In 1957, a Jackson, Mississippi newspaper article tried to scare its southern readers by telling them about a fictitious campaign in Chicago which attempted to get white families to take a black boy home with them for an evening. Of course, it wasn’t true, but one can’t help imagining what strange and traumatizing things may have transpired had it been true. Each party would suddenly be in the intimate company of a party they’ve been separated from by law. With all the things that they may have said about each other behind the wall of separation, things would have gotten pretty prickly.
The stories in the This American Life episode “Take a Negro Home” deal with this very issue. In one, a black man marries a white woman during the civil rights movement, and they discover that, to be together, they each had to say goodbye to their segregated communities because neither could live in the other’s world.
In the second story, we follow Cedric, a young man from one of America’s poorest communities, as he makes his way into an Ivy League school. He then discovers that everything that got him out of his dead-end past makes him outcast in his new environment.
The stories, as always with TAL, are gripping because they are incredibly human. Though many of us today couldn’t fully understand what it meant to live in the era of the civil rights movement, we still know what it’s like to lose someone we love. As for the second story, it’s a surprising and unsettling look into modern racism and economic segregation–they may not be as stark as they were in 1957, but they’re sure as hell still here.
Bio: Adaeze Elechi is Guernica’s blog editor. Read her last recommendation of the film Babies “here”:http://www.guernicamag.com/blog/1748/rec_room_adaeze_elechi_babies/.