Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Big Smoke: Race Relations

[The Big Smoke reading group]   

“Race Relations” is one of the titles repeated in more than one section of The Big Smoke. In this section, “Bet Your Last Copper,” Jack Johnson reflects on the violent riots that took place after the Battle of the Century. In this poem, “manhood” can be equated to humanity or even refinement, as Johnson feels that the white people should not have rioted just because he bested a white man in a boxing bout. 

Johnson juxtaposes the post-fight actions of himself and the white people. “The fellows making trouble over/my victory at Reno didn’t have anything/to do with it & they don’t have any class./If they knew the real Jack Johnson,/they’d behave themselves, like he does.” Given the widespread thoughts about black people being inferior to white people during the time period, it's interesting  how Johnson indicates an alternative idea.

But what did you think? What did you find most interesting about the poem and why?

--Jeremiah Carter and Howard Rambsy II

15 comments:

Rodrick Robins said...

I thought the line listed in the question was the most interesting, about how the white folks weren't behaving themselves like Jack was, as a Black male. I think that it was dumb that even when a black person was well behaved, mannered, and educated, they were still treated as an inferior to the dumbest most uneducated White person.

Ricky Wells said...

In Race Relations Jack Johnson states how whites do not keep themselves in check. With that being said, blacks have to obey by the rules where whites do not.
And for that Johnson had to teach one of them a lesson in manners.


Ricky Wells

Joshua Smith said...

It sounds like the white people were not required to follow or act in a orderly fashion. Jack Johnson ,even though he is still treated with little respect , was well spoken and had good manners. He had the qualities which most of the white people didn't present at the time.

Joshua Smith

Robert F said...

In this poem I found it interesting how whites in another area took it upon themselves to cause harm because a white man lost in a sport. They did not behave rationally and what is more unsettling is that their reaction was expected. Either way, winning fairly should not have any negative repercussions.

Robert F.

Anonymous said...

Lucas Reincke said...

I thought this poem really asserted the point of how since whites believe they are superior to every race, we do not have to act according to what society deems really acceptable. I really liked the second to last line saying that if they knew the real Jack Johnson they would have fell in line. This really spoke to me, because even though this guy was a "minority" he did not care. He stood up for what he believed in and if one messed with this guy, you would have your attitude adjusted accordingly.

Evan.Townzen said...

This is interesting. I believe this is true. The statements of his emotions show he can act with reservation but although being able to be a bigger man he is considered inferior based on some added skin color. I think it's most interesting that his opinion is true because rioting over a boxing match after a hell of a show is insane and childish. The most interesting part is hard to point out but I would honestly say my favorite was the part posted because it shows just how far society has come even with the lack of acceptance still around today.

Deonte Young said...

in race relations i thought the most interesting line was the last line. the fact that you can only be considered a man if you consider yourself a man.

Isaiah Person said...

Johnson was still acting in an orderly fashion even when the white man wasn't. The white man was supposed to be superior and behave as such but didn't.

Nicholas M. said...

"If they knew the real Jack Johnson, they'd behave themselves, like he does." I found this quote interesting. We know that Jack is genuinely a good person from his thought process earlier in the poem where he decides between the pros and cons of winning and losing the fight. So, Jack bases his reasoning from a utilitarian view point and decides to win the fight because it maximized the overall good of the people (African Americans). Pretty much, If every behaved and acted like Jack there would be no riots.

Darius R. said...

I found how Jack Johnson thought white people would know better than to riot after his victory. It is interesting that he seems to think that the racist oppressors have self control that blacks don't, as if they are better.

Wole A said...

I found Jack Johnson's response to the white man the most interesting. When you lohttps://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifok at the way white people viewed themselves at the time you may have assumed the white man would have responded in a more civil manor. This shows class is not connected to color.

Jeremiah Blackburn said...

I thought the most interesting part was when in the beginning of the poem. He mentions what the Talladega College president said about the riots. He had an interesting point of view by saying that the people killed in the riots was better than Johnson losing and having their spirits killed. It's interesting how he infers that death is better than living with a "lifeless" spirit.

Quentin Wilson said...

The most interesting thing bout Johnson was his attitude he was still well spoken and acted civilized around others, while many white people did not. They treated him with little respect because of his color and thats unfair

Barry Ford said...

The most interesting part of the poem was when he said, "The truth is, whites are supposed/ to know better on general principle. I ponder on why Johnson thinks that white people should know better than black people. He was probably brainwashed growing up thinking so.

Deandre Howard said...

It the poem, it heavily suggests that whites do what they want while blacks have a strict rule set to abide by. In the poem, is seems the most polite and civil black is still seen as less than civil. Of course, as person who values individuality than the group, this is a foolish way of thinking.

-DeAndre H.