A the family from the South Side

A Raisin in the Sun
by Lorraine Hansberry was written and published in 1957. The play is set during
the 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 insurance
policy of their late father Walter Lee. There is a conflict amongst the family
members on how the money should be used. Lena Younger, the mother, wants to put
a down payment and move the family from the South Side of Chicago to the
predominantly white neighborhood of Clybourne Park. As one might conclude, an
African American family moving to a predominantly white neighborhood in the tail
end of the Jim Crow era America was taboo. 

The
topic of racism has been on the forefront of news and political campaigns for
years now. Racism in the 1950’s was much different, since it was outright and
without 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 The
Youngers move into Clybourne Park, Mr. Lindner comes to offer the Youngers
money in return for moving out. The Youngers refuse the deal, even after Walter
loses the rest of the money. Mr. Lidner says,

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‘I
want you to believe me when I tell you that race prejudice simply doesn’t enter
into it. It is a matter of the people of Clybourne Park believing, rightly or
wrongly, as I say, that for the happiness of all concerned that out Negro
families are happier when they live in their own communities.’ (pg. 117-118).

The
1951 Cicero riot, in particular, lasting several nights and involving roughly
two to five thousand white protesters, attracted worldwide condemnation. By the
end of the 1950s, with African Americans residential presence somewhat more
firmly established, the battleground in many South Side neighborhoods shifted
to clashes over African American attempts to gain unimpeded access to neighborhood
parks and beaches, according to Encyclopedia of Chicago1 . As one can see, there
was a much more outspoken attempt of showing racism. In current times, racism
is shown through the institutions that people were raised to trust and is much
more subtle, but when outed still nothing to be done about it. A May 2014 study2 conducted by the Center
for Economic and Policy Research depicts how today African-Americans are twice
as 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 of
employment, Jamele Hill was called to have her position, as co-host of ESPN’s
SportsCenter, pulled after tweeting about President Trump being a “white
supremist”. Yet when The President of the United States of America rants on the
social media outlet using what might be perceived as racial undertones or
blatantly calling Nazi’s “fine people” he is not in jeopardy of losing his
livelihood. Simple, social behaviors are in favor of one and not the other due
to their outlook on race.

Racism
by dictionary definition is prejudice,
discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race
based on the belief that one’s own race is superior. Racism is not just a belief
but an action. The actions in 1950 were threats, along with bombings, and the
Youngers knew the history but took it upon themselves to set an example that
they cannot be scarred off, so they moved into their new home. Actions taken
today are the possibility of unemployment as a result of what one’s name
resembles; or having their employment suspended because one provided evidence
of a person of influence, being racist. A
Raisin in the Sun, more specifically Walter Lee, teaches the public
that one should not stand down or be intimidated for doing what society should
know is right and will cause a change, “And we have decided to move into our
house because my father – my father – he earned it for us brick by brick.” (pg.
148). Before A Raisin in the
Sun was published, Hansberry and her family were in the same position.
In Hansberry v. Lee, the family of the playwright fought to desegregate the
communities of Chicago. After this case was taken to court, the Fair Housing
Act was passed, and the installment of the Office of Fair Housing and Equal
Opportunity was established. This was a big step in terms of potential home
owners now being allowed to move into a neighborhood where before, fear of
being exiled due to their race was an actual thing to be considered. In
Hansberry’s personal life, her family took it into the hands of the law to get
the racist covenant overturned. One can use the book to teach history in a way
that 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 then
decide what to do with them. By the actions of The President of the United
States, short of encouraging the KKK marching in the streets, it is possible to
say that the cycle is about to begin.

To
conclude, A Raisin in the Sun by
Lorraine Hansberry addresses the issue of racism that was rampant in the
50’s and is even more so now in the 21st century. Americans have
also come to see the difference of it in the two different decades. One is much
more outwardly and without repercussion; the other is internalized and still
without repercussion, even when shown to the world. Americans have seen how it
affects the history of this country, why wait to see how it affects their
future when they can follow in the footsteps of Walter Lee and the Hansberry’s
and stop it before it becomes a norm. This is going to be an issue people will
always have to face because of ignorance but how they answer to it and how they
shut it down is what will define them as people.