living for the city

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short essay analyzing the meaning of stevie wonder's song "livin' for the city". i need help editing it, and getting fresh ideas.

Submitted: March 20, 2017

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Submitted: March 20, 2017



Explanatory Essay:

Living for the City

Victoria Pennetta

English Honors II



“Living for the City” is a meaningful song written by Stevie Wonder that explicitly talks about racism and poverty. In the song their family is truly living for the city, they’ve done all they could have for the benefit of the rest of the city while being able to keep nothing for themselves. It tells the story of hard working parents trying to raise their kids in the city, even though they face many issues due to their color and class, like many families today. Some issues include bad pay for hard labor, difficulty finding jobs, and the sacrifices they had to make in order for them to gain a proper education.

Both the mother and father in this song are out slaving away every day, doing whatever it takes to help their family survive. They try to make ends meet but neither of them makes the money they should. In the lyrics, it is mentioned, “His father works some days for fourteen hours,  and you can bet he barely makes a dollar, his mother goes to scrub the floor for many and you’d best believe she hardly gets a penny.” This shows how unfair their situation was, they worked for others in the city but in return, they barely got anything back except more struggles and financial problems.

Furthermore, not only did they live in poverty, they lived in a neighborhood that wasn’t so open to people of color. They were discriminated against due to their race, which in turn closed many doors for them. In the lyrics it is stated, “To find a job is like a haystack needle cause where he lives they don’t use colored people.” This shows had the family been somewhere that accepted African Americans there would have been more job opportunities and most likely, better pay. They wouldn’t have had to live in poverty.

Similarly, many things were sacrificed for education ,as were their job opportunities. They could not afford new school clothes every year for the children, or a form of transportation for the kids to get there. In the lyrics it is stated, “To walk to school she’s got to get up early

Her clothes are old but never are they dirty.” This shows the kids had extra responsibilities to take care of things and get up earlier than they should have. Kids whose families could afford such luxuries didn't have to go through what the children mentioned in the song did.

No doubt it is a harsh scenario, the song highlights strong classism and racism problems  in the country, which are unfortunately still very real today. A data chart created by the FBI in 2015 shows hate crimes are motivated by race more than any other reason. In fact, a chart was created by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in April of 2016 shows African Americans are still paid less than Asians and Caucasians. The exact problems that are mentioned in the song are still being carried out today, proving this song is still very relevant.

Ultimately, this song points out some very real problems that African Americans were, and still are faced with. They are forced to deal with poverty and racism, which in turn often cause a lack of education, a lack of  adequate housing and a lack of proper pay. The lyrics explain a family who faced these issues and were having a hard time surviving. It is one of the first soul singles to deal so explicitly with systemic racism in America.

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