'Telephone Conversation' is a 1963 poem composed by the Nigerian writer Wole Soyinka. It is a poem that deals with racism and its effects on other people's lives. The poem is a satire on the ill-treatment of people based on their skin colour. Through a simple telephone conversation, the core stigmas of society are depicted interestingly. The poem is written in a dialogue form that represents the mentalities of a white woman and a black man talking over the telephone.
The African man is in search of a room to rent. He comes across an advertisement in a newspaper that says they do not have issues with any race, white or black. The man makes a call to the landlady, who happens to be a white woman. Despite the ad mentioning no discrimination against race, the white woman starts pestering the black man by asking him about his skin colour. "How dark?" becomes the only question asked by the woman. It seems as if the financial stability or his qualifications do not matter to the woman. She does not want a black tenant.
The woman disconnects the call after knowing that the man is raven black in colour. His skin colour becomes the determinant of fate. The poem shows the inhuman behaviour and detestation the black Africans had to face even after laws against racial discrimination were passed in the country. The white-skinned people still considered themselves to be superior to the blacks. The helplessness and the frustration of the black people are also portrayed in the text.
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