Wednesday, August 5, 2015

A RAISIN IN THE SUN: THE WAYS OF WHITE FOLKS.

Check this out. Last week I went to see Lorraine Hansberry's play A Raisin In The Sun. Most of us know about Ms. Hansberry's play but here's the deal. The play was at an old established barn theater. Yep, white folks. This playcrafters barn has been around for 81 years and they've never put on a production like this. Well, some previous plays were the Mouse Trap by Agatha Christie, See How They Run by Phillip King, and Papa's Angels by Collin Wilcox Paxton. You get the picture, plays with a white cast, written by white authors. Well, I saw "Raisin" on two separate nights and I noticed a distinct difference between the crowd's reactions.

"A Raisin In The Sun" is a black play. Some may remember the role of Walter being played by Sydney Poitier. Others may remember Danny Glover playing the same part. There's another clown that thought he was doing the damn thang - but he wasn't, so I am not even going to mention his name. Okay, it was P. Diddy pretending to be an actor.

While watching the play, I glanced at the old white people. Their faces said it all, my suspicions were true. It quickly became apparent that many of them had never seen the play and didn't know anything about it. As I said, I went on two different nights. The first night was a benefit performance for Healing Waters Empowerment Project: Breaking The Cycle of Domestic Violence - a black thing. The crowd was evenly mixed - whites and blacks. I accompanied a group of 50 upward bound students - mostly black. The last night was filled with season ticket holders - old white folk.

Well, I have to admit that I am an arm chair critic that doesn't really enjoy amateur productions, but these actors killed this play. I had seen the lead performer do her thang in a production of "Doubt". I knew she could act but she was riveting in the role of Momma.

Now, the characters, Walter and Momma have very dynamic scenes. Race issues are a big part of the play, and some of the lines hit white folks right in the gut.

In one scene, Walter's sister is reminiscing about white people and says ..." that's how the cracker crumbles". Listen, you should have seen the looks on those white folks face. That line is followed by...."that's a joke". It may have been a joke but them white folks didn't think that mess was funny - not one bit. In another scene, the family is seen discussing the fears of white people when they think a black family may be moving into their neighborhood. One character said they were afraid of losing property value and another family member said, "no, dey afraid we might marry one of them". The black audience fell out laughing. The white audience looked as if they had just heard the O. J Simpson verdict.

I realized that most whites have not been around us in all our flavor. I got the feeling they thought every closed eye was sleep. They didn't know we have a doctorate degree in white zoo-ology. They didn't like hearing lines that showed them in all their glory, at least not coming from the mouth of a black person standing 10 feet away. They seemed surprised to hear that we sometimes "play them" when they think they are "playing us".

Listen, Walter has a scene in which he says he is going to act just the way they expect him to, in order to get that money. Walter was pressed for money and the family was offered a handsome sum not to move into the neighborhood. Walter said he was going to do the best Uncle Tom they've ever seen. He also said the word Nigger several times and did a great Chicken George, which made the white crowd very uncomfortable.

The character Momma was the anchor of the play and always stood for right and moral decency. The crowd loved Momma - even the white folks. She was frequently heard saying how black folks should just be grateful and forget about money and moving too fast. She also said her family has always been simple folks. But towards the end of the play, Momma showed the side of a black mother if they're bruised. Well, the white "welcoming committee" had sent a buy-out check to the family. Toward the end of the tense and dramatic scene, Walter turned down the money. Momma had put the decision in his hands. The pitchman for the committee made one last plea to Momma. Now, mind you, Momma has been running this family. Her daughter even labeled her a tyrant. But in this scene she turned her head away from the white man as if he stunk, and said, "you know I can't do nothing with those kids" . The man looked back at Walter who was now standing by his son. The son had a look of pride as Walter opened the door as if telling the man it's time for him to leave. Remember, many of the white people had never seen the play. Lawd have mercy, I looked at them white folks and you would have thought momma called that white man a nigger. Some of the blacks started clapping. I heard one sista say, "I know that's right".

