The Secret Life of Bees

by: Sue Monk Kidd

Racism

Quotes Racism
“Hold on now, Franklin,” said Mr. Gaston, moving us toward the door. “Now’s not the time.”

Mr. Gaston, the policeman who arrests Lily and Rosaleen after their confrontation with a group of racist white men, tells Franklin, one of the white aggressors, that now is not the time, implying that he accepts Franklin’s behavior. Mr. Gaston’s comment demonstrates a sort of passive racism prevalent in the South during the civil rights era. Mr. Gaston represents one of the text’s more stereotypical racists, a character whose actions and words play against other characters who exhibit a more complex racism.

Brother Gerald dragged his teeth back and forth across his lip. I could tell he was actually weighing what I said.

Lily notices how Brother Gerald, a minister of the town church, drags his teeth back and forth in consternation as he listens to her explanation for Rosaleen’s outburst. Lily successfully convinces Brother Gerald that Rosaleen acted out due to her love for Jesus. Brother Gerald’s reaction demonstrates his foolishness and superficial understanding of religion. Brother Gerald’s character exemplifies another shade of racism typical in the civil rights–era South.

That’s what it means, but you gonna have to drag people kicking and screaming to do it.

Rosaleen responds to Lily after Lily naively asks what the point of the Civil Rights Act is if black people are still discriminated against. Rosaleen explains that the Civil Rights Act might have passed, but that doesn’t mean people’s opinions have changed. While on their escape, Lily plans to rent a motel room for them, and Rosaleen stops her to explain why that might not be possible, since Rosaleen is black. Lily’s racial naiveté stems from her young age and lack of experience. Over the course of the novel, Lily’s experiences will deepen her understanding of race and develop her maturity as a white woman in the racist South.

There was no difference between my piss and June’s. That’s what I thought when I looked at the dark circle on the ground. Piss was piss.

During her first night at August’s house, Lily becomes aware of June’s racism toward her as she overhears June talk to August. June’s attitude toward her gives her pause; Lily has never been on the receiving end of racism, and she feels confused. Lily reasons that her body is the same as June’s; they both function the same way, so she wonders how they could be considered different. Lily must learn to navigate this inherent irrationality of racism as she experiences being a “minority” in August’s home.