Crumbs from the Table of Joy

by Lynn Nottage

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Is Ermina's remark about racial living arrangements justified in Crumbs from the Table of Joy?

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Ermina's remark that "It ain't normal for a white lady to be living in a house with colored folks" appears to be justified by the events of Crumbs from the Table of Joy.

Ermina is speaking out of hostility, but her remark is descriptive rather than normative. The action of...

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the play takes place in Brooklyn in 1950, and the playwright makes clear that the Crump family's living arrangements are not in fact normal for this place and time. This is most brutally demonstrated by the physical assault on Godfrey which occurs when he dares to appear in public with Gerte.

The point is more subtly demonstrated throughout the play by the constant tension created by Gerte's presence in the Crump household. This is certainly not caused directly by Gerte, and the audience may conclude that it is the result of Ermina and Ernestine's personal hostility. However, another interpretation is that Gerte, while kindhearted and well-intentioned, simply cannot understand the Crumps and the systemic racism from which they suffer. The playwright suggests that, without any personal racism on Gerte's part, racially based thinking poisons society to such an extent that she cannot live harmoniously in a Black family.

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