Racism and Discrimination in Smith’s Poems
Racism and racial disparities are among the significant issues in the world today. The social concern goes back to the enslavement period when white supremacy was a lifestyle. Although the issue has lessened with time, racial disparities are still evident in many sectors such as the justice system, film and television production, and social circles. Racism continues to plague society due to the inattentiveness given to the subject. Nonetheless, creative writers such as Danez Smith are trying to inform the world of the neglected racial issues which impact the lives of minority groups. This essay discusses racism and racial discrimination in Smith’s poems ‘Dinosaurs in the Hood’ and ‘Not an Elegy for Mike Brown.’
‘Dinosaur in the Hood’ talks about an imaginary television film involving where a T. Rex dinosaur invades human land in a black neighborhood. At the film’s beginning the poet imagines a young African American boy playing with his tiny toy dinosaur when a real one appears from nowhere. Although Smith asks for the audience’s opinion on the movie’s creation, he quickly states, “Don’t let Tarantino direct this. In his version, the boy plays with a gun…” (Smith 6-7). According to the lines, the film industry focuses more on portraying racial cultures that are stereotypic of a particular race (Hunt 91). Depicting the boy playing with a gun instead of a toy shows how society views black people as violent and in possession of arms, including children.
Although black people are included in movies today to demonstrate equality, most scenes starring black people depict violence and destruction. Further, the film industry categorizes black films in a separate genre where people only view them if they have famous black artists such as Will Smith who humor the audience by stereotyping the black community in their actions (Wittgenstein et al. 253). The poet insists that “This can’t be a black movie/” and wants ordinary black actors in the film who will portray the real African story (Smith 25). Racism can only be stopped if society shuns racial stereotyping and promotes inclusivity in the media and film industry since the movies reach a broad audience worldwide.
Smith commences discussing racism in ‘Not an elegy for Mike Brown,’ demonstrating racial injustice and poor treatment of black people compared to their white counterparts. The poem is more intense and portrays racial disparities in different scenarios. In the first stanza, the author introduces the dead body as “…ordinary, black/dead thing…” (Smith 3-4). The boy is nameless in the poem to show his insignificance in life and death. As black people, the community is used to deaths often due to violence, police harassment, and shootings that death has become part of the black race (Wigger et al. 101). Once a person dies, they mourn and forget because another death follows soon enough to take their attention.
The poet shows racism when he compares two tragedies between a white community and black people. “// think: once, a white girl was kidnapped & that the Trojan war// Later, up the block, troy got shot, that was Tuesday” (12-15). In the passage, a white person’s life matters more than a black individual’s life. Ironically, the authorities can create a big deal, such as the great Trojan war, because of kidnapping, while nothing is done when someone is shot dead.
Overall, the poet illuminates that racial discrimination and racism still dominate many sectors of society today. Using his creative skills, the poet Danez Smith shows how African American movies involve much violence, which is stereotypic of the black culture. In ‘Dinosaurs in the Hood’, the poet insists on making the imaginary movie different from the usual black movies, which depict misery, failure, and destruction. In ‘Not an elegy for Mike Brown’, the poet tells an emotional story of how black lives are insignificant compared to white people’s lives. Being black means enduring discrimination and social injustice in a world that preaches equality.
Hunt, Whitney. “Negotiating New Racism: ‘It’s Not Racist or Sexist. It’s Just the Way It Is.” Media, Culture & Society, vol. 41, no. 1, SAGE Publications, 2019, pp. 86–103, Web.
Smith, Danez. “Not an Elegy for Mike Brown by Danez Smith – Poems | Academy of American Poets.” Poets.org, Academy of American Poets, Web.
“Dinosaur in the Hood.” African American Poetry: 250 Years of Struggle & Song, by Kevin Young, The Library of America, New York, NY, 2020.
Wigger, Iris, and Spencer Hadley. “Angelo Soliman: Desecrated Bodies and the Specter of Enlightenment Racism.” Race & Class, vol. 62, no. 2, SAGE Publications, 2020, pp. 80–107.
Wittgenstein, Aspect Blindness, and White Supremacy. Critical Philosophy of Race, vol. 7, no. 2, Pennsylvania State University Press, 2019, pp. 247–60.