Danzy Senna's Caucasia Essay

929 words - 4 pages

Danzy Senna's Caucasia

In Caucasia, by Danzy Senna, Birdie spends time in several different racial contexts and, in each one, adjusts the racial definition of herself. Through this process, she discovers much about the conception of race in contemporary American society and achieves the nuanced understanding that race, while merely a construction, is still (operationally) real. This is contrasted by the more dangerous, oversimplified understanding of race – that races are biological rivals, inherently different and unable to coexist without some sort of power structure – embodied by the character of Redbone, who is also a symbol of inauthenticity. This latter aspect of Redbone shows the emptiness inherent in the views he holds about race, an important reason for his inclusion in the novel.

Redbone, which, interestingly enough, according to urbandictionary.com literally means a light-skinned black person with kinky red hair, is an incredibly outspoken advocate of the “revolution” (the movement intended to allow Blacks to overthrow Whites in the American power-structure) and the need to use violence to bring it about. In the scene where Redbone shows Birdie the guns, he says, “This little girl ain’t no security risk, brotha. We gotta raise our children to know how to fight” (Senna 15). He also tells Deck that maybe he needs to “get [his] head out of them books and put some action behind them high-falutin’ theories of [his]” (16). This manifestation of black vs. white politics as unabashed advocating of violence and this mockery and belittling of intellectualism as “high-falutin’” in favor of insufficiently thought-out action shows just how facile and oversimplified Redbone’s views of race are. They are of the “good” vs. the “bad.” These views are also attacked symbolically through Redbone’s inauthenticity in this scene. When Deck catches him showing Birdie the guns, he calls Redbone both a “fake-ass half-breed motherfucker” and “no brother,” that is, not black, as he is adamantly claiming to be (16). Also, when Birdie first meets him, she notices that “his slang was awkward and twisted. It didn’t seem to come naturally to him” (14). The implication of this is that he is trying to pretend to be something that he is not. He looses credibility as a character and, as a symbol, comes to represent falseness, which no doubt includes his racial beliefs.

Another example of Redbone’s inauthenticity intermingling with his views about race occurs in the scene outside Southie, the public school Cole and Birdie were being bused to, after it has been shut down. He is shouting, “We need more drastic action. No more of this pussy-footing around these devils – they’ve proven to us today that they can’t handle the peaceful solution” (40). Here,...

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