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English Literature Impact on Racism Among Africans Essay (Critical Writing)

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Updated: Jun 13th, 2020


It is indisputable that language is a prerequisite for the existence of humanity. It provides a crucial platform for interacting and sharing people’s needs. In fact, in the contemporary world, its importance surpasses mere communication. Rather, it is a source of authority. Norman Fairclough (1995) asserts that the execution hegemony has grown to an ideology that is strangely propelled by the intervention of language.

It shows how language and social structure are two intertwined components. Therefore, the relationship between the language and social structure should be an important consideration in language studies. Nonetheless, language is popularly viewed as transparent, thus ignoring the social context. On the contrary, discourse analysis creates a dais to discover the ingenious and aesthetic application of language through literature discourse.

Books, particularly novels and textbooks, utilise language as an instrument for communicating to their audience. Literature provides an in depth reflection of the happenings in the society. Since authors are members of the society, they are likely to depict the realities in their community. Consequently, literature discourse can reveal race and racism in a given literature work through language expressions. Examining the topic of race and racism in language has not been a grave issue in the recent years, particularly because most of the discourse experts are whites. There has been a gap in literature discourse by the blacks. Hence, it is imperative that non-whites examine literature works authored by whites where blacks act as the targeted audience.

As such, the objective of this study is to determine how English literature promotes racism among Africans. The objective will be accomplished through Fairclough’s Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA). Schoolbooks are used to impart knowledge on learners through offering facts on a given topic and further instilling discursive practices on students (Rogers 2004). They boost and influence students’ cognition to an extent that they share what they leant through the primers as facts. Just like other discourses, the discourse of books such as political speeches and commercials adhere to specific values and practices when being developed or launched.

Subsequently, the intention of utilising certain discourses or symbols is to influence the reader to approve conceptual inscriptions compressed in a book and accept them as norms (Pennycook 2001). The purpose of this paper is to decipher the level of manipulation that English written materials have on learners with respect to viewing individuals from an impartial spectrum, irrespective of their ethnicity or race. English is swiftly becoming a universal communication tool, particularly for cross-cultural interaction. However, English literature is perceived to be biased when it promotes a prejudicial comprehension of language (Rollock 2012).

As stated earlier, Fairclough’s CDA framework was used to construe the impact of English schoolbooks on racism. CDA is a discourse analysis approach that utilises a pragmatic technique to decode and resolve social challenges. It also provides essential dialectal resources for overcoming several types of hegemony relations, for instance, racism, social classes, as well as other imbalances. It also utilises the Systematic Functional Linguistics (SFL) framework that examines how linguistic elements in a literature work are associated with social supremacy and philosophical development.

CDA is seen to disentangle the conceptual statements that are meticulously snared within texts (Fairclough 1989). Furthermore, Fairclough’s CDA exposes the association between philosophy, inscription, and society. Fundamentally, using the literature discourse reaffirms the link between language and social structure. Hence, Fairclough CDA scrutinises the verbs, adjectives, grammar, and other components of language that compose and bring meaning to a discourse. CDA is a requisite tool that can disclose how the primers stimulate several beliefs, in this case, racism as noted by Rogers (2004).

Racism, as a phenomenon, refers to any act, system, and/or practice whereby the discriminations present in the society occur in a deterministic way based on racial and ethnic disparity. Racism is seen as a practice because the prejudicial treatment influences social, economic, and political developments (Larkin 2016). Hence, the methodical racism that is accelerated by ethnic traditions is not only present real world but also in inscriptions. In fact, literature reproduces racism through manipulating the minds of the readers. Colonial experiences have been viewed as a key contributor to racism. The experiences created a social hierarchy with whites at summit and blacks having the inferior position.

The hierarchy cuts across various aspects of life, including knowledge and authority. In fact, it is deemed that the traditions, language, morals, and generally every way of life of the white community are supreme and universal. Consequently, non-whites develop the ‘subsidiarity’ notion that influences them to detach themselves from their indigenous practices and language by replacing them with the whites’ language and culture. These colonialism predispositions have been furthered into the contemporary world through literature, politics, and various discourses. Unless intellectuals opt to promote a social change, racism is bound to exist in various settings.

Written materials enable readers to view the world from the author’s vintage point. Fairclough notes that language acts as the principal realm of thoughts present in the society. Hence, the nature of writing influences the norms of a society, schoolbooks included. As it is expected, authors will often write based on their culture and background. Consequently, English primers written by white authors will be equally dominated by the authors’ culture and perception of the world (Williams 2016). Hence, such information can manipulate a learner’s conception of the society.

