The Issue Of Slavery In Kindred By Octavia E. Butler Essay

In Kindred, a modern character is sent back in time. By doing this, Butler allows the character, Dana, and the readers a look into what slavery was like. This experience leads Dana to understand how human behavior is directly affected by your surroundings and the social norms of that time which is what led to the normalization of slavery. In the book the two settings of both modern time and Dana’s slave experiences, the reader can compare and contrast how people’s views of African Americans, women, and family have changed and how they haven’t. Racism is still persistent in today’s society and in the modern society in Kindred even without ‘slaves. Dana worked through a labor agency that “regulars often called a slave market”. The workers were seen as less than an insignificant in the eyes of the employer while working for this agency. They were “were winos trying to work themselves into a few more bottles, poor women with children trying to supplement their welfare checks, kids trying to get a first job, older people who’d lost one too many, and usually a poor crazy old street lady who talked to herself constantly and who wasn’t going to be hired no matter what because she only wore one shoe.”

The only difference of the modern-day slavery is that it is voluntary, and it mostly happens because of the lack of resources and opportunities there are for minorities. In modern times if a person cannot do work they are punished by being sent home and therefore not earning money. Versus back in time of slavery, slaves were beaten and sometimes killed. “I raised the knife and chopped at the first stalk. It bent over, partially cut. At almost the same moment, Fowler lashed me hard across the back.”

Racism is something that is never going to be fully gone. No matter the time, in some way or another it has always been present. There are assumptions in modern society that are based on skin color or where someone comes from. Dana may be educated, speak differently, and be smarter than most white people in the century she travels to, but she is still automatically looked at as less than and because of her skin color is made a slave. Modern society African Americans are assumed to be ‘ghetto’ or sometimes even seen as threat. Police even single out African Americans, with the epidemic of unnecessary arrests and even deaths of African Americans at the hands of police. “In town, once, I heard a man brag how he and his friends had caught a free black, tore up his papers, and sold him to a trader.” I said nothing. He was right, of course. I had no rights – not even any papers to be torn up.”

Just like in the time of slavery, free people who do nothing can become slaves, or in this day be arrested for no reason. A black slave and a white man were not allowed to be involved unless the slave was a mistress. Children who came from the involvement of a slave owner and slave were not free unless set free by the owner. This restriction caused Rufus to rape and buy Alice as a slave, so he could be with her. In modern times, relationships between African Americans and whites is allowed but is sometimes frowned upon by certain people. Dana and Kevin’s relationship wasn’t accepted by their families and when they decided to get married their contact with their families basically ended altogether. “I think my aunt accepts the idea of my marrying you because any children we have will be light… She doesn’t care much for white people, but she prefers light-skinned blacks… Anyway, she ‘forgives me for you. But my uncle doesn’t. He’s sorts of taken this personally… He… well, he’s my mother’s oldest brother, and he was like a father to me even before my mother died because my father died when I was a baby. Now… it’s as though I’ve rejected him. Or at least that’s the way he feels” and Kevin’s sister saying, “she didn’t want to meet you, wouldn’t have you in her house – or me either if I married you.”

Both of the family’s reactions show how there is still a border between the respective races and how it hasn’t change much from the time of slavery. Kindred also shows the reader how society expects women to act. Margaret Weylin is uneducated compared to the first Mrs. Weylin who was more educated than her husband which bothered Mr. Weylin and in modern age cause problems in relationships. “The second time he asked, though, I told him, and I refused. He was annoyed. The third time when I refused again, he was angry. He said if I couldn’t do him a little favor when he asked, I could leave. So, I went home.” There are expectations of women to clean, cook, and do whatever it takes to make the husband happen. This is still relevant in modern times. Modern time women do have more opportunities but a lot of the time women are expected to conform to societies expectations. If Dana had given up her job that would’ve meant she would have to rely on Kevin and take on the compliant role, which is expected from women. Certain issues that have seemed to disappear from society are still present and very relevant no matter the time.

There are certain issues that include race, gender, families that continue to occur no matter the time period. Slavery, racism, and gender abuses are a part of modern world issues. Although slavery isn’t present there are still acts of racism that can be comparable to racism. Women have more opportunities in modern times but also have expectations of being submissive to men. Problems may seem fare removed but if you look deep enough you can find that little parts of past problems still exist and are thriving.

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