Assimilation and Discrimination​- N’kele Brooks

In the start of Act Two Scene One of A Raisin in the Sun, Beneatha and Walter are around the house and it seems that they are reenacting in what they believe to be are “Africans in their natural habitat.” This started after Beneatha tried on an outfit that was given to her by her friend Asagai. “Walter— Do you hear the beating of the wings of the birds flying low over the mountains and the low places of our land— Beneatha OCOMOGOSIAY!” (79) To them, it seems like a harmless act of play amongst the two siblings. When observing this (keeping in mind of the events and interactions), it is evident that they created their own single story of African people. In The Danger of a Single Story, Adichie said, “The single story creates stereotypes. And the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.” (2009) What they were failing to realize was that Africa is not all about people dressing either half naked or in robes and talking about nature, struggle and in gibberish. They speak about things beyond that, dress in regular clothes and speak English along with their native language. They had assumed or listened to others who told them such a one-sided version of Africa, a place that their ancestors came from. It is evident here that the danger of a single story lives in everyone, no matter if you are the oppressed or not. This is why getting to know someone or a group of people is important because we too become a victim of a single story.

Patterns that seems to occur over and over again in the play are the ideas of discrimination and assimilation. As we spill over into Act II, Beneatha continues to address such patterns in her interaction with George, a wealthier black student that she attends school with. He comes from a family who is doing well in terms of finances and most likely lives in a better neighborhood than the Youngers. When he stops by to pick up Beneatha to go to a play, he is shocked and at first (he seemed to be) disgusted at her cutting her hair. Beneatha did this as a way to become “more in touch with her roots.” Due to his reaction, this caused her to say, “I hate assimilationist Negroes!” (81) George is the type of well-off person of color that doesn’t compare himself to poor people of color. It’s like he is better because he is wealthy like his race no longer becomes a factor in the world because he has wealth. This type of person seems to be on a way higher pedestal and some may feel they are as equal as white people due to their wealth.

Unfortunately, some will not associate with anyone that doesn’t share the same wealth as them. They rather assimilate and stick with white people rather than support those who are the same race but different economic status. This is evident when George responds to Beneatha by saying, “Let’s face it, baby, your heritage is nothing but a bunch of raggedy-assed spirituals and some grass huts!” (81) People like George fail to remember where their bloodline originates from. To him, he may not even see or recognize himself as Black to an extent. For him, his race is Black but because he is better off and financially doing better than the Younger family, some are brainwashed into thinking they are white or even as privileged as white people. In reality, when it all comes down to it, black people are black people in the eyes of conservative, racist white individuals.

What other people can we think of today that are like George, an individual that is black and well off, causing him to not even associate with poor people of color? Explain how.

Do you think it is right that George treats poor black people as other or acts like he is better than them? Why or why not?

18 thoughts on “Assimilation and Discrimination​- N’kele Brooks”

  1. I feel that George was being extremely disrespectful during his conversations at the Younger’s house. The way that he insulted Beneatha, a girl who he was taking out on a date to see a play, was disgusting. The fact that he treats other black people who are not as wealthy as him poorly, is not right whatsoever. I feel as if George may act the same way towards white people who may not be as wealthy as he is. I agree with your idea of some wealthy black people being brainwashed into thinking they are the pinnacle of society, above people of all colors due to their financial standing. Despite being harsh, Walters’ comments towards George were warranted in my opinion. “Why all you college boys wear them faggoty looking white shoes? “(83). Walter insults George’s appearance and his general status as a college student, giving him a taste of his own medicine.

    1. I love your reference to The Danger of a Single Story, while I was reading this section of the reading it was in the back of my mind. I feel as if when the two were dancing around and all dressed up they didn’t realize that they had believed and acted on what the single story they knew about. Most people don’t realize when they listen to a single story of what they know and this is what was happening in this scene. In my opinion George was very disrespectful in this scene with the way he responds to Beneatha when he sees what she did to her hair. When he saw her he said to her “What have you done to your head, I mean your hair” and goes on complaining about a lecture on African past. I definitely agree with you about George acting as if he was higher than everyone else. One quote from Act one that really stood out to me that goes along with this is “People are just people, whoever they are and all they want is a chance to be like other people.” Great job on your blog post I really enjoyed reading!

  2. The fact that you tied The Danger of a Single Story and Act Two Scene One together was such a smart idea. While reading the act it definitely stood out to me as well. When reading this scene, I immediately was thinking of how rude George was being. “Look, honey, we’re going to the theatre — we’re not going to be in it.. so go change, huh? (80) This one quote put a bad taste in my mouth from the beginning because I felt like he was mocking how Beneatha was dressed in the African robe. I believe if he saw a non-poor woman wearing the African robes, his response would have been much different. Great job with this post N’kele! I really loved reading your points you got from the text.