Accordingly, textbooks are significant for a student’s learning process since they offer the prime channel for gaining knowledge. Since schoolbooks play a crucial role in the development of students’ cognition, the choice of the content is imperative. Moreover, schoolbooks harbour social and political contents since they depict a cluster of opinions that are endorsed by a given community. The community is mostly the one from where the author comes. Thus, the ideologies that are shared in the textbooks are meant to promote the authors’ way of life, rather than the pupil (Fairclough 1995).

Analysis of the Social Problem

Social Problem that has a Semiotic Aspect

As indicated earlier, this article seeks to utilise Fairclough’s model to analyse a social problem, which in this case, is the use of English literature by Africans. The goal is to show how authors manipulate their thoughts with respect to racism. While black students gain ample knowledge and skills through the schoolbooks, the notion that they are written by white authors implies that it is likely to promote certain racist tendencies. The claim follows mainly because the white authors draft the books based on their cultural and ethnic understanding (Rogers 2004). The article by Seamster and Welburn (2016) may be an illustration of how racists structures have turned to be a social issue whose impact has been felt, even by children.

Identification of Obstacles to the Social Problem

Fairclough offers a three-way facet approach, that is, inscription, discourse culture and social norms. With the consideration of Fairclough model, this article commences its analysis of the English literature from the text, both verbal and visual, followed by the discursive practice and then eventually the socio-cultural norms. Fairclough’s technique presupposes that discourse modifies the knowledge, as well as social interactions and that it is similarly designed by the pre-existing social system. As such, Fairclough points that language and society coexist. Moreover, Fairclough’s model creates room for adjustments. The stages should not be viewed as a blueprint but rather a guide (Pennycook 2001).

Text Analysis: Text Description

Text analysis entails scrutinising the linguistic characteristics of an inscription based on vocabulary, grammar, and stylistic structure. The lexicon examination is founded on the principles and conceptions that the words embody (Pennycook 2001). The examination of grammatical components is influenced by transitivity, which is an ideational role. It offers a critical linguistic outline for deciphering linguistic characteristics in a discourse (Fairclough 1995). There are various processes, which include, but not limited to material and relational processes. The mentioned processes are important for this analysis, particularly because they are the main components utilised largely in English language. The processes can assist in discovering the negative, as well as positive symbolisation of individuals and their culture (Yeibo 2011).

By examining the manner in which the author uses pronouns, one can discover the way in which members of a given society relate. For example, the predominant use of the pronoun ‘we’ could be an indication that there is inherent hegemony of certain individuals representing the voice of others. It can also be used to refer to the concept of nationhood. For instance, where the author says, ‘we, the Americans’, the author would not be speaking as a person, but rather as an object that characterises the addressees. Conversely, the pronoun ‘I’ is used to affirm the authoritarian characteristics of a discourse. Of particular concern for this article is the use of pronouns to represent the discriminatory hierarchy of races (Richardson 2007).

Discourse Practice: Text Interpretation

Under text interpretation, the text extracted from a given piece of writing is decoded based on commonsense understanding and the beliefs of the interpreter. This process includes interpreting a text by comparing its social norms, instruments, symbols, and places that the individual is conversant with. Fairclough refers to this composition as members’ resources as they (members) offer an important background for interpreting conceptual constructions (Ravitch 2010).

Social Practice

Once the texts have been interpreted, the next step is to explain their context. The explanation entails pointing out how the discourse is a process of social and supremacy tussles. In line with Fairclough CDA, the examination in this case will involve using the interpretation from the texts to discuss post-colonialism and racism (Rollock 2012).

Having summarised various steps that will be considered in tackling the social problem, the subsequent sections of the article will use a sample of the study to determine the impact of English textbooks on racism among Africans. The sample that was utilised in the study involved the use of two English language books that are used to educate learners in the junior classes. Foremost, the books were read severally to have a definite comprehension of the content.

Furthermore, I mechanically read the information and further divided it into various facets of CDA model. The extracted data was further collected and interpreted based on tree realms of data scrutiny. Extracts that mentioned non-whites were given prominence. In one of the extracts, an author was mentioning the difficulty lives South Africa blacks. An image of an undernourished and unhappy woman accompanied the texts. Below is an extract from the text:

“Until recently, black people in South Africa did not have real chance in life. White people ran the country and had most of the money. However, blacks and whites run the country better now….We badly need better housing and better schools” (Rogers 2004, p. 2).

