Writing, reading and literature in all its shapes and forms is an efficient way to confine the struggles and hardships that come while fighting for equality. The novel, The Book of Negroes, written by Lawrence Hill deals with the struggles of African Americans and how they deal with prejudice and discrimination within their society. Racism has a negative effect on the life of Aminata which results in her loss of freedom, lowered her self-esteem, and left her feeling powerless against others.
Aminata’s freedom was lost when Americans started treating her ruthlessly and in a different manner than others. As a helpless woman, Aminata was unable to do anything about the matter. When her white owner gives her food and she states, “I would sooner die than eat pork” (Hill, 105). Although knowing that eating pork is forbidden in Aminata’s culture, her white owner still gives her pork to eat without any other choices or substitutes. Aminata feels like she cannot do anything without her owner torturing her. She feels dependent on others because the Toubabs commands her: “There is no water. No food. No breaks to pee” (116). Aminata could not even go to the washroom without having the Toubabs permission.
She needs their consent to drink water and eat food. Aminata gets treated like a slave because of the color of her skin and feels that she has lost all the freedoms that come with being a human. Aminata was always fond of studying and being free to do as she please, but she does not feel independent when she dreams “I would be the only woman, and one of the only people in my entire village, to be able to read Qur’an and to write Arabic script” (22). When Aminata lived with her parents she dreamed of having a bright future. However now she feels like as though all her dreams have been shattered and she cannot achieve any of her goals. Consequently, by the need of freedom Aminata has a hard time feeling worthy of herself.
Racism is renowned for lowering the self-esteem of any targeted group or person, in this case Aminata pride was hurt due to the matter of other peoples prejudices. Aminata lacks self-confidence, she believes that she was born a slave and always will be a slave when her friend Chekura affirms that, “any nigger in you at all, then you is a slave as clear as day” (134). This makes Aminata feel like she was a slave from day one and that was her sole purpose in life. She does not feel secure about her self-worth and believes that blacks are meant to be treated like slaves. Furthermore, the white owners show their right over Aminata by abusing her physically to dehumanize her. “I screamed as I have never screamed before, I did not recognize myself, I had no clothes, no beauty, no hair, and no womanhood” (178).
Aminata feels like she deserves this treatment as she is an African. The whites abusive and harmful behavior towards her and her fellow black skins makes her feel low of her. In addition, Aminata will always feel worthless because of the way she grew up and lived, this treatment will be embedded in her thinking. Aminata is used to all the indecency that is shown towards her and that is revealed when she says, “I was tied at the hands and yoked by the neck… but I felt no pain at all” (22). Aminata cannot feel the throbbing anymore because she gets beaten every day and is used to the pain now. She believes that she is worth of this pain because she is black. Thus, due to physical abuse and dehumanization towards Aminata, her self-esteem is extremely low and she sees herself as a worthless individual.
Aminata’s owner physically abused her due because of the fact that she was lower in Social status and her owners had more power over her. The Americans called Aminata names like, “the crazy big mouthed African” (175) to show that she was simply a crazy African nothing more. This has a negative impact on Aminata due to her lack of power, as seen when her friend exclaims, “you call a white man white, he beat you black and blue” (129). Africans were not allowed to call a white man ‘white’ because they are seen as powerful whereas Africans are not considered humans because they are slaves.
Americans could call them niggers but Africans has no right to call the Americans white displaying that Americans are in more supremacy compared to Africans. Aminata gets abused daily, her owners abuse her physically, and this can be seen when her owner tore her clothes off and said, “Your clothes he tore them off and threw them down. We have a law “niggers don’t dress grand” (176). This shows that Aminata is not allowed to dress according to her own wishes because she is an African. Hence, Aminata’s feeling of powerlessness, and the Americans physical abuse towards her affected her to feel in a negative way about herself.
As one can see, racism can have a huge impact on the targeted group or person; it can cause one to feel in negatively about them. As demonstrated in Lawrence Hill’s novel, Racism can have a negative effect on a person which can result in loss of freedom, lowered self-esteem, and feelings of powerlessness. American owners’ abuse towards Aminata has left her to behave in a way which she cannot see herself as a normal human being as she was shown from the beginning that all Africans are born as slaves and should be treated as such. Discrimination is the result of narrow mindedness as one cannot accept another as an equal and cannot overcome or mentality get past another persons’ physical appearance.