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?