While the story mentioned both blacks and whites, there was no image of a white South African. The story only insisted that prior to South African independence, whites mistreated blacks. However, the situation changed gradually after the country became fully independent. The absence of a white was strategic. An image of a white would have probably portrayed a wealthy white dominating the blacks in South Africa. To avoid vivid expression of racism and discrimination, the author opted to omit such images (Rogers 2004).

With respect to linguistic analysis, the practical role of language is entrenched in transitivity, which shows the manner in which the world is viewed in a given literature. For instance, an extract picked in one of the books with reference to the current subject of discussion points out that when whites controlled the country, the blacks suffered. Nevertheless, when they got their independence, they began running the country together, which in turn lessened the blacks’ tussles. Therefore, it can be seen that the administration of South Africa seems to be the aspirations of both teams. The notion that whites seek to dominate a country that indigenously belong to black South Africans may be a revelation of racism where the whites dominate black (Richardson 2007).

The application of present and past tense also represents an important aspect for the indigenous South Africans. For instance, the notion that the lives of South Africans have barely changed even after independence is an indication of the miserable lives that non-white South Africans face. The use of ‘we’ and ‘I’ create a friendly dialogic technique, which in turn lessens the gap between and author and the readers. In particular, ‘we’ is used to include rather than exclude (Fairclough 1992).

Nonetheless, where ‘we’ is used to refer to a specific group, then the group seeks to segregate itself from others. In the case of the extract, the persona uses ‘we’ to refer to the suffering of the blacks such as poor housing and other social problems. The absence of a white image reaffirms the notion of black mistreatment (Richardson 2007). The extract is an ideal illustration of a racism discourse accelerated by biological differences. The rift between the whites and blacks is influenced by genetic factors. The difference has created a social hierarchy were the inferior group is discriminated economically, socially, and politically. The depiction of South Africans may influence the mindset of learners to an extent that they accept it as commonsense.

Does the Social Order need the Problem?

In line with Fairclough’s CDA, another important question to ask is whether most of the people in a particular region benefit from the existing social problem and/or whether they would be resistant to have the problem resolved. Segregation is still rampant in South Africa. In towns, there are residential areas dominated by whites while others have blacks. The discrimination extends to other areas such as education and employment.

The non-whites seem to approve the discrimination as coherent and legal. Indeed, such overt social inequality creates a semiotic-determined society through various channels. The English language book being analysed in this article can be one of those channels. Hence, written materials are likely to be prejudicial as long as they are influenced by social and political happenings not only in South Africa but also in other parts of the world, including the US (Richardson 2007).

Reflexive and Concluding Comments

It is presumed that South Africa democracy could have played a significant role in lessening the segregation. While such social equality might have worked to some extent, the impact is not convincing. There is the need to incorporate other methods to avert discrimination, which is swiftly becoming a norm. Resolving the racism that is becoming prevalent in the country will require the input of several players, in this case, authors (Rollock 2012). As noted earlier, language and social structure are intertwined. Furthermore, literature is simply a reflection of the society, which is built via knowledge that learners acquire from books.

Consequently, there is the need to review the messages that are inscribed in books and/or shared with learners. Governments and writers should work in mutuality in promoting concepts that discredit racism. Discrimination based on genetic factors should be taught as a recessive practice. The social hierarchy that exists both in the real world and literature can be eliminated by encouraging writers to draft books that do not recognise any hierarchy. Moreover, although English is a universal language, it should be given equal importance with other local languages in the area. The drafting of schoolbooks should be done as a teamwork comprising both whites and non-white scholars (Rollock 2012).

The concept behind the extract of one of the books used reveals that the author showed a little interest concerning why black South Africans were discriminated by the whites. The extract only points the stigma that exists. However, it does not reveal the causes and/or how the situation can be resolved. The approach adopted by the author seeks to show negative attitudes on the segregated characters. This technique is recommendable because it can cause hostility among conflicting races. Despite the existing constitutional changes and other political developments, this study has shown that the rift between whites and non-whites is paramount. The negative depiction of whites by non-whites in the country has worked against the efforts to reconcile the two conflicting groups.

Literature seems to be identifying the gap that exists while encouraging the need for such problems to be resolved. The extract from the study may show that the author intends to educate learners that they can overcome racism through various positive approaches such as democracy and justice. The approaches are favoured by whites but despised by non-whites. Hence, the English language has not only revealed the ongoing social segregation in the African state but also failed to point the actual solutions to the current discrimination. This observation is evident through the wordings and image used in the extract. Indeed, the revelations made from the extract affirm that language that can be disentangled to discover various social problems and realities in the world.


Fairclough, N 1989, Language and Power, Longman, London.

