Not So Black and White

Far From Heaven uses Raymond Deagan to reflect the black American struggle during the 1950’s. The contrasting relationships between him and Cathy Whitaker as well as him and white society as a whole, reflect this theme of ‘authenticity in isolation’ that finds itself spilled over the era. Their ability to find themselves in each other, what seems to be the tip of a romantic relationship, shows that Cathy, Mrs. Magnatech herself, the WASP incarnate, is not offended by the idea of equality and friendships between blacks and white. White society as a whole, however, lashes back when a group of schoolboys throw rocks at Raymond’s daughter, who is knocked unconscious.

Raymond understands the consequences of their relationship. Though their interracial platonic relationship harms no one, it tears away from the normal spectrum that the 1950’s has molded for society. It is surprising that though Cathy can keep her husband’s homosexuality a secret till their divorce, she can’t do the same with her friendship with Raymond. Unlike homosexuals, black Americans cannot hide their identity behind a wife and two kids, and white supremacist society uses this to its advantage. Raymond is more cultured and tamed then most of the white men and women in the town, yet he is seen as an animal, having rocks thrown through his windows for befriending a white woman, not by racist whites, but by racist blacks. Raymond is trapped by whites and blacks, loses his job, and has to move to Baltimore because he and his daughter can be at peace where their past in unknown.

The Cultural Hegemony of Post-Reconstruction America

W.E.B. Du Bois, a black historian and co-founder of the NAACP,  saw the ’emancipation’ of black slaves as only the beginning of a new era of enslavement, which found it’s purpose in the evolution of American capitalism.

“For there began to rise in America in 1876 a new capitalism and a new enslavement of labor.” (210)

“Home labor in cultured lands, appeased and misled by a ballot whose power the dictatorship of vast capital strictly curtailed, was bribed by high wage and political office to unite in an exploitation of white, yellow, brown and black labor, in lesser lands…” (210)

Du Bois’ interpretation of what Zinn would call “Emancipation Without Freedom” lays the foundation for the encroachment of black freedoms in the decades following up to the Civil Rights movement. Rather than settle for equality, the South uses the transition from black enslavement to freedom as a means to “a new capitalism”; one dependent upon the oppression of poverty stricken blacks and whites. Southern Democrats as well as the hate-fueled Ku Klux Klan developed a cultural hegemony of sorts on most of the South and parts of the North during the post Reconstruction era, exploiting a fear tactic to force newly empowered blacks to surrender their 14th and 15th amendment rights. Howard Zinn uses Du Bois’ colorblind concept that this new capitalism is equally exploiting “white, yellow, brown, and black” persons to express the racial tension that exists after the Civil War, but also the growing economic tension between rich and poor in America which stands as an equal to the race factor.