The White Boy Shuffle

Coming to Terms with Race in The White Boy Shuffle

In his novel The White Boy Shuffle, Paul Beatty conveys what it is like for a young African American male to grow up in Santa Monica, a coastal town heavily populated by chauvinistic Caucasians with social dominance – at least in the eyes of protagonist Gunnar Kaufman. In The White Boy Shuffle, Beatty demonstrates the horrors and absurdities of cultural labels in familial and social settings. Ultimately he shows that for maturing black boys, Americans’ comfort with racism degrades potential success both academically and socially.

Gunnar Kaufman is part of two worlds, family and social. His family life is flooded with the realities of ethnic interpretation and gender understanding; it’s where black standards are kept black, where profanity and sexism are a part of everyday life, and where mockery and ridicule are used to demonstrate the sheer acceptance of racism. Gunnar reveals his family as one of slavery heritage. “I unfurled my gigantic family tree…the class ooohed the generations of crinkled stick nigger couples holding stick hands…I started with Euripides Kaufman…the only person ever to runaway into slavery” (Beatty 12). In establishing his family tree, Gunnar in turn puts him and his family in shackles. Every level of...

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