  3. I agree with your stances N’kele, and as Owen has stated in his comment, the way George conducts himself is only warranted in the context in what Walter says to him. When conversing with Beneatha, there is no excuse for the way he addresses her. The most infuriating moment of their conversation was when he called her eccentric and said that to be eccentric is to be natural. The definition of eccentric is: “(of a person or their behavior) unconventional and slightly strange.” Synonyms of eccentric include: unconventional, uncommon, abnormal, irregular, aberrant, anomalous, odd, queer, strange, peculiar, weird, bizarre, off-center, outlandish, and freakish. None of these words are flattering and I’ve personally been called eccentric in reference to my hair as well. It is demeaning and rude and typically said by someone who holds some type of fetish or stereotype regarding the way I look.

  4. While reading your blog, I found it very interesting that you had expanded on the danger of a single story. This topic being the basis of our class, it was important and effective to point out specific examples from the book. While reading the book, I had the same idea to look for those examples of a single story and incorporate what we had done in class. Walter was being very obnoxious and insulting when he mentioned Beneatha wearing black knee socks, calling them “funny”. On page 83, he says “They look as funny as them black knee socks Beneatha wears out of here all the time”. Walter and George are both being very disrespectful and are being extremely narrow minded when looking at the others. This is their single story and it is dangerous because they are being rude, insulting, and one sided. I definitely agree with your points on the danger of a single story and truly enjoyed reading your blog!

  5. George’s actions that were portrayed in Act II Scene I of A Raisin in the Sun, were very disrespectful and disgusting to Beneatha as they were going to see a play. Just because of the economic difference between Beneatha and George, doesn’t give him the right to depict her of the way she dresses. What makes it worse is that George is black himself, which lead to Beneatha making the statement “I hate assimilationist Negroes!” ( A Raisin in the Sun, 83). I really love how you incorporated The Danger of a Single Story by Chimamanda Adichie, it made me not quickly label George as a person who doesn’t integrate with his race by just reading this scenario, rather maybe he just doesn’t understand to the fullest extent his heritage and culture. Even though his statement to her was very disturbing, let’s not jump to quickly describe how he views black people. N’kele great job on this great job on this blog post and great job again including the speech by Chimamanda Adichie.

  6. The idea of a single story never occurred to me but that made perfect sense. While reading the scene of Bennie and Walter imitating what they felt their people “do”, it appeared obvious to me that they really didn’t know anything about their heritage. It makes me upset to think they had lost touch with their roots due to the slavery period.
    What turned me off from George was when he acknowledged Bennie’s hair by saying, “Oh don’t be so proud of yourself, Bennie- just because your hair looks eccentric.” (80) Eccentric is not a compliment, it’s an insult. Ruth really admired what Bennie did to embrace herself while George did not have one nice word. The worst part of it to me was that she was to go on a date with him, and still proceeded to as if he didn’t just humiliate her. Continuing that quote when he said “don’t be too proud” also spoke out to me. It’s as if he’s saying just because you feel good doesn’t mean you look good. He does feel superior to her and her family and I don’t think he cares what they think of him. He has more than them and doesn’t need their approval because he’s financially secure.

  7. As I read Act 2, Scene 1, and read this comment I couldn’t think of anything other than George, and how condescending he was towards the Younger family. George was extremely condescending towards Beneatha, whom he was about to take on a date, and also Walter Lee as well. I was astounded when George asked Bennie to change as he says “Look honey, we’re going to the theatre we’re not going to be in it … so go change, huh?” (80) As well as that, when Bennie is speaking passionately about her hatred towards “assimilationist Negroes”, George responds by belittling her feelings and saying ” Oh, it’s just a college girl’s way of calling people Uncle Toms but that isn’t what it means at all.” (81). He also is condescending towards Walter Lee, the male figure of the Younger family. Georges condescending tone and speech is due to his feelings towards his economic status. He treats poor black family’s with disrespect, and believes that he is better than them. George gloats about his trip’s to, and knowledge of New York City, in order to belittle the Younger family, boast about his economic status, and make the family feel shameful. Hansberry’s utilizes condescending comments in order to truly depict Georges character, and to make sure the audience know’s that he thinks he is above and beyond the Younger family, and their societal status.

