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Everyone wants to fit in. Lawrence Otis Graham most notably known for writing the article “Invisible Man” on his encounters and experience with racism as a busboy, soon after he writes about the “black table” and his experience. The “Black table” is Still There covers Grahams experience from when he was in junior high, to the time he was 27 and went back to the junior high 14 years later for a class reunion. What he comes to expect is change but what he finds is nothing close to it.
Lawrence Graham is a corporate lawyer and author. In this article he discusses his concept of racism and how it developed from the time he was 13 to the time he was 27. 14 Years later at his class reunion his concept changes, before he blamed the black table and as he returns, he blames society. “What was wrong with me? What was I afraid of?” Graham thinks to himself. He says at the time wanted to think of it as a heroic act to sit with his white friends, an act of integration. Now he acknowledges that it was due to a simple fact that he would not sit at the black table. If he sat at the black table, he would lose his white friends. If he sat at the black table, it would make an anti-white and racist statement. He was not afraid to sit at the black table but resented it. He says at this time he blamed the blacks, that they were forming the barrier between them and the whites.
Lawrence Graham returns 14 years later to discover what has changed about society and racism. He figures out that society has failed him, and that it has changed very little. His perspective when he was younger was all wrong. Even then he was right about the segregation but didn’t see the full spectacle of the ordeal. “I realize now how wrong I was.” Graham realizes the black table was not the only segregated table, that in fact there was every table was segregated. He says when he looks back, he saw it a lot different, seeing the two different skin colors seemed so different. Every table was segregated, there was athletes, Jewish boys, Jewish girls, Irish, black, and metal heads. He says being a person of color sitting with the white kids attracted its own scrutiny and disrespect. It got him called names like “Oreo” and “white boy”. The scrutiny was not just from the blacks, it was also from the white who asked why he didn’t sit with the blacks, or why do all those black kids sit with each other. The black table, like the other tables, is a statement on society on how it has changed, which is very little.
From what I have gathered from Mr. Graham is the realization of the progress society has made over the course of 14 years. He learns that it is close to nothing. He learns that people segregate themselves and create the race and group barriers themselves instead of trying multiethnic integration. He found what he was doing was right but that preexisting barriers create situations where people are set into certain groups and social stigmas create an awkward personal dilemma where you have to abandon “your” people, or break societies metaphorical chains and join other groups. He and I are both baffled that even after 14 years the 27th table in his junior high school is still called the black table. In the end I believe he believes he did the right thing and wishes others could do the same.
In conclusion, Graham is disappointed in society. Society has not done any justice for itself in that people are still segregated after 14 years. He made the right choice integrating himself into a different group which even then came with its own issues. Basically, he says if you are black and are friends with white people you are a white sympathizer, or if a white kid sat with the black kids, he would be a black sympathizer. They couldn’t just be friends, even after 14 years. They had to be black or white, grey was never an option. At the end of the day, not a thing has changed for Graham. I think if Graham could, he could seek for people to co-exist as people and not as races and groups, but I also believe he thinks it couldn’t ever be that way.
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