Black or White
One of Blake’s poems that really caught my attention was The Little Black Boy. The title in itself already gives away the theme of the poem: racism. I mean seriously, who titles their poem, or any piece of literature for that matter, “The Little (insert color) Boy” without tackling racial issues. It’s not even surprising that the title emphasized on the word black, because history can not attest to the fact that the black race is one of the most persecuted of all races.
I say this, not with a racist sentiment, but with a tone of pity. Pity, not for the blacks, but for mankind. I pity the fact that we stooped down to a level beyond animalistic, for not even monkeys persecute other monkeys just because they have a different shade of fur. I pity the fact that we have become so bigoted with our opinions, thinking so highly of race and color, an attitude that seems so childish. Yet the saddest part in this uncanny issue of racism, is that it IS undeniably real.
The Little Black Boy takes on racism quite differently, in a sense that it seems that the narrator, which is the little black boy, unintentionally takes on issues regarding racism. The poem begins with the boy narrating the teachings of his mother, filled with optimism and joy. He talks about God and the beauty of the world, things that has been taught to him. In this part of the poem, we are able to see how the theme of Innocence reveals itself, as the boy seemed so innocent and hopeful. This innocence represents how, as children, we become so easily molded by the teachings of our parents, believing in everything they tell us, not only because we trust them but also because as a child, we know nothing.
To the little boy, the color of his skin did not make him feel very much different from the white boy, he believed that they were equals but only slightly different. To an extent, this brought him joy, he was hopeful and joyous yet he was oblivious. He knew nothing about the cruelty of reality, and how people like him were persecuted and treated worse than animals in the real world.
From Sophocles to Rousseau, I believed that ignorance is bliss, however in Blake’s poem, although ignorance may be bliss to the little black boy, I believe that bliss should not be at the cost of injustice. It seems to be just for the little boy to know the truth about the world’s cruelty, for he cannot simply live in a shadow of someone without knowing it. Just as the illustration shows us, the little black boy is hidden in the shadow of the white boy, while Jesus is only looking at the white boy. Despite the fact that the black boy does not seem to know issues regarding racism does not mean it does not exist. The same way we cannot be oblivious to the pressing issue of racism that still surrounds our world today.
Thank you for an engaging and thought-provoking reflection. I feel like it’s especially timely at the moment, when we are seeing an increase in verbal and physical attacks against people because of their race, religion, or national identity. Or perhaps not necessarily an increase in the actual number, but maybe just an increase in their visibility. And I, too, feel pity for us as a whole, as all humans, that we do this. And anger. I agree that though in the short term being ignorant might ensure some level of comfort, in the long run being aware of what is happening is crucial, as only then can we work to change it.