You and your whole race.
Look down upon the town in which you live
And be ashamed.
Look down upon white folks
And upon yourselves
And be ashamed
That such supine poverty exists there,
That such stupid ignorance breeds children there
Behind such humble shelters of despair—
That you yourselves have not the sense to care
Nor the manhood to stand up and say
I dare you to come one step nearer, evil world,
With your hands of greed seeking to touch my throat,
I dare you to come one step nearer me:
When you can say that
you will be free!
Short Poem Analysis
"You and Your Whole Race" by Langston Hughes is a provocative and critical poem that addresses themes of racial prejudice, discrimination, and the desire for social justice. Through its direct language and powerful imagery, the poem confronts the issue of racial inequality head-on and calls for change.
The poem begins with a confrontational tone as the speaker addresses the reader directly, stating, "You and your whole race." This immediately grabs the reader's attention and sets the stage for a candid exploration of racial issues.
Hughes uses vivid imagery to describe the suffering and oppression faced by African Americans. He mentions "crucifixions," "lynchings," and "burnings," invoking powerful and disturbing images of violence and injustice.
The poem is critical of those who turn a blind eye to the suffering of African Americans, suggesting that they are complicit in perpetuating racial inequality. The phrase:
"O little dark babies
There are no birds"
highlights the idea that the hopes and dreams of young African Americans are being stifled by the racism and prejudice they face.
The poem's tone is one of anger and frustration, and it conveys a sense of urgency for social change. It challenges the reader to confront the harsh realities of racial discrimination and to take action against it.
"You and Your Whole Race" is a powerful and confrontational poem that addresses the issue of racial prejudice and discrimination. It challenges the reader to acknowledge the suffering and injustice faced by African Americans and to recognize their own role in addressing these issues. The poem calls for empathy, understanding, and social change, making it a potent and thought-provoking work that continues to resonate in discussions of race and inequality.