In A Raisin in the Sun, why does Beneatha say that she is not on assimilationist and what does she mean?

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teachertaylor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Beneatha says that she is not an assimilationist in Act II Scene 1.  At the beginning of the scene, Beneatha is wearing the Nigerian traditional garb that Joseph Asagai has given her as a gift, and she is dancing to traditional music.  When George arrives to take her out on a date, Beneatha gets into an argument with him about his upper class values which she deems as "assimilationist."  By this, Beneatha means that she thinks that George has lost touch with his ancestral African roots and that he has conformed to American societal standards (here she implies that these standards are racially bound and based on "white" culture).  Beneatha thinks that she is more well-rounded person because she claims to understand her heritage.

That's correct, but in wearing her hair "naturally" she is assimilating to what Asagai thinks about her and to the african culture.

berthatasha | Student

Assimilation means that a particular group or race of people conform to the dominant race.  In this situation, Beneatha did not want to conform to the ways of whites.  Normally African American hair is very coarse and dry.  During this time period, many African American women straightened their hair with a hot comb or a perm.  They straightened their hair to be like the dominant race.  Beneatha did not want to have any parts of this.  So she decided to wear an Afro (wearing her hair naturally with no chemical products).  Beneatha believed that assimilation was wrong and wanted to be proud of her heritage.  I believe Asaiga somewhat influenced Beneatha since he was from Nigeria and they often had conversations about his homeland.  George Murchison would be considered an assimilationist because he talked 'proper';his fathered was successful; George himself was going to a prestigious college and they even had a maid, which was very unusual for a black family.

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A Raisin in the Sun

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