The Racist Acts of Karl Lindner

Throughout the play “A Raisin in the Sun” by Lorraine Hansberry the Younger family is no stranger to racism.  In Act II, Scene III there is a reference of the covertly racist society in which the Youngers are a part of.  Karl Lindner, Chairman of the New Neighbors Orientation Committee, stops by for a visit.  From the stage directions the reader/audience can tell he is noticeably nervous about what he is going to say yet continues on with a friendly disposition. While in the Younger’s household, Lindner attempts to buy out the family from moving into their new home because it happens to be in a white neighborhood where the residents don’t like the thought of a black family residing amongst them. Before he even gets to tell the family his offer, Walter tells him to get out of his house. 

Not only does this man not realize the impact of his actions towards this family, but he is also blinded by the systematic racism that he feels he is doing the family a favor by stopping in to talk. While taking Adichie’s, “The Danger of a Single Story” into consideration, Lindner is very ignorant to the fact that his single story of the Youngers being an African American family encourages racism. On page 119, Lindner says, “People can get awful worked up when they feel that their whole way of life and everything they’ve worked for is threatened.” This statement, for many reasons, is extremely ironic. 

It is ironic because Lindner is completely unaware of who the Youngers are as individuals. He isn’t aware that Walter spends his days as a chauffeur for a stuck up white man just to put food on the table for his family. He doesn’t know Beneatha personally, which makes him oblivious to the fact that she is a hardworking student with the dream of becoming an esteemed doctor. He doesn’t know Mama, who works her tail off trying to improve living standards for her loving family after the loss of her husband. All he knows is their skin color. He sees that they are black and sees this as a threat to his community. The irony of what Lindner says is that he, with that single statement, justifies the Youngers to get enraged by his offer. Walter, Beneatha, and Ruth could have given Lindner an earful about who they were, or how hard they have worked for the success of their family. They have worked endlessly in an attempt to make their lives a little more convenient and comfortable, then this man comes in trying to take all away. Their hard earned money, and right to a better living standard is being threatened by their soon to be “community”. 

The thing that catches my eye the most is Lindner’s final line on page 119. “You just cant force people to change their hearts, son”. By Lindner saying this, it means he is well aware that what he is doing is wrong; he is allowing racism to overrule his character and moral judgement. Lindner is excusing the white community by saying you can’t change people for what they think. This is still relevant in our own society today. Many people justify racism with the fact that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, or that some people are just racist and theres nothing to be done about them; this mentality only hinders society from progression.

I feel that the Younger family should be proud of themselves for looking racism in the eye and fighting back in the simplest of ways. In this time frame it was difficult enough for African Americans, so for them to encounter racism and not budge on their beliefs is very notable. 

How do you think the Younger family feels after their encounter with Mr. Lindner?  Do you think the family should have considered the money offer for the house?

8 thoughts on “The Racist Acts of Karl Lindner”

  1. I completely agree with your points. Mr. Lindner is extremely ironic in almost all of the things he says to the Younger family. One thing the said stood out to me greatly: “We feel that most of the trouble in this world, when you come right down to it…most of the trouble exists because people just don’t sit down and talk to each other,”(Pg 102). However he does the complete opposite. The way he decides to try to “sit down and talk” with them is by trying to pay them off for the house. He doesn’t at all try to understand the Younger family in the ways he says people should. After the encounter with Mr. Lindner, the family doesn’t seem quite threatened- they honestly just joke about it. I think the family did the right thing by declining the money offer for their new house. It feels like the time in the book where the family is beginning to fight back for what they want. Its almost as if scene III is a turning point for the Youngers.

  2. I also agree with your comments, and I think that the Younger family probably feels like they are being attacked and clearly discriminated against. Personally, the quote that Mr. Linder says on page 119, when he refers to the Younger family as “you people” is a clear attack (Linder: Well- I don’t understand why you people are reacting this way.) But after their talk, the family joked about the statements he made and moved past it. If I was in that same situation, I do not think I would have reacted the same way because they were able to keep it together while I think I would lose my mind.

  3. Hi Mikey,
    Great post! The scenes including Lindner are loadedddd with meaning when looking closely at both racism and the quality of the characters in this play. Your mention of continued racist issues to the present day ties perfectly with the rationale of Hansberry for setting the play’s time period as she does: “Sometime between World War II and the present” (24). You support her accurate prediction that the issues presented in this play wouldn’t be extinct in the near future.
    Though it is shocking to read the scenes in which Lindner weakly attempts to speak to the Youngers as his equals, their reaction to him assuages any sympathy a reader may begin to feel for them. In response to your first question, the Youngers are unfazed by Lindner’s visit. They even joke around about the potential “concerns” of their white soon-to-be community on page 121:

    Beneatha: What they think we going to do–eat ’em?

    Ruth: No, honey, marry ’em.

    Their comedic attitudes after Lindner leaves let readers know that the Youngers have ultimately found Lindner and his offer to be funny. While what Lindner was trying to do could be hurtful and offensive under the circumstances, by responding in this lighthearted manner, the Youngers are showing their strength and pride in being a black family.

