Jason Williams's Reviews > Dutchman & The Slave

Dutchman & The Slave by Amiri Baraka
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M 50x66
's review
Aug 11, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: afro-americas-fiction
Read from December 18 to 26, 2010

If the reader knows what to look for, s/he can see the *infrapolitics* of the civil (or, human) rights and black power movements, movements that in some ways transcended race but in most cases (as Jones shows) did not and could not. In both plays, we have portrayals of "blacks acting white" and "whites acting black" (or at least white liberals pretending to be down); each group ultimately is forced to confront the discourses that established "whiteness" and "blackness" in the first place, and in the end they rely heavily on those binaries instead of dissolving them. There is overlap between biology/physiognomy and culture--the Being and the Performance of racial identity--but I think what I like best about these plays is the way Jones underscores the tension wherein, whether the discussion was biological or cultural (and it was never explicitly or singularly one or the other), a definitive choice had to be made because to truly entertain ambiguity was to upset the social and moral order. Servitude, autonomy, sexuality and exoticism expressed through a metalanguage of race, and the only way to go was violence.

Set it in context with The Last Poets. Check out Robin Kelley's Race Rebels. Have fun with it. I did.

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