by eflem3 on November 18, 2013 - 11:36pm

A young boy Jose and his grandmother, both of color, confront the superior white culture by striving for a better future than the one that they are thought to receive.  Sugar Cane Alley (Palcy 1983) shows two different cultures and how they interact.  The colored culture in this movie is to be owned by the whites.  They are supposed to be working in the white men’s fields and getting paid next to nothing.  By cultural definition the blacks are supposed to stay in the fields because that is where they are thought to belong.  Most of the blacks believe this and that is why they are still there.  That is also why there children will live their lives there also. Jose is the exception to all those other children that begin working in the fields alongside their parents.   Jose’s grandmother is smarter than the others and realizes that things can be better and she will fight until the death for Jose to have a better future.  This is very apparent when the kids get into a lot of trouble and get punished by having to work in the fields.  At this time Jose is the only child that is not working in the fields even though he wants to.  Jose’s grandmother refuses to let him work in those fields at all costs because she knows that he can do so much better and she refuses to let him get comfortable and stuck there in the sugar cane fields.  This scene shows the grandmother confronting the white cultures theories of the life that her grandson should live.    

Each culture throughout this movie has its own specific way of life.  The white culture has all the money and the power.  They own almost everything and never do physical labor.  They own the sugar cane fields that they blacks work on and they treat the blacks very poorly especially for all the work that they do.  The blacks do all the labor and get paid almost nothing which forces them to live in shacks struggling to get what they can.  Money given from the whites to the blacks for labor is given out very sparingly.  The whites live life luxuriously while the blacks struggle to put food on the table, just because white folk think that that is the way things are meant to be.  The white’s norms are that having money, property and power over the black community.  Whites take all of these things for granted, they’ve never had to worry about what they were going to eat or if they were going to have a place to sleep.  The black culture values all of these things; they cherish them when they have them.  When they get a nice meal on their plate they are grateful. They appreciate others and work together as one.  The things that blacks have are so much more precious to them.  When Jose’s friends broke Jose’s grandmothers bowl he knew that she was going to be upset because they had two bowls, one for him and one for her.  If a white man broke a bowl he just had to go buy a new one, whereas for Jose’s grandmother it would be much more difficult.  The white culture is still in a slavery state of mind.  The black aren’t technically slaves but this situation isn’t much better than slavery.  The blacks live in poverty with no education doing what the whites tell them.  In this society thats the way whites believe it should be but Joses grandmother believes otherwise.  The biggest confrontation of this movie is Jose going to school and getting a better future than working in the sugar cane fields.   The superior culture doesn’t think that blacks should go to school especially poor ones, so the cost of education is extremely high.  Despite these high costs and the location difference Jose’s grandmother manages to make this work.  The fact that she makes it work shows some aspect of integration because he is now receiving an education so that he can get a better life like those of the white race.  Jose and his grandmother confronted the white culture when he was accepted to school and was getting an education just as any other white boy.  The integration is shown as Jose begins to live his life competing amongst the white for a better job than the white men think he deserves.   


Palcy, E.(Director). (1983). Sugar Cane Alley (DVD). France: NEF Diffusion.

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