A Raisin in the Sunby Lorraine Hansberry was written and published in 1957. The play is set duringthe 1950’s in the Chicago neighborhood of Woodlawn. A Raisin in the Sun revolves around the Youngers family,which receives an insurance check for a sum of $10,000 from the life insurancepolicy of their late father Walter Lee.
There is a conflict amongst the familymembers on how the money should be used. Lena Younger, the mother, wants to puta down payment and move the family from the South Side of Chicago to thepredominantly white neighborhood of Clybourne Park. As one might conclude, anAfrican American family moving to a predominantly white neighborhood in the tailend of the Jim Crow era America was taboo. Thetopic of racism has been on the forefront of news and political campaigns foryears now. Racism in the 1950’s was much different, since it was outright andwithout repercussion. Today’s racism is much more snide and institutionalized;snide meaning that it is mocking the years of progression. In A Raisin in the Sun, when TheYoungers move into Clybourne Park, Mr. Lindner comes to offer the Youngersmoney in return for moving out.
The Youngers refuse the deal, even after Walterloses the rest of the money. Mr. Lidner says, ‘Iwant you to believe me when I tell you that race prejudice simply doesn’t enterinto it. It is a matter of the people of Clybourne Park believing, rightly orwrongly, as I say, that for the happiness of all concerned that out Negrofamilies are happier when they live in their own communities.
‘ (pg. 117-118).The1951 Cicero riot, in particular, lasting several nights and involving roughlytwo to five thousand white protesters, attracted worldwide condemnation.
By theend of the 1950s, with African Americans residential presence somewhat morefirmly established, the battleground in many South Side neighborhoods shiftedto clashes over African American attempts to gain unimpeded access to neighborhoodparks and beaches, according to Encyclopedia of Chicago1 . As one can see, therewas a much more outspoken attempt of showing racism. In current times, racismis shown through the institutions that people were raised to trust and is muchmore subtle, but when outed still nothing to be done about it. A May 2014 study2 conducted by the Centerfor Economic and Policy Research depicts how today African-Americans are twiceas likely to not be employed compared to the rest of their peers in their age range,even though they have both gotten the same level of education. On the topic ofemployment, Jamele Hill was called to have her position, as co-host of ESPN’sSportsCenter, pulled after tweeting about President Trump being a “whitesupremist”.
Yet when The President of the United States of America rants on thesocial media outlet using what might be perceived as racial undertones orblatantly calling Nazi’s “fine people” he is not in jeopardy of losing hislivelihood. Simple, social behaviors are in favor of one and not the other dueto their outlook on race. Racismby dictionary definition is prejudice,discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different racebased on the belief that one’s own race is superior. Racism is not just a beliefbut an action. The actions in 1950 were threats, along with bombings, and theYoungers knew the history but took it upon themselves to set an example thatthey cannot be scarred off, so they moved into their new home. Actions takentoday are the possibility of unemployment as a result of what one’s nameresembles; or having their employment suspended because one provided evidenceof a person of influence, being racist. ARaisin in the Sun, more specifically Walter Lee, teaches the publicthat one should not stand down or be intimidated for doing what society shouldknow is right and will cause a change, “And we have decided to move into ourhouse because my father – my father – he earned it for us brick by brick.
” (pg.148). Before A Raisin in theSun was published, Hansberry and her family were in the same position.
In Hansberry v. Lee, the family of the playwright fought to desegregate thecommunities of Chicago. After this case was taken to court, the Fair HousingAct was passed, and the installment of the Office of Fair Housing and EqualOpportunity was established. This was a big step in terms of potential homeowners now being allowed to move into a neighborhood where before, fear ofbeing exiled due to their race was an actual thing to be considered.
InHansberry’s personal life, her family took it into the hands of the law to getthe racist covenant overturned. One can use the book to teach history in a waythat if society does not learn history then the future is doomed to repeat it.History goes on to teach the outcomes of resistance methods for one to thendecide what to do with them. By the actions of The President of the UnitedStates, short of encouraging the KKK marching in the streets, it is possible tosay that the cycle is about to begin.Toconclude, A Raisin in the Sun byLorraine Hansberry addresses the issue of racism that was rampant in the50’s and is even more so now in the 21st century. Americans havealso come to see the difference of it in the two different decades. One is muchmore outwardly and without repercussion; the other is internalized and stillwithout repercussion, even when shown to the world. Americans have seen how itaffects the history of this country, why wait to see how it affects theirfuture when they can follow in the footsteps of Walter Lee and the Hansberry’sand stop it before it becomes a norm.
This is going to be an issue people willalways have to face because of ignorance but how they answer to it and how theyshut it down is what will define them as people.