A Raisin in the Sun

by: Lorraine Hansberry

Race

Quotes Race
ASAGAI …You came up to me and you said… “Mr. Asagai—I want very much to talk with you. About Africa. You see, Mr. Asagai, I am looking for my identity! (He laughs) (Act I, scene ii)

Asagai recalls his first meeting Beneatha at school when Beneatha approached him to talk about Africa, seeing that he was knowledgeable on the subject. He has come over to visit Beneatha and give her some gifts from Nigeria. As she tries on a robe, he notices she has straightened her hair. He wonders why she straightens her hair, since she had been so eager to reconnect with her African identity. Asagai is playfully mocking her earnest attempt to explore her African roots. Beneatha’s preoccupation with her race drives her character throughout the play.

MAMA Them houses they put up for colored in them areas way out all seem to cost twice as much as other houses. I did the best I could. (Act II, scene i)

Mama is making a painful observation to her kids: The only houses that are available to most African Americans are expensive and yet inconveniently located far away from the important areas of town. The house she found in the white neighborhood, Clybourne Park, was the best house she could get for the money. This observation captures the discrimination that has made it harder for African Americans to rise above their difficult circumstances and find decent urban housing.

GEORGE (Nastily) Let’s face it, baby, your heritage is nothing but a bunch of raggedy-assed spirituals and some grass huts! (Act II, scene i)

George thinks Beneatha’s efforts to find her roots are futile, and he insults and minimizes African heritage to make his point clear. George and Beneatha are both black Americans who grew up in Chicago, but they each have different perspectives on black Americans tracing their identity back to Africa, a country which many of them have never stepped foot in. George and Beneatha’s different perspectives represent a larger debate within the black community about assimilation and race.

LINDNER …most of the trouble exists because people just don’t sit down and talk to each other…That we don’t try hard enough in this world to understand the other fellow’s problem. The other guy’s point of view. (Act II, scene iii)

Karl Lindner, the spokesperson for the group opposing the Youngers’ house purchase, uses passive-aggressive logic to convince the Youngers why they shouldn’t buy the house in Clybourne Park. When Linder argues that problems exist between blacks and whites because people don’t consider the other side’s point of view, he really means that the Youngers should consider the association’s point of view. Lindner’s comment represents the patronizing racism rampant throughout Chicago in the 1950s, which the Youngers have to contend with throughout the play.

LINDNER .... I want you to believe me when I tell you that race prejudice simply doesn’t enter into it. It is a matter of the people of Clybourne Park believing, rightly or wrongly, as I say, that for the happiness of all concerned that our Negro families are happier when they live in their own communities. (Act II, scene iii)

In this highly offensive statement, Karl Lindner tries to convince the Youngers that racism has nothing to do with his association’s desire to block them from buying a house in their community. Lindner, sidestepping responsibility for the decision, even suggests that segregation is for the Youngers’ benefit just as much as the white community’s. Linder’s attitude and false logic represents the cowardice and manipulation of racist beliefs.