Racial Tensions In The 1920's

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One of the most prominent social biases, both in the 1920’s specifically and throughout American history, is race. In the period after WWI, race tensions were heightening. Tom clearly does not approve of the idea that black people could rise socially and “infiltrate” his world. Even though Tom himself has a mistress, he says, “Nowadays people begin by sneering at family life and family institutions and next they'll throw everything overboard and have intermarriage between black and white.”(Fitzgerald p130) He does not see any problem morally with cheating on his wife, but the idea of interracial marriage is abhorrent to him. Tom also believes that white people - Nordics - have contributed everything good to society. He tells Nick, "This idea…show more content…
we've produced all the things that go to make civilization--oh, science and art and all that"(Fitzgerald p13). The idea that white people are the only ones to contribute to society is not only offensive but a blatant lie, particularly in the 1920’s. The Harlem Renaissance was in full swing in the 1920’s, and black art, music and literature increased greatly in this time period. Tom’s insistence that black people contribute nothing to society implies either that he does not know of or is wilfully ignoring black culture. In addition, the movie shows that Tom made this comment in front of black butlers, clearly showing how rude and insensitive he is, and how accepted racism is. Another example of racism in The Great Gatsby is when Nick and Gatsby are driving into Queens, New York. When Nick sees a limousine with three black people in it, he reflects "Anything can happen now that we've slid over this bridge, anything at all"(Fitzgerald p69). This quieter racism is just as damaging as Tom’s bluster. It sets people apart and makes them different (Slater 55). Racism is eminent in The Great Gatsby, separating blacks from whites and making it clear that black people are not part of the American
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