Academic Master


Sweetness: Racism

The author Tony Morrison is a Pulitzer Prize as well as Nobel Prize winner in the American novel category. She was born on 18th February 1931 and is the first African America female Nobel Prize winner in literature. She did her degree at Howard University and her Masters degree in Cornell. She is renowned for writing intricate as well as compelling literature concerning race during the period between the 20th and the 21st century. However, sweetness which is an excerpt from the author’s novel known as God help the child was different in the sense that it was a standalone piece fit to be reefed to as a short story. This story was published in the New Yorker and focus mainly on the struggles of life as an African American woman. The basis of this story is presenting the hardship these women face in life because of being different from the rest of the society. Such hardships are presented in the story as discrimination, eccentric characters, brutal honesty and set standards of beauty. These factors are used to pull the reader’s attention as well as drawing their emotions to the story for them to connect to the story’s characters. In this regard, this paper will analyze the theme of racism in sweetness from the perspective of Tony Morrison.

According to Tony Morrison, the racial tension is prevalent in today’s society most especially between the African American and the whites. For a very long time, the African or people with darker skin color have gone through discrimination because of their skin color. Thus, Morrison uses a narrative of a mother and her daughter to present the prevalence of racism in the society which presents itself in not so obvious ways. The depth of racism in the society is perfectly presented using this mother known as sweetness who is very ashamed that she gave birth to a child whose skin is darker than her and the rest of the society. Generally, Morris asserts that the everyday interaction of the people in the society is coupled with racism. Yet, people are not willing to confess and do away with inequalities in the society through examination and elimination of the subtle manner in which the people treat one another in a different way. For instance, sweetness states that “It’s not my fault. So you can’t blame me. I didn’t do it and have no idea how it happened” (Morrison, 2015). Therefore, it involved a deliberate and unrelenting voice to deal with racism in the society.

Morrison treats racism in light of the skin color and implies that darker skin is associated with bad things or evil. The woman sweetness is an African American but when she gives birth to a darker skinned girl she feels that something is not right and she thinks something is really wrong with the baby. She feels an embarrassment and she desires to cover the baby with the blanket so that people don’t see. Moreover, she refers to her child as pickaninny a not so good term but very offensive. She also finds that her daughter’s eyes are “witchy”. Consequently, she tells the daughter to refer to her as sweetness but not as ‘mama’. This is a sign of distancing herself from an individual who has a different skin color from hers.

In addition, the skin color of sweetness’ daughter Lula Ann was the reason behind the destruction of her parents’ marriage. The back and forth concerning the originality of the child’s dark skin causes her husband to suggest that the wife must have gotten the baby out of infidelity. On the other hand, the mother suggested that the dark-skinned child could be coming from his family genes. As a result, Lula Ann’s Father left their home and his family. According to the writer, the members of sweetness’ family have the tendency of being born pale and they would pass as whites. Therefore, most of them would cut ties with their family members to fit in the white category in the society because the lighter the skin colors the better for them.

The skin privilege is what keeps sweetness and her family members from identifying with the lighter skinned people than the darker people. This privilege is not likely to be enjoyed by Luna Ann as she was darker than the rest of the family and the society. The skin darkness is likely to attract indignities such as being elbowed or spit on, restricted to use department stores’ restrooms and trying on hats. Moreover, being black causes one to be restricted to drinking on the water fountain for colored people only. They would probably be charged more for a paper bag in a grocery store which costs nothing for a white person.

By accepting the injustice perpetrated through racism, ‘sweetness’ is on the wrong. Any injustice in the society should not be condoned but people should try to change it. Thus, sweetness deserves to be blamed for accepting and not attempting to change the vice in the society. When Lula Ann grows into a beautiful adult she utilizes her skin color “to her advantage in beautiful white clothes” (Morrison, 2015) to advance her success in her career. Sweetness never expected the world to change and make it possible for blacks to be “all over TV, in fashion magazines, commercials, even starring in movies” (Morrison, 2015). Despite having some regrets she does not own up and states that “I know I did the best for her under the circumstances” (Morrison, 2015).

Therefore, Morrison wanted to highlight the underlying racial tension which is still prevalent in today’s society. He talks about racism in regards to the skin color of the people. He presents the darker skin in association with evil and bad things while the lighter skin is associated with privileges in the society. For instance, he portrays Lula the child with darker skin than both her parents as the reason behind the destruction of her parents’ marriage. Moreover, the lighter skin gives privileges to some members of the society while the darker skin attracts indignities. Therefore, sweetness and her family prefer association with the lighter skin than with the darker skin. However, injustice in the society should not be accepted but dealt with immediately through changing it.


Morrison, T. (2015, February 9). Sweetness. Retrieved from The New Yorker.



Calculate Your Order

Standard price





Pop-up Message