  8. As a lot of us have mentioned before, the connection to “The Danger of a Single Story” really ties in the book with what we talked about the first week of class. The connections make a strong point in the case of George reacting to Bennie’s hair, and how Bennie and Walter were acting like what they thought was African culture. But even on small little details, I found that the play connects back to “The Danger of a Single Story”. On page 82, Ruth is talking to George, making small talk saying “Warm, ain’t it? I mean for September. Just like they always say about Chicago weather: If it’s too hot or cold for you, just wait a minute and it’ll change”. Even this small little detail connects back to Adichie’s speech when she is talking about her writing as a child. She says “All my characters were white and blue-eyed. They played in the snow. They ate apples. And they talked a lot about weather, how lovely it was that the sun came out” and later stating about living in Nigeria “And we never talked about the weather, because there was no need to”. This struck me as a big descriptor of George; because Ruth felt as though she had to talk about the weather just to have a conversation with him. Normally, that wouldn’t have even been relevant, but that was the only thing she could find to talk with George. It’s the small details like these that really drive home the “single story”. This was a great post, and the connections you made were spot on! Great job!

  9. In the Play A Raisin in the Sun I feel that George had acted in a way where he was superior to the others. A way in which he was way too good for them. I agree with what you said in your last paragraph that in todays society and throughout history people that are a higher status tend to stick with higher status people. The idea that they are above everyone and they cannot be touched, the idea that with money comes a great deal of arrogance. I think George or anyone in that matter, doesn’t have the right to tell someone how to dress especially when Beneatha is his date. George states to Walter “Thank you, I don’t really care for anything”(A Raisin in the sun, Pg. 83). This quote shows his lack of respect for himself and the others around him. This also goes to show that if you get one image in your head about a particular culture that thats the way you will perceive them and it showed strongly in A raisin in the Sun.

  10. I am so glad I’m not the only one who picked up on George’s behavior! He was so disrespectful that I was seething as I read. I can’t imagine how it made Ruth, Bennie, and Walter feel. I feel that in act II scene I we get to see George’s true character and his view of himself and others in contrast to the sort of polite fascade he portrayed in act I.

    He is shown to be proud of himself to the point where he sees even the smallest facts he knows that others don’t as superiority, “In New York standard curtain time is eight forty. (He is rather proud of this knowledge)” (82) Why would Ruth need to know standard curtain times in New York when she lives in Chicago?

    Then he is cold and rude to Walter, even if the man was wasted it was by no means an excuse to speak to him in such a manner. “(With boredom) Yeah- sometimes we’ll have to do that, Walter.” (84) and minutes later, “(looking at him with distaste, a little above it all) You’re all whacked up with bitterness, man.” (85) Everyone in the room can easily pick up on his tone and what he is thinking rather than saying and George makes no move to hide it. He doesn’t even try correct himself or deny it when he’s called out by Walter seconds later on both occasions.

    However the biggest show of husband character is definitely how he treats Beneatha, the woman he is there to take on a date for crying out loud. “Oh, don’t be so proud of yourself, Bennie- just because you look eccentric.” (80) and “Let’s face it, baby, your heritage is nothing but a bunch of raggedy-assed spirituals and some grass huts!” (81) being two of the biggest moments we see this.

    I know if anyone outwardly spoke to me in that manner there would be no date and he would be reviving the biggest backlash of his life no matter how wealthy or “proper” he is.

  11. I agree with your comments 100% N’kele, and I know many other students have said this already but I love how you connected The Danger of a Single Story into this, and the quote you used from that was excellent as well. When it comes to the issue with George I feel like he was very disrespectful and his comments weren’t warranted. When I first started to get an idea that George wasn’t going to be a nice fellow, was when he walked into the house and Walter greeted him with, “Black Brother!”. Immediately George responded with, “Black Brother, hell!”(pg.79), as he said that he gave me the impression that he didn’t really like the comment from Walter, and George’s comment was said with an attitude. Later on, George says, “Its an eight-thirty curtain. Thats just Chicago, though. In New York standard curtain time is eight forty.”(pg.82) Underneath the text it said (he is rather proud of his knowledge.) I feel like this comment was very cocky and arrogant, because he probably knew that Ruth and the family have never been to New York or knew the time difference; he goes on to brag that he goes a few times a year as well. This was a great piece of work N’kele you should be very proud!

  12. I completely agree with you in the sense that George thinks he is “above” or superior to the same people of his race. It is evident throughout Act II, scene one, as George portrays his stance on him being superior, while also degrading beneatha of her heritage, and hair-style. When George first noticed her hair the first thing he says is “What in the name of” and “What have you done” (Page 80). This shows his disapproval yes, but what really stood out to me was what he followed it up with in when he states that her heritage is “basically nothing”. I thought another example of George exemplifying his persona of being and feeling better than everyone was when Beneatha re-entered the scene wearing earrings, a dress, and natural hair. George was thrilled with her new founded “Natural-ness” and states “Well-hey, you look Great”(Page 85). What this showed me was that he is selfish and only started approving of Beneatha when she appeared more natural looking, which is what George wanted and recieved.

