The two texts in question are foremost witty and profound pieces of literature. The artistry and element of fun induced in the two writings make them alluring to the readers. Within this attractive form they present important social comment. As for their content, they both illustrate various hues and shapes that constitute human oppression. This essay will argue that while both the stories take note of structural oppression, their emphasis is on individual oppression – the latter including even self-oppression.
There is substantial difference between how individual oppression is manifest compared to institutionalized/structural oppression. In the former, there is no historic ethnic conflict between the perpetrator and the victim. It is a random act of disparaging treatment of a fellow human based on prejudice or misconception. In twentieth century American history, for example, the blatant institutionalization of black slavery eventually eased to give blacks nominal legal freedoms. This ended structural racism and gave way to individual racism, the result of which is the odd hate-crime or the odd discrimination in job interviews. This modern phenomenon, though immoral and illegitimate, at least offers a consolation in the form of legal recourse. But in the case of structural racism, the very institutions that are charged with delivery of justice or amelioration of fair public policy are themselves complicit with racism. Not only are these powerful social, governmental and judicial institutions, but they also legally protected as well. (Butling et. al, 2005)
Halfrican Nation is a free-wheeling free verse poetry focused on the subject of mixed race experience. It is fair to claim that mulattoes (half-black and half-white) have had the most unique experience in twentieth century global history. There is plenty of literature covering various distinct ethnicities and races in the world just as there is sufficient documentation of cross-over generations of immigrants and erstwhile colonial subjects. But the mulatto experience in particular and inter-racial cultural experience in general is not a subject given sufficient treatment. It is this lacuna in factual sociology that Wayde Compton’s beautiful poem seeks to supplement. (Davis et. al, 2004)
In the Halfrican Nation, we see how Wayde Compton interweaves both forms of racism into the verse. However, Compton’s sense of loss and exclusion is mostly self-imposed. The oddity of his racial heritage is causes him problems in locating his identity. But in the multi-cultural milieu of modern Canada, he is no more an exception than Barack Obama is in the USA. For example, Obama has now become a symbol of the new cultural buzzword ‘halfrican’ reflecting on his mixed parentage. For Compton, racism takes the form of self-deprecation. Lines such as “is a black rose natural? is it indigenous to this coast?” betray a lack of confidence vis-à-vis cultural identification. (Compton, p.4) Further, the lines “what is Britannia to me? one three continents removed/ from the scenes my mothers loved,/ misty grove, English rose,/ what is Britannia to me?” display an unwarranted image of an outcast held by the author. (Compton, p.3)