Values, what are values? I believe as a human being that our values are ours to decide, that no one person can decide them for us. That we choose what or how we represent ourselves and what values speak for us. I believe as an American we have the right to vocalize what our individual values are and how they are important to us and if we feel those values are not being respected, we have the right to non-violently do something about that. In the book I read Black and White, the characters have their own distinct values that make them, well them. Also I believe that this book misrepresents values to show the importance of those values.
I believe that everyone holds values that have meanings, that define them, Marcus who is african american has many instances throughout the book where his values are tested, having Marcus being in this position, gives the reader definition of who Marcus is. For example, when Marcus is being investigated by the cops he isn’t honest and doesn’t tell the cops that Eddie(his caucasian best friend) was his partner in crime that they committed. “When he finally said, Eddie Russo, a fire shot through my body. My mouth turned bone dry, and I could feel the sweat on my temples”(Volponi 47). This quote is from when Marcus is being investigated, where he has a chance to be honesty but instead he chooses not to and stays quiet. This proves the value of honesty is not that prized of a value for Marcus, when is comes to Marcus saving his best friend from the cops. Although the boy who cried wolf does not directly relate to the text, both Marcus and the boy who cried wolf did not think the value of honest were important. They both faced problems later on in their stories because of this. People that do not put honesty first, it defines them. It shows that value isn’t as important to them as it would be to the rest of society.
Another time when the author Paul Volponi showed how values defined a character was when, Eddie tells Marcus that he does not want to get in trouble for the crime that was committed by both of them. I believe the value of empathy is absent in this situation, because by this time in the book Marcus is already facing two or more years in prison for the crimes he committed with Eddie,while Eddie could get away with no charges brought upon him. Marcus says, “We got into this mess together. But it’s just me paying for it. And I haven’t complained one fucking inch about it,… And all you want to know from me is how clean I can keep you”(Volponi 124). In this situation I find Eddie completely selfish and disregarding of his best friend’s predicament. Another instance where Volponi wanted to show where empathy should have been show, is when Marcus has a talk with one of the Guards, Jefferson, at the high school about what he did and the affect it could have had. “… .But I want to know what gives you the right to pull a gun on someone, especially another black man? Do you want a part in putting more fatherless black children on the street? Don’t you know enough of them already?” (Volponi 93). Jefferson brings this realization to Marcus who thinks about what could have happened if someone had gotten killed that night. Also the situation that that victim’s family would have been in if the father had died. Since Marcus didn’t grow up with a father, Jefferson wanted to make sure Marcus understood how impactful his actions were and could have been. Jefferson wanted Marcus to think about what would have happened if he had taken a father away from a family. Jefferson made Marcus realize how non empathetic he was when he committed the crime and how he was only thinking about the betterment of himself. Apathy happens everywhere around the world because, people aren’t kind and courteous and don’t put themselves in other people’s shoes. Whether people are too stubborn or ignorant or they just think that being empathetic isn’t an important enough value, by being this way this person is defining who they are. I feel that the story Hills Like White Elephants by Ernest Hemingway illustrates the ignorance and apathy of people.In this story, an American man wants his pregnant partner to have an abortion. The man seems that he shows no compassion to the woman who is going through a heavy physical and mental toll. With the man, Eddie, and Marcus all not being empathetic, they prove how self motivated they are and how little they value empathy.
The third value that was misrepresented in this book by Volponi was, equality because despite both boys committing the crime, Marcus is the only one convicted. One quote that illustrates my point is from his mom “… .It’s Black and White until somebody’s ass is on the line. And when it’s time to go to jail, it’s just Black”(Volponi 71). I felt this quote to be powerful because it relates to some real world problems like the unequal sentences of african americans vs caucasians. One article that I found that talks deeply about this topic is from the Herald Tribune, it has research data from Florida, and how africans americans are given longer sentences with identical criminal records than caucasian people. “They offer blacks fewer chances to avoid jail or scrub away felonies They give blacks more time behind bars-sometimes double the sentences of whites accused of the same crime under identical circumstances”(Sulman,Coz, Johnson). This article itself gives examples and actual evidence where judges in Florida have been unequal based on the color of someone’s skin. This proves that the judges in the book are exactly like the judges in Florida, by the fact that african americans are convicted and sentenced to do time rather than in certain cases probation or rehab. Equality was misrepresented in the book as also in Florida, in the book judges did not think that the value equality was important same as the judges in Florida. This shows equality was not a value that had importance to them, rather it defined them as not being equal(even though it’s their job) in a country that is based off of equality for all.
I believe that throughout my book, Black and White by Paul Volponi, values were purposely misrepresented, so the reader is exposed to how values are constantly pushed aside everyday. I believe as a human being that our values are ours to decide, that no one person can decide them for us. That we choose what or how we represent ourselves and what values speak for us. I believe as an American we have the right to vocalize what our individual values are and how they are important to us, and if we feel those values are not being respected, we have the right to non-violently do something to, hopefully gain respect. People everywhere can decide how they represents themselves by their values, and Americans can speak out when their values are not represented.
Volponi, Paul. Black and White. Viking, 2005.
Salman, Josh. Le Coz, Emily. Johnson, Elizabeth. “Florida’s broken sentencing system.” Heraldtribune. Graphics and site development by Jennifer Borresen and Dak Le. Photos and videos by Dan Wagner. http://projects.heraldtribune.com/bias/sentencing/.
Aesop. Boy Who Cried Wolf. Perry Index, 620-560 BC.
Hemingway, Ernest. Hills Like White Elephants. Men Without Women. 1927.
For other Information explore:
Rich, Dr. Judith. “The Problem With Honesty.” Huffington Post.https://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-judith-rich/importance-of-honesty_b_904473.html.
Editorial board. “Unequal Sentences for Blacks and Whites.” nytimes. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/17/opinion/sunday/unequal-sentences-for-blacks-and-whites.html.
What are Values? by Bryant is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.