?Laurie Wilson Critical Essay #2 “Frankie and Johnny”: Who’s “Zooming” Who? Traditionally it has been assumed in society that when a white woman dates or cohabitates with a black man, she is either crazy, a slut, political or unattractive. My mother married a black man a few years ago and none of the descriptions above apply to her. So where did all this nonsense stem from anyway? This misconception about white females loving black men has its roots in the fanatical racist ideas that were popular in the slavery era.Since then, males have always been known for the “chase” in polite society but the poem entitled, “Frankie and Johnny” shows the reader the exact opposite.
White men have always been afraid of the black man chasing and getting their white women but in this work, it is the white female who is clearly doing all the chasing. I found this poem to be quite disturbing as the African-American author, Sterling A. Brown used many of the typical stereotypes to describe Frankie, the white female. I assume it was not so much about stereotyping but probably to focus on setting of the poem.Not only does he state that she was a “half-wit”, he also lets us know that she is also a psychopath. I am sure the poet tries to tell a sad tale with this poem which could be set to blues music because of the nature of the story. Saying that Johnny was a “nigger” lets the reader know right away that both he and Frankie live in a strongly racist society that frowned upon their white women sleeping with black men. This same society also looked the other way when their white men took black women to their beds.
Sexual standards for white men have always been different than the ones forced upon white females.Frankie is born to a meek and compliant female her society but we quickly see her first hurting small animals and keeping her sadistic ways into her adulthood. I am sure Johnny has no idea what she is secretly about. And, while she is having “fun” hurting all the creatures around her, Johnny is sweating his life away in the fields, completely unaware that he is her next victim. She is also a masochist in a sense because after she is whipped by her alcoholic, blue-collar father, she laughs when her curses her.
Cleary, Frankie is deranged. Her sights then fall on poor Johnny, who is working hard in the fields and trying not to pay attention to her, but she must have him and have him, she does. Johnny has seen no childhood and Frankie seems to provide some fun for him in their intimate moments. He is taking a huge chance being with a white woman…first from white male society and then from his black “momma” who will give he the strap if she discovers what he is up to with Frankie.
After all, she wants to protect her boy from the “man”…. ouldn’t any loving mother do the same? Frankie, the psychopath that she is, goes and tells her “cracker” of a father that she is “zooming” a “nigger” probably to get him back for all the beatings she received from him. The father hides in the woods and watches his “crazy” Frankie getting it on with a black man. He goes wild, hangs Johnny in a tree and shoots him dead for his deed.
A perfect ending for a blues song, don’t you think??? The misconception of white male society is that the black man is chasing and coveting all white women.The opposite is true in this poem-story. After trying over and over to win Johnny over, Frankie finally gets what she wants: a sexual partner. I guess Frankie had to be somewhat crazy though to consort with Johnny because in her time, a white female who was found in the comprising company of a black man faced assured ostracism and even public whippings for her “crime”. On the other hand, the white man who slept with black women was accepted, while their white, dominated wives and society politely looked the other way.This attitude of white, male dominated society, which has lasted even into the 2000’s, is wrong, unfair and unbalanced.
White men need to let go of their unrational fears and white women should be set free to love whomever they choose, even if its outside their race. In fact, every human being has an equal right to befriend and love anyone whom they choose. Why is it then, that many white males are steadfast in their desire to decide what our society’s sexual standards should be? Maybe the best remedy for those individuals would be to date Frankie for a week or two. J