by August Wilson
Fences Race Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Act.Scene.Line)
Troy: "The nigger has a watermelon this big....Talking about...'What watermelon, Mr. Rand?'...Trying to hide that great big old watermelon under his coat. Afraid to let the white man see him carry it home." (1.1.5-1.1.7)
Here Wilson draws on an old stereotype of black people: that they love watermelon. This stereotype may have come from minstrel shows, a form of entertainment popular in early America. Very often in these shows black people were depicted as lazy, ignorant people who liked nothing better than to sing, dance, and eat watermelon all day. It could be that the coworker Troy is talking about was ashamed of confirming this stereotype by actually having a watermelon in his possession. Perhaps he lies about having the watermelon because he doesn't want to seem like a "typical" black person to his white boss, Mr. Rand. By using this stereotypical image, Wilson forces us to confront America's past and present struggle with racism.
Bono: "Well, as long as you got your complaint filed, they can't fire you. That's what one of them white fellows tell me." (1.1.12)
Notice how Bono sees a white person as an authority figure. Because a white person told him something was true, it is. Bono's comment represents the power that white people held in society during this time. Is this still true of modern American society? How have things changed?
Troy: "I went to Mr. Rand and asked him, 'Why? Why you got white mens driving and the colored lifting?'" (1.1.13)
Troy is ticked off about the racial inequality going on at his job as a garbage collector. The white men all get to drive the trucks, while the black men have to lift the cans and dump them in the back. This sort of segregation was typical of the time. Black men were often forced to do the manual labor.