The Lesson, by Toni Cade Bambara, was published in 1972. The first person narrative is about Sylvia who is a young girl that is growing up in the streets of Harlem. The Lesson tells a tale of a trip that was taken by an educated woman called Miss Moore with the intention of exposing the children from the street to the world beyond the locality that they live in. The first destination for the group is an upend toy store in Manhattan where the target market is the White population because of the Black community cannot afford the toys. The prices of those items perturb the children because the cost of one item is enough to sustain some of their households for a whole year. Miss Moore uses the trip to open the perspective of the children on the reach of the gap between the black and the white community. The black community that they belong is completely marginalized by the unfair social and economic systems. The access to resources is not the same for all the races. The events of the day are very weighty for Sylvia, and she has to seek solitude to comprehend the unfolding reality. The young girl decides to excel in whatever she sets her mind to overcome the inequality.
In the short story, Miss Moore tells the Children that, “Where we are is who we are” (Bambara 95). Here, she is telling the children that they must understand their way of life and the challenges that they have. It is another way of telling the children that they should embrace the reality of things. Accepting the truth is the first step in devising ways to overcome the obstacles. Problems can only be addressed by standing up to them with the intention of becoming victorious. Turning a blind eye does not make the problem to go away. Miss Moore was telling the children that they should work harder than their white counterparts because of the inequality in the reach for resources.
Miss Moore goes ahead to tell the children to, “Imagine what kind of society it is in which people can spend on a toy what it would cost to feed a family of six or sixteen” (Bambara 95). In introspect it is very scaring. The levels of disparity are too high. The levels of poverty in the black community should be a cause for concern for the government and the white community (Carleton 24). High levels of disparity increase the rate of crime because of the desperation of lack of resources and employment opportunities. Therefore, the white communities are not also safe as they go on with their normal lives while the others are suffering.
In the end, Sylvia says that “ain’t nobody gonna beat me at nuthin” (Bambara 96). Here, she expresses anger on what she saw during the day. Quite rightly so, it pains her that the black community has to endure all kinds of suffering just to make end meet while their white counterparts are living so extravagantly. She promises herself she is going to work very hard in order the overcome the barrier of disparity. The attitude adopted by Silvia was the intention of Miss Moore. The children were supposed to turn the anger to aggression, hunger, and desire to achieve greatness.
The short story is an eye opener to the high levels of poverty that was among the black community then. The idea by Miss Moore to expose them to reality was a splendid idea. Judging by the words of Silvia the children are very surprised by the extravagant lifestyles of the white people. The perspective and outlook on life are transformed by having a look another point of view. Exposure creates discontentment, and the children are challenged to desire much more than they already have because it is very far from enough.
Bambara, Toni Cade. “The lesson.” Gorilla, my love (1972): 85-96.
Carleton, D. “Analyzing the Lesson by Toni Cade Bambara.” Docs. School Publications (2013).