Free «The Color of Love by Danzy Senna» Essay Sample


            The Color of Love is an essay written by Danzy Senna which captures a conflict between Senna and her grandmother. Senna’s grandmother is mad at her house help, a Greek middle aged woman named Mary, who has broken a vase and spilled the content. Senna is attracted by her grandma’s yelling and cursing at Mary, who is on her four trying to gather the broken debris of the vase. Senna cannot comprehend if the shouting she was hearing has been directed to “a real person”. She was amused to find that the grandma was indeed reprimanding Mary. The exchange between Mary and her grandma captures gender prejudice; class differences are also typified in this scenario. Lastly, there is the issue of lack of work ethics portrayed by grandma’s spat.

Contrast of race relationship

            The racial difference is brought to the fore by Senna who perceive her grandma’s attitude toward Mary as being having a racial humiliation. According to her, the grandma is insulting to Mary because she is not of her race. Nothing, according to her, could warrant such use of words by the old woman against her cleaner apart from racial differences. On the other hand, the grandma acts as a ‘victim’ of race when Senna first mentions it. She thinks that Senna being black is using race to come to the aid of Mary. She is truly shocked about her grand daughter remark, “slavery was abolished long ago”. She responds by retorting, “It’s about race, isn’t it?”. This implies that she perceives her remark as a racial attack on her. Further down the essay, each of the two realizes that none of them meant what the other perceived. Racial suspicion is evidenced in this essay and is not confined to age. It’s safe to say that both of the character have being victims of racial discrimination.

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Contrast toward age difference

            Age disparity is evident between the grandmother and the two young women. Senna’s view of her grandma’s behavior is largely informed by her age. This is also a cause of prejudice as evidenced by her respond, “your tragedy is that you are old and ignorant” (17). In their exchange, age is used as a weapon of insult rather than a status of mutual respect. The grandmother demonstrates this by pulling the same line when she responds back, “you are a cruel girl”. The grandmother's attitude toward her house help can also be based on the age difference. She sees her action as stupidity that is a result of her age. Senna's observation of her grandmother as “where do you think you are?” denotes that she sees her as an old woman who is living her dark days in today’s ‘enlightened times’.

Contrast of attitude towards class and money

            Senna is attracted when “the shouting went on for a bit too long” (8), and being not able to tell whether it is directed to a human being or not. This tells her stand and respect for human dignity. According to her, the yelling and cursing by her grandmother can only be lashed out to a lesser human by her stand. She is baffled to find Mary on the receiving end of this tongue lash. This demonstrates that despite her ‘well-up’ status, she believes in treating all human beings with dignity and respect. Her response to her grandmother is spontaneous. Not only does she read racial slur in her grandmother’s outburst, but the fact that Mary is a cleaner justifies her demeaning yelling at her. The fact that Mary is on her fours justifies the class contrast in the essay. 

Contrast of attitude towards work ethics

            When Mary sees Senna coming to her rescue, “she smile nervously” at her and rushed back to the kitchen. This indicates that she has being used to such insults by her boss. Its shows she is accustomed to such kind of treatment. She does not seem to take it personal or feel offended. This indicates that Mary is used to her boss’ insults and yelling at her. This is a case of contrast of work ethics; she has come to accept an abusive employment.

Significant factors fueling the contrasting conflicts

            There are different approaches in trying to gain insight in social conflicts. Some approaches, like theoretical one, focus on finding reason behind participants of conflict to feel in a crisis. Another approach is internal conditions like personalities. The system theory approach takes into considerations factors such as culture, institutions, power balance, and social changes in respect to conflict production and adversaries’ relations. (Wesner 35)

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            Culture: culture as a form of believes which are accepted by a given group of people, influences the way two parties approach conflicts. Being a believe, the implications are deeply entrenched in both parties. Senna and her grandmother exhibit a culture trait where racial consciousness is high; thus, it is easy to read a racial element in any arguments between them.

            Institutions: in this case, the resemblance of institution is the authority which the grandmother demonstrates in her dealing with the house help as well as her grand daughter. Senna had to gather courage to challenge her grandmother’s treatment of Mary. Institutional influence also plays when Mary opts to keep to herself and does not challenge her boss's harsh outbursts. This shows an institution of authority which plays a critical role in a conflict.

            Balance of power:it is closely related to institutional authority, but it is how far power can oscillate both ways in a conflict situation. One party could be powerful on one particular aspect, but lacks on another. This is because power is influenced by many factors and each plays a role only to a particular level (Macey 11)

            Social change: in the generation of conflict, social change is also evident in both Senna and the grandmother. Her view of her grandmother as an old woman who is ignorant to new times underlines social change which is a factor of time. At the Senna's age, the grandmother could have either be a victim or an audience of the treatment she was meting on Mary. She finds it ‘normal’ and justifiable to treat her house help in that manner. The times have changed now. Her granddaughter’s times are different. All people are entitled to dignity and respect.

