Black culture in the United States and African culture are both grounded on the suffering that Les Negres, the Black have suffered in the hands of Les Blancs, the Whites. The play Les Blancs illustrates a White man’s experience in Ztembe, a fictitious sun Saharan African country, which was under the colonization of the Whites. I have realized Black Aesthetics is about the suffering of black people and how this has influenced their identity.
This draws the curiosity of the identity of the people of African descent before the interference of the brutal White People. In my interest, I have a thought experiment on whether Africans would brutalize White people for decades if the White people were the less advanced culture. This is a reflection paper on the play “Les Blancs” by Lorraine Hansberry and the connection between culture, segregation, suffering, and the identity of the people of African descent.
Today, black people in Africa and the diaspora have been treated as second-class citizens after the Whites brutalized them. As the title of the play suggests, White people may be the cause of most of the African’s suffering over the years. They developed art around suffering, making it part of their identity. To contextualize the play, one must understand the playwright, Lorraine Hansberry.
She is an African American woman raised in Chicago during the latter years of the Jim Crow era. So, why would an African-American woman in the Jim Crow era create a play based in Sub-Saharan Africa in a timeline that seems to be before the 19th Century? I think it is because of the connection of the Africans in Africa and the diaspora, principally the United States. They have all suffered discrimination and covert and overt brutality from the White people.
Therefore, black people should never forget that they are connected to the African continent as their motherland. Ignoring this fact would cost them their identity. Furthermore, this makes her work more relevant in combating segregation in the United States and colonialism in Africa.
White people might cause many problems that black people have suffered over the past century or more. For example, as illustrated in the play, the African villages were forced into idolizing the White man, Rev Neilsen. To justify their position as brutes, the White people presented themselves as supernatural beings. This took advantage of the ignorance of the villagers. This shows that the white people used their religion to convince the Africans of their divinity.
The playwright seems to suspect that the superiority of the White people is partially unconscious, something I would blame on the fact that their culture is relatively more advanced than that of the Africans. The differences in skin color and boundaries of “the other” thus justify receiving treatment like lesser human beings. Being a black activist, the playwright recognizes the benefits of both formal and informal education, which enables the character Tshembe to question the deeds of his fellow white people.
In conclusion, I think that Lorraine Hansberry uses the character Tshembe to say that it is white people’s work to call out their fellow white people for systemic and overt racism. Furthermore, just like her, black people should provide the curious white people with various forms of racism in society. I, however, did not understand how Lorraine Hansberry’s identity as a black lesbian may have affected her perspective as the playwright in Les Blancs.
Les Blancs References
Williams, D. A. (2021). Les Blancs by Lorraine Hansberry. Theatre Journal, 73(1), 87-89.