Was e.e cummings a racist or anti-semitic?

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Self-Portrait, Oil Painting. Cummings in the 1950s. Courtesy of Nancy T. Andrews

During his entire lifetime, e.e. cummings, had accomplished being an poet, author, painter, and playwriter. He also had been honored with numerous awards pertaining to his work. e.e. cummings’s poems touched on themes of war, nature, love, and death. Despite his status as an accomplished poet, he received criticisms due to the fact that many of e. e. cummings’s poems were very controversial because they focused on issues such as sex, stereotyping and prejudice. Many critics condemned him for two of his poems that contained the words “nigger” and “kike” Single words like “nigger”, “kike” were and still are today tough words in which e.e. cumming unmistakably chose to include in his works of poetry at the time of writing them. Despite being forewarned by others, he seemed to believe that he was justified to include the insulting and degrading words into his poems. He did not seem to care what others thought of his writing when it came to his poetry. Today, many people wonder if e. e. cummings was a racist or antiti-semitic? http://www.poemhunter.com/edward-estlin-cummings/biography/

Here are a few poems that are in question to e.e. cummings being a racist and anti-Semitic:

one day a nigger
caught in his hand
a little star no bigger
than not to understand
“i’ll never let you go
until you’ve made me white”
so she did and now
stars shine at night.

a kike is the most dangerous
machine as yet invented
by even yankee ingenu
ity(out of a jew a few
dead dollars and some twisted laws)
it comes both prigged and canted

theys sO alive
(who is

Not jes
not Jes alive But
So alive(they

born alive)
some folks aint born
somes born dead an
somes born alive(but










-e.e. Cummings

Over the years I have read many poems by e. e. cummings, either as a class assignment or a class project. The poem, “a kike is the most dangerous” by e.e. cummings, is a poem that I never knew that existed until I started searching for information on one of the best known American poets of the twenty century. This poem in fact appeared in his collection called Xaiped, which was published in 1950, and at this time in history words like ““nigger” and kike” were commonly used by people, including e.e. cummings. I am trying to figure out the meaning of these  three poems, by e.e. cummings. I’ve read them over and over, but I’m still stuck on the words “nigger” and “kike”. I even had to look up the word “kike” and it means a racial slur for a Jewish person. I really just do not get it, maybe, I have the whole thing wrong, perhaps e.e. cumming was really trying to make a point about people in his era and their prejudice in his poetry, as he claims. Maybe, this poem was unintentional racism. However, many critics are not buying it.

Today, even Paula Dean has admitted that she has used the word “nigger.” One has to wonder with Paula Deen’s comment, if she by today’s standard is a racist. However, she has gone on to appeal to the public after being fired by the Food Network Channel, that she is not a racist by any means. To me when Paula Deen intentionally admitted to the world that she has used the  word “nigger” in the past, she was going to have major problems, especially since a majority of  the  African American community has supported her. This is a hard pill to swallow. I wish her luck on trying to get African American to support her again.



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