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Dr. C. E. Semmes
Gerald Early, in his book entitled Daughters , tells the story of his
experience with rearing middle-class black children in America. From the time
Gerald became a father, he struggled with issues of racism, justice, fairness, and
many more. Gerald and his wife, Ida, have two daughters named Linnet and
Rosalind. He explains how each is special in her own way. The main focus of
this book is to explore and investigate different aspects of fatherhood which were
encountered as Gerald took on the responsibility of raising two young black
children in middle-class America.
In part one of this book, Gerald is put in the difficult position of trying to
treat two unique daughters fairly. Linnet, the older of the two, is a learning
disabled child. She can’t understand why she can’t do all of the things that other
children her age can do. It is especially hard for Linnet to watch her younger
sister, Rosalind, excel in areas where she cannot. Gerald struggles with trying to
treat the two in the same way, but realizes that it is impossible simply because
Linnet is learning disabled. This makes Rosalind feel like she is slighted in some
way. As the girls grow older, Rosalind eventually accepts the fact that she will
never get the same kind of attention as her sister.
Part two deals with Linnet and Rosalind’s first experiences with school.
Linnet is the first of the two to experience some form of racism. Gerald made it a
point not to talk about race in his household because he thought of racial pride and
identification as something harmful to blacks who live in a “white world”. During
the early years of Linnet’s schooling, she got the impression that black kids were
“dumb” because she was put in a class for learning disabled children who all
happened to be black. Even more heartbreaking was the fact that none of the
“smart [white] kids” wanted to hang out with her. Gerald had a very difficult time
dealing with being a father to Linnet because he did not have a father of his own.
Another issue that Gerald struggled with involved his two daughters
wanting to have hair like white girls. He felt that they were giving up a part of
their “blackness” by giving up their “afros”. He also thought that his girls believed
that the white race was somehow better than the black race and that they were
supposed to strive towards being more like the little white girls at their school.
Gerald did not know how to deal with this situation, but he did tell his girls that no
race is better than another and that they should just try to be themselves.
The last section of the book deals with a racial education. Gerald often
asked his daughters why they haven’t gotten to know more black children at
school. The girls simply reply that they have as many black friends as they want.
They also state that you have to have more in common with a friend than just
being black. At this time Gerald realized that his girls had made a good point.
School made a lot of learning experiences possible for Rosalind and Linnet. For
example, one day Rosalind came home and said that “the black kids at school are
stupid”. They said she must be a biracial because of the way she talks. Gerald
explained to Rosalind that he and his sisters experienced the same thing when they
were younger. The black kids associated being smart with being white and Gerald
did not want his daughters to grow up with that false idea.
This book is not one that deals with an outstanding or extraordinary black
experience, but it does deal with and issue that all black families are faced with.
Gerald Early did not intend this book to be anything except his own black
experience. There are many examples that could have been used to illustrate the
main focus of the book which was to explore the different aspects of rearing black
children in middle-class America. I believe that any father, black or white, who
reads this book, can relate to at least a few of Gerald Early’s fatherhood
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