Black, White: the Cultural Collision

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Amiri Baraka's short story "Dutchman" is more complex than many. This story is more complex than many. Lula is a thirty-year old white woman that stereotypes males of the African American race and criticizes the African American culture. In "Dutchman", Lula stereotypes Clay, a twenty-year old man who is a representative of the form of assimilation practiced by many African Americans, a pursuit of white values and culture. Lula is able to observe and stereotype Clay due to his predictable bourgeois, or "white", ways. Lula observes his well educated speech- intellectual and middle-class, professional wardrobe- a narrow-shoulder, three-button suit and striped tie, and his whole demeanor. Throughout the story, Baraka demonstrates the cultural collision between two cultures, white and African American, through stereotype, racial oppression, and assimilation. The tone of the conversation is guided by the stereotype Lula has placed on Clay. She observes how Clay carries himself, in his three-button suit and striped tie, and his speech, an educated and middle-class dialect, and infers that he is trying to "white". While conversing with Clay, and truly knowing nothing about him, she ironically states familiarities in Clay's life. She claims, "I told you I didn't know anything about you…you're a well-known type." Lula's stereotypical ways are not just her own beliefs, but also the beliefs of the society- the modern day culture, both African American and white. Lula first stereotypes Clay then racially oppresses his culture. "Boy, those narrow-shoulder clothes come from a tradition you ought to feel oppressed by. A three-button suit. What right do you have to be wearing a three-button suit and striped tie? Your grandfather was a slave, he didn't go to Harvard." Lula feels that since Clay's ancestor was a slave, the common occupation of a black man in history for the African American culture, that he is not allowed to wear a nice suit and tie, the typical wardrobe of a...
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