How is dehumanization portrayed in The Dragon Can't Dance?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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One way in which dehumanization is portrayed in The Dragon Can't Dance is through skin color.

Skin color is a distinct means of showing dehumanization. This dehumanization is rooted in a historical condition where lighter skin color was viewed as an entitlement. Those who were of darker skin color were dehumanized.  They were viewed as subservient. Their voices were marginalized, pushed to the side of social interaction.  Lovelace writes that the dehumanization resulting from skin color is an essential component of the people of the Hill.  He likens their story to the plum tree that  “battled its way up through the tough red dirt and stands now, its roots spread out like claws, gripping the earth."  The darker a person's skin color is, the more looked down they are, the more dehumanization they experience, and the more they must struggle to be heard.

One example of this can be seen in Miss Cleothilda.   Being a Mulatto of lighter skin tone, she dehumanizes those who are darker than she is.  She sees herself as Queen of the Band both literally and figuratively in large part because of her lighter skin tone:  “To her being queen was not really a masquerade at all, but the annual affirming of a genuine queenship that she accepted as hers." During Carnivale, she claims that “All o’ we is one.”  However, Carnivale, she will continue to mistreat other people.  She will go back to her dehumanizing ways. Her attitudes represent a way in which the historical condition of dehumanization is portrayed.

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