After the play, the actors formed a greeting line. They hurried out a back door to meet the audience by the exits. Let me tell you, some of the white folks were really cool, they loved the play. Yet others couldn't stare at the ceiling long enough as they tried to sneak past the actors. Maybe somebody should have told them who was coming to dinner, and that it wasn't Sydney Poitier and Spencer Tracy.

It was a great night. I saw a great play and learned a little something about the ways of white folks, and they might have learned something about us. Langston Hughes wrote a book about that. Yep, The Ways of White Folks. It's a great read and it's sitting on my shelf. It's a good refresher course. And you know what, that barn theater has not opened it's barn doors to a black play since that run of Raisin In The Sun. I've heard rumbles that "fences" might be in the works, but we'll see.

6 comments:

Big Mark 243 said...

One of the gaps of understanding, and I believe the largest of them, lies in the seeing of blacks as more than the flat, two-dimensional caricutures that we are portrayed in the media.

Unlike most groups of people, it is still quite possible for a white person to live a life where they have no regular, 'normal' contact with any other group than their own.

You could say that they do in college or that they may when they graduate and have to compete with minorities in the work place. Yet for many, they will go on and to work and live where minority prescence is the exception and not the rule.

Instead of developing an full and rounded opinion of the minority experience, they have a badly cropped snapshot of what it means to not be white in this country. That the non-whites they do encounter at work and the rare ones who they may see shop in the stores they use and restaurants they frequent are the either 'special' or the ones that helps to fulfill the EEO quota.

To find out what 'the help' really think about you is always surprising but it never causes more than a momentary pause before they go one and resume their ignorance of the conditions of those who 'shocked' them by their seeming advanced awarness.

But, dontcha know, it is the same WITHIN the miniorities as well. But that isn't this post...

Tee aka The Diva's Thoughts said...

I'm glad you enjoyed yourself. It is a great play.

Moanerplicity said...

Sup Brotha Carey:

I LOVE A Raisin in The Sun. It's difficult to understand how anyone could not appreciate the beauty of the language, and the realness of its themes.

Maybe those same white people offended by a few lines in this classic, mad BRILLIANT play now have a little taste of what I and many other black people feel on the semi-regular.

Suddenly, I'm recalling those times we read Huck Finn OUT LOUD in lit class. The n-word was used fluently throughout the text, and we (black kids) had to sit there listening to it spring (sometimes accompanied w/ giggles) from white kids mouths.

And yet, that work is considered a 'classic' work of American art.

So Mr. & Ms. Charlie gets no sympathy from me.

In other words: what's good for the goose...


One.

Solomon said...

I am jealous of you Carey. I love A Raisin in the Sun. But to be able to experience it at the venue you did would have been a 'priceless experience'.

I as well as all the rest of us, I guess, have experienced so much stuck on stupid by white folks and their ignorance towards blacks that to be able to see the reaction to the play in person would have been as big a thrill as anything I could think of.

But you are a master story teller my brother. I got the picture loud and clear.

BigmacInPittsburgh said...

I love seeing white folk in the setting you were in,but it won't do any good looking for them to change their hearts.

CareyCarey said...

Hello,

I write these kinds of posts not as an indictment of white people, it's just a reflection of my day. Cuz, on many levels I have just as many concerns with my own race. Come on now, yawl know what I'm talking about.

But I have to admit that I do get a special kind of thrill when they have to meet me eye to eye. Since most of them do not live in our world (or have to be around us), they do not really know us, consequently, I seem to intimidate some of them. To some degree, I think it has a lot to do with their vision of a black person, not matching the black man standing in front of them (me).

On the real, we probably find ourselves on different sides of the street when it comes to humor, tolerance and acceptance. From my perspective, we seem to have a different sense of humor than them and we've had to tolerate some of their "views" and accept the fact that they, basically, are never going to change. Of course racism is in that mix.

Once I know what I am working with, I have no problem moving in, around, and away from that (if I have to).