Historical Conflicts as the Cause of Racial Divide
Historical conflicts, more than any other cause, are the primary reasons for the Blacks and Whites in America communities not integrating. A combination of past injustices ranging from slavery to the discriminative Jim Crow laws, which led to enormous economic and social losses among Black populations, have continued to haunt America to this day. These past injustices not only led to the loss of lives, but they also distorted the social and economic setup of most Black families. As a result, most Blacks live in the poorest and most insecure neighborhoods, have unstable families, and primarily lack the essential resources to compete with fellow Whites. On the contrary, the past historical injustices made some Whites to have a sense of self-entitlement and belief that most of their current success is because they come from a superior race. In fact, some of them ignore the fact that past injustices may have contributed to most of them having higher social and economic status than fellow Black Americans. Accordingly, the much unresolved historical conflicts in the country, coupled with a hostile social environment and unequal opportunities have made it difficult for Blacks and Whites to integrate.
Bruce Norris play, Clybourne Park is an interesting play that shows the racial divide that has existed in the United States since its establishment. This book was first published in 2010, and it mainly concentrates on the different racial views between Blacks and Whites in America. The protagonist in this play is Russ, a White man who wants to sell his house. The first act of the play is set in the home of grieving parents, Bev and Russ, who are planning to sell their home. Their house is located Clybourne Park, an exclusive White middle-class Chicago neighborhood. Their local pastor, Jim, their neighbor Karl, and his wife Betsy visit them just when they have sold their house. Although their guests bless them, Karl becomes extremely disappointed when Russ informs them that a Black family has purchased the house. In particular, he remarks that the financial value of property around Clybourne Park will decrease once Blacks settle in this neighborhood. Karl notes,
“First one family will leave,
then another, and another, and each time
they do, the values of these properties
will decline…” (Norris 212).
These expressions illustrate that Karl has a biased view towards Blacks. Since he does not give any reasonable grounds why people will migrate, his argument is simply based on prejudices. Furthermore, even his argument that Blacks should not live in White communities because of their cultural differences is shallow. To support his case, Karl implies that Blacks cannot play sports commonly played by White’s. He inquires, “Francine, may I ask? Do you ski?” (Norris 202). He also suggests that Black families will not be able to fit in a White society since they will lack essentials. For example, he tells Francine that Black’s groceries are not sold in White neighborhoods, “KARL But, I mean, your preferred food items, would such things even be available at Gelman’s?” (Norris 197). Although it is indeed true that there are cultural differences between Blacks and Whites, these differences also exist among the Whites. Additionally, Blacks and Whites have more in common than what separates them. Accordingly, Karl’s views are based on biased opinion that Black communities should be downgraded. In fact, his condescending remarks aim at showing that Whites’ cultures, sports, food, and traditions are superior to those of Blacks.
In the second act, a White couple, Steve and Lindsey want to buy and rebuild a house in a Black community. The couple is forced to negotiate with the local community’s board, which is represented by a Black couple, Kevin and Lena. The discussions on the local housing policies soon degenerate to racial issues. Interesting, this act reveals the racial bias that Black communities have towards Whites, primarily due to historical injustices.
Although Steve and Lindsey just want to upgrade their new house, the couple is ignorant of the communities concern. In particular, Lena is concerned that changes in the building will erase the history of her neighborhood. She notes, “And some of our concerns have to do with a particular period in history and the things that people experienced here in this community during that period-” (Norris 385). Lena’s remark implies that although the buildings look old, the community has a lot of sentimental attachment in their current appearance. Further, Lena informs Lindsey that, “I just have a lot of respect for the people who went through those experiences and still managed to carve out a life for themselves and create a community despite a whole lot of obstacles?” (Norris 386). Accordingly, the houses are not only shelters for Black communities, but they represent their abilities to overcome racial profiling that was present in the United States during the early 20th century. In this regard, Lena is categorical that she is not ready to allow the Stevens to build a house that appears bigger than that of other members of the community, especially given that he is a White man. Such an action can indeed rekindle and expand the racial divide in the community.
Deafness of Character
In the first act, Karl is overly aggressive and does not give people a chance to express their views. Although he finds himself communicating with Francine and Albert, he is not concerned that the two are Blacks, and he should be empathetic to them when speaking about racial issues. His statements that individuals will relocate from Clybourne Park when a Black family settles in the community shows his biased views. Further, his classifications of skiing as White people’s sport and his belief that there are groceries that are primarily consumed by Blacks’ aims at showing White people superiority over Blacks. Interestingly, even after Russ insistence that he does not want the racial talk in his house, Karl is adamant and insists on giving his views. “KARL Well, I believe the Constitution endows me with a right to speak.” (Norris 220). Simply, Karl is deaf to the changes in his environment.
Scenes of deafness are also shown in the communication between Lindsey and Lena. Lindsey is oblivious to the Black communities concerns. Additionally, she is not cooperative when negotiating the terms of the contract with Lena. Lindsey uncooperative behavior is portrayed in the manner that she keeps interjecting when Lena is speaking. Interestingly, she does not even allow her husband to give his opinions.
“(All nod solemnly for several seconds at LENA’s noble speech.)
Um. Can I ask a – ?
Let her finish.
I was finished.
Sorry. (Norris 389)
Lindsey interjection when Steve is speaking is unnecessary. The fact that Lena gives the nod after she has finished addressing the two indicates that any person can present his/her views. Therefore, her interjection implies that she may not even have been following Lena’s speech.
In conclusion, the Clybourne Park play reveals that historical reasons and prejudices in Black and White communities are the primary causes for them having social conflicts. Although the book does not explicitly state these past conflicts, the context in which the play is set indicates that these are conflicts mostly on racism and racial profiling. In the first act, Karl, who represents the views of some White people, fights Russ’s decision to sell his house to a Black family. His argument reveals the extent of self-entitlement and ideological prejudices that some White people have towards Blacks. In the second scene, Lena is adamant that the Steven should not change the structure of their house since it will erase the memory of the difficult period that the community’s residents experienced. Accordingly, the inability of Black and White communities to integrate is mainly due to unresolved historical conflicts between these two.
Norris, Bruce. Clybourne Park. Faber and Faber Inc. 2010.