What is a good position to take on the complexity of race in Wilson's Fences?

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

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Race and racism are both elements in Wilson's drama.  Yet, I think that he presents the issue of racism in a very unique light.  Wilson suggests that while the issue of race and racial identity are critical to understanding one's place in the world, the defining issues of modern consciousness seem to transcend the issue of race.  Consider that Troy is a victim of modern racism and the closing of opportunities and doors that might have been open to him had he been of another race.  Troy's fear of death and the consciousness of his own mortality is something that exists outside the confines of race and racism.  Troy's building of fences, in the hopes of warding off death, exist outside race.  This helps to bring out the idea that the preoccupation with racism is something of importance in the temporal realm.  Yet, in terms of understanding the eternal constructs, racism becomes insignificant.  Another example of this would be Troy's failures as a father.  While race is a part of this sad dialogue in that Troy's own denial of dreams were impacted by racism, the inability to relate to his son is something that exists outside the dialogue of racial identity.  It is something tragically human in that fathers and sons lack the vocabulary to understand one another.  Here again, the issue of racial identity is seen in the temporal and in the contingent, but in the larger configuration of human relationships, the role of race is not as important.  This is a complex view of race, one that both elevates it and deescalates it simultaneously.

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