  4. After the encounter with Mr. Linder, I think the Younger family feels like everyone in the neighborhood has it out for them, but they continue to wear their pride on their sleeves. Regardless of what Linder says to them, they still stick together and end up making jokes to Mama about his inappropriate comments toward the family. After Linder says, “Negro families are happier when they live in their own communities” Beneatha responds sarcastically, “This, friends, is the Welcoming Committee!” (118). She does this in order to show Linder that the family is not threatened by anyone regardless of their race or social status. I don’t think the family should have considered the money because it will prove the point that those of a higher status can control where those of a lower class live and the choices they make.

  5. Hi Mikey,
    I think your blog post had a plethora of truly significant points about racism and discrimination in this particular scene of the play. Personally, it does not surprise me that this family does not let the encounter with Mr.Lindner stop them from doing what they want. Throughout this entire play, the Younger family constantly pushes back the limitations they are given by society. In this scene, Karl is trying to convince the Younger family that this encounter is not built on race or prejudice but more the happiness of the white people. He states “I don’t understand why you people are reacting this way. What do you think you are going to gain by moving into a neighborhood where you just aren’t wanted and where some elements-well-people can get awful worked up when they feel that their whole way of life and everything they’ve ever worked for is threatened”(119). Karl basically tells them in these lines that they are obviously unwanted in a white neighborhood due to the color of their skin. He does not understand why they would want to disrupt the “order of society” because white people should stay in their neighborhoods and black people should stay in theirs. However, this mind set is honestly disgusting and to have a family attempt to step outside of this “universal” perspective is inspiring. The Younger family continues to show how strong their are together given all the other adversities they are overcoming.

  6. Mikey,
    I really like that you brought up the innate cynicism of Linder. The quote you pulled from him “You just can’t force people to change their hearts, son” brings the complexity of the heart into play. The core of the body. This statement is a warning. To the Youngers, I believe this to be a challenge. As stong figures in this narrative, they don’t take racial profiling lightly. Even though there is money involved, which seems to be the core plot of their struggles, they literally laugh at the fact, “(She[Benetha] is smiling, teasingly). . . (WALTER and RUTH giggle). . . (Laughter).” So this tension is quickly diffused by the Youngers family bond and sweeps away the struggles they have all faced with one another.

  7. Mikey,
    I loved how you were able to bring in the idea of a single story, and justly so. Lindner refuses to see that the Younger family are respectable, hard working, and genuine. Lindner, as well as the people in the community, do not want to acceot the idea of change and diversity amongst the Clybourne Park. He claims he is apart of a “welcoming committee,” but nothing he says is welcoming. He says, “Well – it’s what you might call a sort of welcoming committee, I guess. I mean they, we – I’m the chairman of the committee – go around and see the new people who move into the neighborhood and sort of give them the lowdown on the way we do things out in Clybourne Park.” He states, “the way we do things,” but really, he is saying “the way WHITE people do things.” He sees the Youngers as seperate from their community.

  8. Hi Mikey!
    This scene is, from my point of view, the most complex one out of the scenes we have read so far. First of all because it starts presenting the situation in a more positive way (moving day, Ruth and Walter seem to be in a better place…) and also, because two conflicts are presented: the incident with Mr. Lindner and Walter’s investment and loss of the insurance money.
    Focusing now on the first conflict so as to bring the theme of racism, I have to start by saying that I loved the way you brought into context Adichie’s “The Danger of a Single Story”, it is obvious that Mr. Lindner is not conscious about what the Younger Family had to suffer or how they had to live in the past just to being able to try to get a better life for the family, he is only focusing on his part of the story, the one of a white man living in a neighborhood with only white people that are full of prejudices against black people. This is seen, of course, in the dialogue between them, as you pointed out, in page 119, but I would also highlight the part where Mr. Lindner refers to them as “you people”, I see this as a direct attack against the family, not only because of the racist connotations it has, but because he is also treating them as ignorant people, who should have taken the “advice” of selling the house in another (better) way:

    Well – I don’t understand why you people are reacting this way

    Of course, I want to point out also the hypocrisy Mr. Lindner demonstrates when he states “I want you to believe me when I tell you that race prejudice simply doesn’t enter into it” (p118), when, of course, race prejudice is the motive the neighbors have when they don’t accept the Younger Family.

    Finally, even though I totally understand the disappointment they feel because they are not welcome to the new neighborhood, I love how they react, sticking together and, somehow, joking about the situation when they tell Mama the news, or even taking the conversation with Mr. Lindner in a less serious way, and responding to it ironically, as Beneatha says in page 118: “This, friends, is the Welcoming Committee”.

    I totally agree with their decision of not accepting the money, somehow, they are rebelling against that racist social order presented in society, they are proud of who they are, they do not feel intimidated, and, at this point, they are starting to fight together for what they believe and for what they want.
    I would like to end up by highlighting Walter’s words when Lindner offers them the money, showing their definitive position to the offer:

    “We don’t want to hear no exact terms of no arrangements. I want to know if you got any more to tell us ‘bout getting together?”

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