Institutional Racism In Sonny's Blues

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James Baldwin’s short story Sonny’s Blues reveals the dangers of institutional racism. Institutional racism appears to be woven into the fabric of society, expressed in the practice of social and political institutions. Limiting opportunities to the youth catalyzes their loss of hope and leads them to a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure, where the student comes to accept the fact that they will result to no more wealth and success than their parents acquired. Through poverty-stricken imagery of Harlem and the light and dark dichotomy, Baldwin suggests how introducing institutional racism at a young age restrains pupils from reaching their maximum potential in life, causing them to seek redemption thereafter. Baldwin emphasizes the restricted possibilities in the low income black community through poverty-stricken imagery. As the narrator exits the school grounds, he notes of the “low ceiling” of possibilities that his young pupils face and notices teachers passing quickly, as if they “couldn’t wait to get out of that courtyard” (Baldwin 73). Serving as poor role models, the lack of excitement that the teachers display while working is likely to reflect back in their students’ dedication to academics. Seeing that their superiors remain unhappy and unmotivated causes the students to believe they will amount to the same, leading them to adapt a deficient work ethic and indulge in a self-fulfilling prophecy. Similarly, Baldwin reveals the facade in the penniless
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