Fairclough, N 1992, Discourse and text: Linguistics and intertextual analysis, Polity Press, Cambridge.

Fairclough, N 1995, Media discourse, Edward Arnold, London.

Larkin, N 2016, Environmental racism systemic, national issue, Web.

Pennycook, A 2001, Critical applied linguistics: A critical introduction, Mahwah, New Jersey.

Richardson, J 2007, Analysing Newspapers: An Approach from Critical Discourse Analysis, Palgrave Macmillan, London.

Ravitch, D 2010, The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice are Undermining Education, Basic Books, New York, NY.

Rogers, R 2004, An Introduction to Critical Discourse Analysis in Education, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Mahwah.

Rollock, N 2012, ‘The Invisibility of Race: Intersectional Reflections on the Liminal Space of Alterity’, Race Ethnicity and Education, vol. 15, no. 1, pp. 65–84.

Seamster, L & Welburn, J 2016, How a Racist System Has Poisoned the Water in Flint, Mich, Web.

Williams, Z 2016, , Web.

Yeibo, E 2011, ‘A Discourse-Stylistic Analysis of Mood structures in selected Poems of J.P. Clark-Bekederemo’, International Journal of Humanities and Social Science, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 179-203


Article 1: How Racist System Has Poisoned the Water in Flint Mich.

Interesting Words in the Articles

Various words have been used in the text to emphasise the theme of racism, and its role in the poisoning of water in Flint. The words are micro-coded as follows:

  • African-American

Lines: 1, 9, 12, 13, 44, 47, 55, 67

  • EFMs

Lines: 14, 20, 23, 43, 49, 50, 51, 55, 56, 57, 63, 67, 68

  • State

Lines: 3, 7, 34, 44, 45

Searching for Meaning

The authors have used the terms to portray a specific viewpoint that resonates with the theme.


African-Americans refer to the black community, which in this case, has been victimised and racially exposed to unfair treatment

For example, “….African American, have been deprived of the right to govern their city since 2011.”

“The EFM law, as designed and implemented, rests on the premise that democracy in predominantly African-American cities is unnecessary”


The term EFMs (Emergency Financial Managers) is used to indicate the state machinery that is to place for the current problems facing Flint.

For example, “Six EFMs have governed Michigan in the past 13 years”

“EFMs in Detroit and Highland Park have implemented draconian punishments for households…”


The state is used to show authority and power over the citizens of Michigan

For instance, “…the current water crisis is a direct result of racialised state politics”

Article 2: The Oscars whiteout is driven by racism – and greed

Interesting words in the Article

The article has repeatedly used some unique words to elaborate its intended message. The prominent words are:

  • Discrimination

Lines: 14, 15, 17, 37

  • White

Lines: 7, 8, 17, 29, 43, 53, 62

  • Actor

Lines: 2, 7, 17, 27, 41, 42, 62

Searching for Meaning

The various words have specific meanings that are relevant to the context of the article


The above word has been used to imply the segregation and unfair lack acknowledgement of blacks in the Oscars despite the fact that they deserve to be recognised.

For example, “The politics of competitive discrimination are 15.fascinating – the elaborate respect that the discriminated-against are required to pay to one 16.another has the effect of muting their solidarity and, of course, takes the heat off the people 17.doing the discriminating.”


The use of White implies the white race as the perpetrators of racism in the Oscars

For example, “You could have black actors in a film all playing valets, and you would merely underline an idea of white superiority”


In this case, actors are the people who feature in the various films

For example, “In Hollywood, the relevance is the distinction between a black actor…where his race is critical to the plot, and a black actor being cast in any given supporting role, as a result of the business decision that white actors are more bankable and have to be cast as the lead”

Article 3: Environmental racism systemic, national issue

Interesting words in the Article

Some of the words used in the article include:

  • Environmental Racism

Lines: 60, 60, 69, 72, 78, 83

  • Governor

Lines: 35, 36, 54, 55, 83

Searching for Meaning

Environmental Racism

The term refers to a kind of racism and sabotaging that targets the environment of minority groups and especially the blacks in America.

For example, “To visually 69.see the effects of this environmental racism, simply look at the photos of people living in the Super Dome after the hurricane; you won’t see many white faces.”


The term is used to show authority and leadership where the environmental racism took place. Further, it shows the lack of action or actions that led to environmental discrimination of the minorities.

For instance, “Water quality tests that showed Flint’s water containing a host of harmful pollutants — among them, lead, which has long-term effects on children including stunted IQs and stunted body growth, memory loss, kidney damage and many more — were downplayed by state officials, particularly by Governor Snyder.”

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