What does Baraka have to say about white women in his play Dutchman?

In his play Dutchman, Baraka flips the stereotypical narrative of Black men endangering white women and instead depicts a white woman attempting to sexually exploit and ultimately killing a Black man. In doing so, Baraka shows how socially-constructed views of white women as saint-like are wrong, and that white women play a direct role in perpetuating racism in America.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In his play “Dutchman,” Amiri Baraka deconstructs long-held social conceptions of white women in an effort to set Black men free from the destructive constraints of white women's association with purity. Throughout the history of the United States, Black men have been stereotyped as threats to white women. These false stereotypes have reinforced the historic portrayal of white women as a symbol of fragile purity and ideal beauty.

In “Dutchman,” Amiri Baraka flips this narrative and instead features an aggressive white woman attempting to sexually exploit a Black man. In doing this, Baraka suggests that the historic narrative of white women as passive, saintly people who need protection is wrong. He points out that white women have always played an active role in racism against Black people in America.

Clay reflects on what is necessary for Black liberation and says to Lula that “the only thing that would cure the neurosis would be your murder.” Here he argues that Black men could never be free unless they actually did enact the violence against white women that they are so often falsely accused of. “I mean if I murdered you, then other white people would begin to understand me,” he continues. Although he ultimately chooses to say “safe” with his words and be ignorant of the complexities of racism, his warning that one day Black people will "murder you 
have e
 your own" makes Lula say that she's "heard enough."

In the end, Lula kills Clay, suggesting that the assimilation of Black men to how white people see them continues a cycle of white violence against Black men. Recall how at the end of the play, another Black man gets on the train. This suggests that white women play a critical role in perpetuating this cycle of violence.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial