Re-visiting Racial discrimination and an encounter with female chauvinism in Dutchman

In Dutchman (1964), Leroi Jones brings into life racial oppression of the past times through the demonstration of intolerance and hatred of the coloured skin, which seems to be still prevalent in America. The play showcases the interaction between two characters, – one, a Black man, Clay and another, a white woman, Lula. Lula, who eventually chastises the Black younger man (Clay), and finally kills him, is portrayed like a white man actively engrossed in diminutive acts of racial discrimination, and also as a female chauvinistic person. Jones embarks on these powerful elements for the purpose of recalling the kind of oppression African Americans faced at the hands of the white America. Indentifying with the predicament of the blacks in a system like this, Jones recreates the menacing pathetic life of the black Americans, probably with intentions to bring into notice the oppressive practices still prevalent in the American society. 

Lula eventually calls herself Hyena, which has the significance of  ‘dominating’, ‘powerful’, ‘oppressive’ ‘fox-like’ attributes, in the African Folk tales. Lula, even though a white woman, uses the ways of a ‘hyena’ against the seemingly innocent Clay. Lula evidently controls the conversation, continuously attacking Clay and challenging his racial status. Lula says, “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.” (18). The offensive discrimination is in action by Lula when she furthers her comments and says, “And you went to a coloured college where everybody thought they were Averell Harriman. […] And who did you think you were? Who do you think you are now? […] I bet you never once thought you were a black nigger. […] A black Baudelaire.” (18, 19). She continues verbally insulting and instigating Clay which reminds of the ages of discrimination prevalent in the society like this.

Clay seems to be moulded at the hands of Lula, and is hence, clearly dwarfed in stature by Lula. In her chauvinistic ways, very much like an agitator, Lula assesses Clay adhering to patriarchy, which is however, ironically veiled from Clay. Lula challenges Clay’s masculinity by teasing him, pushing him towards a reaction that could be the revelation of his masculinity, but without revealing her own dangerous elements to him. She insults him calling him, “You black son of a bitch. […] You’re afraid of white people. And your father was Uncle Tom Big Lip!” (32, 33). And finally Clay reacts and slaps her. Jones makes it evident that however strong the black masculinity may be, it loses its prowess when encountered with the cunning hyena-like ways of the new system.

Through Lula and Clay, Jones represents the new American system and the suppressed minority respectively, drawing attention to the brutal racial discrimination that is still prevalent in different forms in the American society.  

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