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A Raisin in the sun is a popular play by Lorraine Hansberry, first shown in 1959. The drama follows the life of the Youngers; an African-American family, living in the south side of Chicago. In Act One, the Youngers acquire a substantial (at least back then) amount of money while the family of five is congested in a one-bedroom apartment. As the play progresses, the Youngers are unable to agree on a suitable purpose for the money. The family eventually moves into a bigger, brighter dwelling in a predominately white neighborhood, hoping to improve their quality of life as the new neighborhood provides a stark contrast to that of Chicago's south side. The theme of Raisin is comparable to the essay, American Girl, which is a biographical account of the life of Michelle Obama and her family, and the way growing up in Chicago's south side affected her life.
The South Side of Chicago has both a negative and positive influence on its people. That influence, with the help with the good family, shaped the remarkable woman Michelle Obama has become.
Walter Lee, the main character of Raisin in the Sun, falls into the negative label of the stereotypical black male. He is a no-good, disrespectful, immature young adult who doesn't take responsibility for his actions. He grew up in south side Chicago and living in poverty caused him to dislike whites and blame the majority of his problems on them.
Living in a society as a minority is tough, and it is sometimes easiest to cope by totally following the culture and ways of the majority. One such character, George, had a tendency to acclimatization to white culture. He enjoyed their life style and riches while he looked down on his own heritage. George Murchison is an "assimilationist negroe". A quote of Beneatha's, from the Raisin in the Sun, explains the term assimilationist negroe. "It means someone who is willing to give up his own culture and submerge himself completely in the dominant and in this case oppressive culture!" The side of Chicago that George Murchison saw was the white one and this influenced him to immerse himself within it, wearing the majority mask.
Being bilingual, good at more than one sport and ambidextrous are all examples of advantage. Being able to switch from one society to another is an advantage some minorities have over others. This skill is what led Obama in the white house and it's a skill Beneatha has as well. She is a college student who hopes to become a physician, though she is still in touch with her black heritage. "I am going to be a doctor and everybody around here better understand that!" Beneatha said, demonstrating her desire for success. She grew up in a difficult situation but still managed to grow up with the ability to comingle in multiple cultures.
People like Michelle Obama and Beneatha can grow up in a place like Chicago's south side, and still rise above inherent challenges and float above the crop. This can be attributed to their upbringing and personal desires to succeed despite the odds. In support of this concept, Lena Younger, Beneatha and Walter Lee's mother, was the foundation of her family's success. She worked tirelessly at her job to keep her family comfortable, and maintain a roof over their heads. She uses all of her money to buy a house in hopes that her unborn grandchildren will have a legacy and a better life than she. Influences with this potency commonly produce exceptional adults, i.e. Michelle Obama and the fictional Beneatha.
In the essay, "American Girl," Chicago's south side is depicted as arguably the country's largest black enclave. It has its slums but up from this come the people that make it what it is; a place where success can be found. This is sometimes hard to believe because of the large amount of negativity often associated with this area. However, you'll find that those blacks who take the third road: the road of code-switching, are the ones who make the Southside Chicago what it is and influence others to follow in their paths. Code-switching is being able to go from one group to another as is the case with Beneatha. The Robinson family is an example of code-switchers and the reason Michelle Obama was anticipated from the south side of Chicago.
"American Girl" frequently refers to Michelle's family and the impact and contribution they have made in her life. She had a good upbringing, with a two-parent home, a stay-at-home mother who helped mold her into the woman she is today. "I'm a working woman. I'm a daughter. I'm a sister. I'm a best friend. But the one role that I cherish the most that you've come to know is that role of a mom," Michelle Obama shares in American Girl. This quote is a result of the mother she watched as youth into her adulthood.
Michelle Obama knows the importance of motherhood, as it is part of what shapes her. Though she is multifaceted and has many roles, her motherhood is the role she values above all others. Even with an Ivy League education, Mrs. Obama still cares about the issues and problems of her people. Our first lady is quite adept at code-switching as a result of her background and strong family foundation and in spite of her immediate geographical surroundings.
When I review the characteristics of the three roads minorities often take, I feel that I identify most with the middle one; the Mask. I choose to follow this path because I know little about white culture or the normal way of life for Caucasians. I am this way due to my environment and upbringing. My family never taught me how to be a white man. Thus, I am capable of assimilation; I choose to spend the majority of my time with those whom I resemble.
The south Side of Chicago is an amazing place. It is the largest black community in the country, and has produced the leaders of the free world. The people in this community have been influenced to interact with the majority, whites, in multiple ways. Some wearing masks, similar to the faces of the majority while others blame the majority for their woes; not getting much done, and again there are a few capable of code-switching and successful navigation through both black and white worlds
The lesson here is simple. Choose your proverbial road and follow it. Assimilate or diversify. Mimic or originate. You can be bigger than the land from which you came. Your environment does not control the destination you will one day know. The ability to choose a side or hover near the center is not to be taken lightly. It can be the difference between success and failure. Perhaps one should not judge the code switcher. Michelle Obama and the anticipation thereof is only due to her uncanny ability to code switch. Michelle Obama, the First Lady and the first lady of fashion- is a lady indeed.