Richard Diyanni wrote extensively on literature covering parts of drama, novels and poems .He touched on topics that aroused a lot of controversy such as feminism during an age when the society was male dominated .One of these matters is that of the role of the African American female and how it has been affected by segregation.
This is a key matter especially with the rise of postmodern feminism such as cultural feminism, black feminism, anarchy-feminism and liberal feminism. Diyanni in his anthology focuses on fiction, non-fiction and poems to build his and the audiences resolve on the roles of the African American female in the society.Roles played by the African American female. Family Education The African American female is an important pillar of the society from being the one to nature the children, the household manager, a companion and the primary teacher .The society begins with the youngest level that is children that eventually make up the future generations. In most situations the childs adult life is a product of their infantile experiences .
These experiences are acquired through the hand of the mother thus the mental disposition claimed by her will eventually be transmitted to the child irrespective of their gender (Rosen, 2013). As stated by Didion(We remain blind to our fatal weaknesses) this intends to encourage the achievement of self-actualization and consequently self-respect through identify our flaws , gaining acceptance of them and further aiming towards the solving of some of these problems.
With the alienation of the African American community , this atmosphere greatly affects the African American female with the already significant struggles of self-placement in the dominantly male prescribed society they find themselves in .This first level of alienation is experienced with their placement in society as the home is their center of operation .This basically cuts them off from the larger community in the day to day interactions level.
Furthermore, with the second level alienation that is at the community level the hope for global communication avenues are cut off. This causes a rather streamlined psychological approach to the world that is more often transferred to the child. These effects of the external and internal communication or lack of them evidently shapes the outer world look of the African American female .This stand is further supported by Alice Walker.
When the Other Dancer Is the Self. She explains how an individuals perception of anything is determined by their experiences using her own experience of a childhood accident that left a significantly profound effect on her mindset that eventually completely altered her attitude towards life and self (Walker, 2010). Through this accident she acquires an eye injury that leads to the death of her outer beauty and is subjected to a lot of torment at her new school with the term one-eyed bitch. With progression of the prose we are able to journey with her as she undergoes an evolution of character despite the environmental trauma she experiences .
This process is fuelled by the psychological shift where she changes her outlook on beauty from outer beauty to a form of a silent inner beauty (Rosen, 2013).This leads to acceptance of self hence she raises her head no longer afraid of condemnation .Our attitude affects our perception of self therefore we remain blind to our fatal weaknesses, this can only be remedied by self-actualization and acceptance of self.( J.Holmes 1993.5 names environmental trauma as a cause of neurosis and character disturbance). The general atmosphere in which we are situated and its characteristics eventually negatively or positively manages to shape our character one that transmitted to a willing audience thus in a way the shaping of two characters with a single experience.
Social roles At the society level the African American woman is expected to play a complimentary role to their male counterparts. This is as per the male dominated societal outlook. As a complimentary participant she is to keep and further grow the already constructed social relations. Alice Walker in the Color Purple demonstrates that purely female relationships that are fully functional and can develop and transform the society can exist on their own volition without the assistance of male relationship .She rather courageously states that these relationships also possess the capacity to cater for the womens spiritual and physical needs better than any male dominated society could ever be able to offer.
Walker, in this case changes her outlook on the concept of segregation, she revels and thrives in it on all levels that there is by using an individualistic outlook specifically a feministic take .Despite the social evils experienced such as the inability to vote or have ownership of property or even arranged marriages and infantile betrothals she seeks to portray the African American female as a sound and self-sufficient unit. This is hopeful of the future roles to be played by the African American woman.
This intention of elevation from the position occupied by the African American woman is a testament of the numerous inadequacies accommodated in social communication that Walker intends to eradicate with the establishment of a female dominated society. The effects of these male centered social settings are manifested in the growing of the dependent style of life among the African American women where they are overcautious and extremely tactful in their approach to life this diminishes the chances of acquiring an achievement style that ensures the attainment of self-set goals and sharing in the responsibilities. Thus it is correct to state that there is absence of belief in their individual effort and the effect it could have on self (Walker, 2010).
All these conditions ensured that there was an absence of a role model to the African American female. This gap in society cemented their future as minorities in the society thus greatly interfered with the efforts of African American women to acquire any form of formal education since it seemed a wasteful venture with no real form of future compensation. Economic role The economy of the country is felt by all individual although we can clearly tell that the active participants are few .In this sense the African American woman is the certified household manager even without being properly equipped with the ability to make a significant change in her economic situation whether a daughter, sister ,mother or wife.
This sense of helplessness even with the knowledge of the economic situation poses quite a challenge while their male counterpart gets to exercise their economic authority freely as they see fit (Lewis, 2012). William Shakespeare in his novels like King Lear has portrayed some of the women characters as the villain due to their rather calculative approach to their inability to make decisions by expertly manipulation a male character to make the decision of their choice for them.
The fact that African American women are unable to own property puts them at a disadvantage .This means that at each and every stage of their life whether childhood or adulthood they will have to be subjected to a male authority. Furthermore being African American they were subjected to slavery while still being set apart thus could not meaningfully engage in meaningful economic pursuits (Lewis, 2012). This ensured a life of abject poverty even with the abolition of slavery since as a women they had no assets .
This state is made worse by the conscription of their husbands in the army during the World Wars, they do not own property and are set apart unable to participate in economic activities on a larger scale. Anne Sextons poems talk of this despair experienced due to the inability to change your situation .Her poem “Wanting to Die” talks of mindless endurance.
But suicides have a special language ,Like carpenters they want to know which tools .They never ask why build? The African American woman accepts her place though she is not pleased with this situation.
The African American woman has grown and triumphed through all these experiences as stipulated by the roles appointed to her by both the community and her family .