Where does a character from Fences speak for August Wilson on an African American issue?  

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The primary characters of Fencesare all suffering from the effects of poverty which are exacerbated by racial tensions in the United States. Much of the conflict of the play revolves around issues created by institutionalized racial policies. For example, Troy , the main character, feels as though he was...

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The primary characters of Fences are all suffering from the effects of poverty which are exacerbated by racial tensions in the United States. Much of the conflict of the play revolves around issues created by institutionalized racial policies. For example, Troy, the main character, feels as though he was robbed of his life's calling of playing Major League baseball. While he excelled in the Negro Leagues, segregation laws would not allow him to play in his time. Because of this, he has trouble coming to terms with his son's opportunities in the world of football, as he feels that the same success should have been his.

One of the most prominent quotes in Fences that speaks directly to the black experience in the United States is spoken by Troy in his significant baseball metaphor:

But... you born with two strikes on you when you come to the plate.

Troy uses this metaphor to emphasize a universal truth that Wilson seems to be trying to get across. This truth is simply that black persons do not have the opportunities and chances afforded to white persons in the United States. If life is a game of baseball, black people only get one chance to swing. If ever they make a mistake, they are doomed forever. This leads to Troys central philosophy that if one is defeated, they should "go down swinging."

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August Wilson’s play is set in a lower-income African American neighborhood where the characters are involved in numerous issues. The primary conflict in the play is between generations. Although some of the things that Troy and his son Cory argue about have a racial component, the father–son disagreement is fundamentally the same type that would likely have occurred in any low-income family of that time period. Another important conflict is internal, of Troy versus himself. As a loving father, he wants what is best for his son, but he is plagued by a sense of personal failure. This has translated into his conviction that he should encourage Cory to settle for second best rather than follow his dreams. This type of conflict also occurs in men of all races. The universal features of this play—and other Wilson plays—is one reason that they have appealed to diverse audiences for so long.

One aspect of the play that continues to affect African Americans is educational discrimination and the tracking of children into athletics. Cory’s dreams of playing professional football are unlikely to come true, as his father believes. The role of racism in those reduced chances remains strong although it has changed somewhat. Today a higher percentage of professional athletes are African American, but the number who are recruited for college play is far higher than their overall representation in the US population. Furthermore, they often enter college with less academic preparation than their white counterparts and consequently have less academic success, including a lower graduation rate.

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The play opens with a preface that speaks to the special/specific cultural experiences of African Americans. Also in the opening scene, Troy and Bono discuss the issue of unfair promotion practices at their place of work. 

Troy recounts the conversation he had with the management of the company as to why only white men are promoted and allowed to drive the garbage trucks. 

Troy asks, "Why you got all the white mens driving and the colored lifting?"

Troy is not satisfied with the answer he received, which was "take it to the union."

Telling Bono about the principle of his complaint, Troy says, "All I want them to do is change the job description. Give everybody a chance to drive the truck." The issue is one of unfair labor practices that discriminate against African Americans (and in favor of whites). 

Later, Troy makes claims about similar discrimination practices in professional baseball. 

We should be careful to note here that Fences is perhaps not as polemical in substance as it might seem on the surface. Wilson's play features a main character that rails against a system of discrimination and unfair policies, but he does so - at least in part - as a way to excuse his own failures and to evade guilt and/or responsibility. 

Troy does get promoted to the position of driver. When he does, we find out that he has no driver's license. Troy repeatedly claims that he was qualified for the big leagues of professional baseball, but Rose disagrees and points out that Troy was too old to play in the big leagues after getting out of prison (Act I: iii). By blaming the prejudice of the system, Troy attempts to gloss over his own role in determining the course of his life. 

"It is easier for Troy to blame a system that discriminates against black players than to admit that he lacked either the talent or the youth to play major league baseball" (eNotes). 

The fact that Troy does not have a license does not diminish or erase the seriousness of his claims that the workplace practices unfair promotion policies. The fact that Troy is dishonest about his own chances at playing major league baseball does not falsify his argument about discrimination in professional sports. The result of this combination of facts is a complex image of how an individual's response to life's challenges (race-related and otherwise) can become a psychological knot of resistance and resentment and self-exoneration. 

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