A Tempest was written by Aime Cesaire in 1969. This play is based on The Tempest by William Shakespeare. The play revolves around the theme of European colonization; however, other controversial issues such as racism can be found throughout it. Racism can be defined as “a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior and has the right to rule others” (dictionary. com).
According to The Ball Curve: Calculated Racism and the Stereotype of African American Men, “In America, the most zealous proponents of racism profess that those of European descent are superior to African-Americans. They postulate that those of European descent alone have been endowed with the capacities necessary to bring about civilization” (104). America has had a long history of racism. It was and continues to be a part of the American society. For many years it has been Whites versus African-Americans, or a them against us kind of idea.
Racism has caused African-Americans: to fight, to be killed, to be treated unjust and to feel less than, amongst other things. Prospero is the main character in the play. He was once the duke of Naples, but he was dethroned by his brother. He ended up on an island occupied by Caliban, a Black man. He taught Prospero the land and then became Prospero’s slave. In his play A Tempest, Cesaire addressed African-American stereotypes of racism through his characters Prospero and Caliban. In Act I, Scene 2, Cesaire first introduced the readers to racism.
Caliban and Prospero were arguing with one another. Caliban accused Prospero of being a thief and Prospero charged Caliban of being ungrateful. Prospero: “…. I educated, trained, dragged up from bestiality that still clings to you. Caliban: “You didn’t teach me a thing!…. And as for your learning, did you ever impart any of that to me? No, you took care not to. All you science you keep for yourself alone, shut up in those big books. ” This statement is clearly racism when you look at the historical facts behind it.
White slave owners did not want to educate African-American slaves because they wanted to continue to manipulate them. During slavery it was unlawful for African-Americans to receive an education. Many were allowed to read, but learning to write was illegal. This made it difficult for slaves to communicate with one another. Asa G. Hilliard III wrote in the article Equal Educational Opportunity and Quality Education that in earlier times Europeans were intellectually dependent upon Africa. Africa has had major influences on the philosophy, religion, language and science of Europeans. 110) So in all actuallity it was the Africans that first taught the Europeans and in return the Europeans turned on them and taught them only what they wanted them to know. Cesaire proved this claim when Caliban told Prospero “I taught you the trees, fruits, birds, the seasons, and now you don’t give a damn…” Caliban taught Propsero everything he knew, which allowed him to adapt to the land. However, in return Prospero took the land from him and according to Caliban taught him how to “chop the wood, wash the dishes, fish for food, plant vegetables. Prospero manipulated Caliban forcing him to lose his idenity and everything he called his own. In the same section of the book, you can find another racial stereotype when Caliban described the place he is living in. Caliban: “Do I lie? Isn’t it true that you threw me out of your house and made me live in a filthy cave. The ghetto! ” Prospero: “It’s easy to say “ghetto”! It wouldn’t be such a ghetto if you took the trouble to keep it clean! ” Before this statement can be categorized as racism, one must understand the true meaning of the term ghetto.
A ghetto is said to be a section of a city mainly populated by members of an ethnic or minority group. So why did Prospero refer to Calibans living quarters as a ghetto? What does cleanliness have to do with it? This idea can be clearly stated as a racist comment. The belief that ghettos are dirty is a major stereotype that many Whites have about residencies mainly occupied by African-Americans. The cleanliness of a home has nothing to do with if they are living in a ghetto are not. Karl R.
Rasmussen argued about the offensive and uselessness of the word ghetto in the article titled The Multi-Ordered Urban Area: A Ghetto he wrote in the Pyhlon journal. The article was written in 1969, only a year after A Tempest was written. He referred to the term ghetto as “an oversimplification of social relationships and conditions. ” (282) This corresponds with Prospero and Caliban in the play. Prospero kicked Caliban out of the house and made him live alone in a cave, which forced him to become partially in social and live in a less than ideal condition. Consequently, the ghetto is colonized, policed by outside forces and exploited. It is pictured as a socially sick area in need of renovation and remediation” (Rasumssen, 283). Prospero compares to this quote because he is an outside force that looked at the cave as being dirty; therefore, it was to be considered a ghetto. Another idea of racist stereotypes that Cesaire draws to his readers is the idea that African-American men lust after White women when Prospero accused Caliban of trying to rape his daughter. Prospero: “Good God, you tried to rape my daughter. Caliban: “Rape! Rape!… I couldn’t care less about your daughter. ” The idea that African-American men have the desire to sleep with White women is a negative stereotype against African-American. In the article The Pure White Woman Stereotype by “Abagond” mentioned the concept that Whites viewed White women as pure in terms of sex and race. “If white women were pure, then black men were the threat. Thus the black brute stereotype, which saw black men as savages. ” Prospero’s daughter is considered pure because she was a virgin.
The brute stereo type is the portrayal of African-American men as” innately savage, animalistic, destructive, and criminal – deserving punishment, maybe death,” said Dr. Davis Pilgrim of Ferris State University. This quote directly relates to how Prospero viewed Caliban. He seen Caliban: as a savage by accusing him of trying to rape his daughter, as animalistic because animals are known to attack prey and his daughter was considered to be the prey, as destructive because raping his daughter would have destroyed her in a certain sense and a criminal because rape is a crime.
Caliban matched all of these characteristics according to Prospero, so to punish him he was put out of the house and ordered to sleep in a cave. This thought is not only considered racist it is also hypocrisy. It was actually more White men that desired the African-American women, when you look at the history of the relationships between slave owners and slaves. “Black men were kept from white women, but white men continued to rape black women without consequence” (Abagond). Racism is a theme that can be found in the play A Tempest.
It was a major issue in 1969 and today, thrity-nine years later it is still a problem African-Americans face. The examples that Cesaire used in the play to describe racism can still be used today as negative African-American stereotypes. Education is one of the most important issues. It has been said that Whites receive a better education than African-Americans. Although, some may see this statement as true you have to look further into why. Through research you can find that schools mostly populated by Whites have more resources available to them than those populated by African-Americas.
Many whites still refer to areas that might not be the cleanest, but are populated by mainly African-Americans as the ghetto. Lastly, interracial dating is now common in this society, many whites still can not stand the sight of their people with African-Americans. Unfortunately, A Tempest, can still be used to describe the way many Whites think about African-Americans. Although the times have changed, the racist thoughts of most have not. It is still a struggle for African-Americans in society today, to be considered equal and not inferior to the superior.