‘Race’ in ‘The Dutchman’: A play by Amiri Baraka

The play ‘The Dutchman’ by Amiri Baraka was first staged at ‘The Cherry Lane Theatre, New York on March 24, 1964. The play consists of numerous racial oppositions in terms of biological, social and political ideologies. By stereotyping the behavior of Clay, the African man from New Jersey, Lula, the American woman dehumanizes and humiliates him both in person and in public.  

The following analysis of the play ‘The Dutchman’ will be based on the essay ‘Race’ by Simon During.

During says that, “Racism is, at its heart, the belief that the human species is constituted by a number of separate and distinct biologically discrete sub-species: i.e. races.”

Lula in the play fervently believes that the black identity should be oppressed or subordinated. The only reason of Lula’s target was that she detests the existence of Black Americans in their country. After murdering Clay towards the end, she still continues to follow her murderous instinct toward the other young black man in the subway carriage who is unaware of the previous occurrence. She treats the blacks as ‘savages’- an uninhabited, unevolved race. Basically judged upon the ‘biologically discrete sub-species’ of the humanity.

Race being powerful and deep-rooted in ethnicity, it so often implies different kinds of people with different kinds of bodies says During. It in fact leads the way to culturalism (idea that different peoples have different inherited culture). Stereotyping is one of the tools that Lula uses to trap Clay down. By his appearance, she is so sure of the place he is from and that he is also a middle-class man. Even about the names ‘Williams’ and ‘Warren’, she knows that people from Africa will be named similarly. Since African men are known for their strength and virility, Lula, makes sure that she embarrasses Clay by making her moves first.

“Clay: Hey, you haven’t told me how you know so much about me.

Lula: I told you I didn’t know anything about you… you’re a well-known type”

… “Lula: When you get drunk, pat me once, very lovingly on the flanks, and I’ll look at you cryptically, licking my lips.”

Clay being a twenty year old Negro, he is victimized by the white woman, in fact the entire white community. He is targeted both sexually and psychologically. He is cornered because of his color. Racism in the era of post-racism works differently. The situation of the play, the setting and its characterization poses the threat of ‘systematic inequality’ which could be maintained with some kinds of people ‘less than fully human’ –and racism could do that.

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