‘Travelling’ Response

  • Grace Paley’s “Traveling” is a memoir about being a stranger who encounters segregation for the first time. How does Paley’s status as a stranger enable her to resist the injustices of segregation?

Grace Paley approaches the topic of segregation from a place of privilege, she is not experiencing it first hand, but rather observing it, in its harsh reality. As a white child, she knows not of the small acts of oppression that can damage a person’s sense of self.  By not only not knowing what, at the time, were fundamental rules of racial segregation, but also not understanding them, she is immediately able to see the wrongfulness in how issues of race were handled in America, at the time. This naive, childlike way of thinking, along with an empowered mother, works to her advantage.  She has not yet been ‘taught’ the rules of segregation, and thoughts of racism have yet to enter her brain. Because of this, she is able to approach the encounter with almost a comical sense of resistance. She does not follow the rules because she does not understand them. This interaction proves that we are not born with such discriminatory thoughts of hate, but rather taught them by a society who says there is no other way.   

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