  13. I think you’re right about Beneatha and Walter having a single story of Africa. I think the scene is mostly played for laughs, given the commentary “and the mood shifts from pure comedy” (pg. 81 mine), but I think it also says a lot about how much their story of Africa, no matter how limited, means to them in that scene. In their story they are not living under constant oppression; they are royalty.
    I also think George’s actions are definitely motivated by classism, as upper class culture focuses a lot on what people will think. There’s also the matter of how George speaks to Beneatha and her family, even though George is well off and objectively more disconnected from them, he makes it look like Beneatha is more out of touch, saying of the word ‘assimilationist’, “Oh, it’s just a college girl’s way of calling people Uncle Toms — but that isn’t what it means at all.” (pg. 83). In that, George takes Beneatha’s use of academic language to describe her *own* experiences with oppression and makes her look like she can’t relate to her own family, while he can.

  14. I really liked the way you tied in Adiche’s The Danger of a Single Story. It fit really well this scene of A Raisin in the Sun because they are acting the way they believe Africans would act/wear/talk etc. I think everyone has some type of single story they believe in life just because they’ve never experience something. I thought the way George reacted to Beneatha’s hair was ridiculous. Not only was it ridiculous because he too is black and should understand that a haircut does not define a person. Any person in this situation would be extremely rude to say the things he said. I could tell that George really thought of himself as better than everyone else when Walter said “Hey black brother” and George responded with “Black brother, hell.” I think there are a lot of people in this world who see themselves as higher up for no reason.

  15. N’kele,
    This was a wonderfully written post. I enjoyed reading it. It brought up many relevant thoughts and ideas that are current issues in this country and other countries. When coming across the part of the story where Beneatha and Walter are acting foolish and pretending they know about African culture it made me feel embarrassed. Embarrassed because they were being facetious in their representations and trying to be funny. I think that as a country as a whole, we fall subject to thinking that things are funny when to certain people when in fact their actions can be insulting. In general everyone has their own ways of living and their own culture and who are we to judge the ways each group of people live? When it comes to minority groups in the United States, they are still not treated the way that white people are. The more aware that white people are to the fact that there is such a thing as white privilege, the greater chances to change this old and outdated way of thinking. The danger of a single story is a real concern, but the more people that take it into consideration and expand their horizons, the greater change the country can make towards understanding one another. Knowing what is happening around us is key to change, I believe that the music industry is a big culprit of making money and not associating with the lower class. Many musicians have the tendency to flaunt the fact that they have the nicest clothes and the biggest jewelry when instead of focusing on money, they could become the face of change. The music industry and musicians have more influence than they can imagine.

    In Georges case, it seems to me that he doesn’t even realize he is looking down upon people with less money than him. This behavior generally stems from the way someone was raised. If that is how their caregivers act, then without someone bringing to their attention that they speak with a negative connotation to people in a lower economic class then them, they may not even realize. George has a sense of entitlement, but by the way he is speaking, and the background we are informed of, he may not know any better. His family has assimilated into the American white culture so now his vision is clouded and he doesn’t even try to tap into his heritage, instead he omits it.

  16. The connection between Act II and The Danger of A Single Story was brilliant in this, it definitely came to mind for me as well when reading. It was a clear example that social status and wealth does not prevent someone from making a single story of something or someone else. I also was disgusted with the way George held himself above the Younger family. When George responded to Bennie’s outfit saying “Look honey, we’re going to the theatre we’re not going to be in it … so go change, huh?” (80), clearly offending her, it showed that he lacked respect for her and something she was passionate about. With this being the first comment he said to Benny before their date, I was taken aback at how easily he was able make his judgements and comments about what she was wearing rather than accepting the culture. N’kele, I truly loved this blog post! Great job!

  17. I feel like that George was extremely disrespectful toward the Youngers during his conversations in his own arrogant way. He does this a lot but mainly when he answer’s Ruth’s question about, going to New York, he just says “(Offhand) Few times a year.”(82) He really answers in a nonchalant way because he does not care for any others besides himself or people like-himself in a similar socio-economic status. He seems to disregard the Youngers and only focuses on Benetha, however once Benetha references anything George does not like or agree too, he seems to break her down or disregard her type of thinking and crafts his own single story about ancient ancestors. I like the quote that you mentioned saying, “Let’s face it, baby, your heritage is nothing but a bunch of raggedy-assed spirituals and some grass huts!”(81). It shows that George only cares about views or people that are similar to him.
    In regards to Walter and Benetha, I love how you referenced the single story and mentioned that “The single story creates stereotypes.”, because Walter and Benethas actions and words toward African heritage show that they have a single story view of African culture that they seem to believe in. Great Job!

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