Alice Dunbar Nelson

Alice Dunbar Nelson's piece is an essay, "Facing Life Squarely." The title is central to the essay's message. Dunbar Nelson, like other women of color before her, looks to the hypocrisies of the society around her. She begins by pointing out the euphemisms in which society cloaks the naked truth of what life is like in the South. "And yet we ought to know that behind the web of honeyed words, under the skin of every Southern white man and woman there lies a venom of race hatred" (235). I can just imagine what kind of response that assertion would receive if it were on Twitter - #notallsouthernwhites. Because, as Nelson astutely points out, "the mere mention of a question which might puncture the gossamer veil of pretense cloaking the meaningless words causes consternation" (234). It is not comfortable to look squarely at the realities of hatred.

Nelson clearly defines the idea that one should not get too excited about the exceptional exceptions. "[T]he women of our race must realize that there is no progress in sobbing with joy over the spectacle of two or three ordinary Southern white women sitting down to talk with several very high class black women over the race problem" (235). Just because one or two situations exist that are favorable does not negate the existence of hundreds or thousands of unfavorable situations. A single meeting cannot eliminate decades of lynching. 

What can? Nelson puts her hopes on the educational system - one that might be desegregated, or at least given equal standards. The children are the ones who will march forward and progress, as long as the teachers do not hold them back. "[F]or the sake of the children we should fight segregation in schools as if it were a poisonous viper attacking the very heart of our race. To face the problem squarely we must admit that the schools are primarily for the children and not for the teachers" (236). She understands that the teachers are the ones that hold the standards, and that they must not be allowed to put their values above the needs of the children. The children need to be pushed to learn as best as they possibly can - not to a predetermined level based on race. 

Although Nelson goes on to mention political independence, her essay concludes with hope placed squarely on the future: "Oh, that the girls may teach the women and the boys teach the men the wisdom of 'facing life squarely'" (236). 

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