            Relation between adversaries: the relations between conflicting parties influence the level of their differences in conflict. The grandmother's attitude towards her granddaughter changed drastically when she shows up, contrasting her attitude towards Mary. This in an instance that shows the grandmother's fondness for her granddaughter. This relationship will affect the conflict thereafter. Race as a factor of relation is also evident when the grandmother asks Senna, “It’s about race, isn’t it?”. Senna responds that she is not talking about race since Mary is white just like the grandmother, showing how relation of race can determine the conflict.

Purpose of research and interviews

            The study of interview and research tries to describe, internalize and explain the conflict of employee-family relationship from a generation perspective.

What interviews and research reveal about conflicts

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            Research and interviews make us have knowledgeable insights on each generation and also how it faces the world and work in avoiding conflicts. The more we gain understanding about generation theory, the more we understand why conflict is happening, mitigating ways, and how to create most of it. Research and interview thus help us to undercover deep seated fears, believes, prejudices and stereotypes. These are the underlying reasons for differences hence conflicts. An objective research or interview will be able to extract these factors, and thus be able to form an informed approach to conflicts resolution. From the essay of The Color of Love, the generation conflict mostly born out of prejudices and stereotypes. Senna sees her grandmother as an old and out of touch woman with current social equality trends. This can be revealed in a research or interview conducted on her. Her grandmother portrays prejudice by commenting that Senna’s tragedy is because she is mix color.

            Research and interviews can also help us learn about generations’ expectations, values, dreams and aspirations. This is true especially when two generations are taken in to contrast. For example, both generation ‘veteran’ and ‘baby boomer’ may share similar ideals and values far from generation ‘X’ and ‘Y’.  Both former generations are more conservative and traditionalist than the latter two who are more individualistic, outgoing, and cynical of authority. Through research and interview of homogeneous generation, a certain trend in their worldview can be highlighted. Thus, interviews and research help us to understand a whole group through sampling of few of the group.

            Research and interview can help us understand the values which each generation holds. Values are belief concepts of importance to a person or group. The value of equality and respect is evident in the essay as demanded of by Senna. She is infuriated by her grandmother's treatment of her house help. Her generational values of equality for all people despite of their class inform her decision. Values are largely developed from social interactions and environment. Senna's generation is one which is characterized by racial integration both in schools and neighborhood. Due to her interaction with people of different racial and social backgrounds, she has developed mutual respect for people of all races. 

Generational differences and attitudes toward race and love

            Many of the veteran and baby boomer generations grew up during the time of heated confrontations as they find themselves at the helm of families; so, they tend to wonder what has changed in the way issues and differences are handled currently. This is the predicament of Senna’s grandmother who does not see anything wrong in yelling at Mary. This is a generation gap. A generation gap refers to differences between age groups that cause divergence and affects communication thus creating a ‘gap’. While this gap was initially created by the use of mass media, today the gap is more of the way different generations view the world. Some aspects of this gap between the old and young generations include work ethics, moral values, respect for others, political views, attitudes toward people of different races and groups, and religious beliefs. These factors facilitate the generation gap. The attitude of color and race respects to these factors can be identified in The Color of Love. The notable factors in this essay include work ethics, respect for others, attitude toward people of different races and groups (Smith 56).

            Racial difference is paramount in the essay. Different views of race between Senna and her grandmother are evident. Senna believes that people of the same racial group cannot be discriminated against each other. For her, the grandmother and Mary, who are both white, belongs to the same race; thus, no possible racial prejudice can occur. On the other hand, her grandmother views racial prejudice as being possible between people of different racial groups, even people of color that don’t belong to any racial group.         

            Respect for others is also exhibited by Senna’s considerations before she reprimand her grandmother. She portrays a strong sense of concern in that she did not want to shout at her. The conflict between them is not at all related to the lack of respect, but rather by the generation gap between them. After their argument, mutual respect and care is also portrayed through their light moments of laughter and affection.

            Love is portrayed in the essay during the demise of the grandmother. The family members, including Senna, are there at her deathbed to share their comfort and love with her. After her grandmother dies, she is grieving of her death. This can be attributed to the spirit of forgiveness, which is exhibited in both of these generation groups.


Resolving generation conflicts

            From the essay, we can link the conflict more with generational difference than any other causes. The grandmother and her granddaughter both belong to different generation groups which have different experience and belief systems. Senna is a liberal, modern and independent ‘little girl’, while her grandmother is conservative disciplinarian who does not condone ‘careless mistakes’ and indiscipline. From the essay, one sees the generation conflict which is ride on individual generation life’s experiences. It turns out that none of the two parties can be said to be on the ‘wrong’ side, and it’s only a misunderstanding from a generation standpoint.

            By gaining understanding on each generation unique characteristics and their set of value, it is easier to approach conflicts resolution objectively. Many of generations ‘X’ and ‘Y’ have far different social challenges from those of the ‘Veteran generation” for instance. They have “lived with strong social stressors, ranging from pressure to excel in school to parental divorce and one-parent homes” (Macon 39). Research and interview is the only way which have enabled social researcher to gain this kind of knowledge. Research and interview are thus the only way available for analyzing and understanding causes of conflicts and ways to capitalize on them.

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