Study Guide

Kindred Race

By Octavia Estelle Butler

Race

"A patroller is […] was a white man, usually young, often poor, sometimes drunk. He was a member of a group of such men organized to keep the blacks in line." (2.6.5)

Dana's first encounter with patrollers isn't a good one. As she explains to her husband Kevin, these patrollers were people back in slave times who walked around harassing and beating up black people. Their job was to keep slaves obedient, but the truth was that they tended to do whatever they felt like with black people.

"I'm not sure it's possible for a lone black woman—or even a black man—to be protected in that place." (2.6.35)

Dana doesn't believe it's possible for a black person to even exist in 1815 Maryland without being in immediate danger. Their skin color is enough to get them beaten up even if they aren't doing anything in particular.

"That's better than saying you're his wife. Nobody would believe that." (3.2.144)

Rufus thinks Dana is lying when she says she's Kevin's wife. In his world, marriage between blacks and whites is illegal and no one could ever imagine the possibility of things being otherwise.

The black man gave him a look of disgust that would surely have angered [Weylin] if he had seen it. (3.3.7)

Tom Weylin's black slave gives Tom a look of disgust when he worries about money more than his son's health. But this slave needs to be careful because Weylin would no doubt give him a whipping if he saw his expression. The irony here is that this slave seems to care more about Weylin's son than Weylin does.

"Why you try to talk like white folks?" (3.3.116)

One of the biggest challenges Dana faces when she goes back in time is disguising the way she talks. Unlike any of the slaves she meets, she's been through the modern American education system and she has a much bigger vocabulary than anyone from 1815 Maryland—whether they're black or white.

"I thought I knew her […] I mean, I did know her. But I guess we've lost touch more than I thought" (4.1.30).

Kevin is disgusted with his sister's inability to accept the fact that he's marrying a black woman. He'd gone through life thinking his sister was progressive. But it just goes to show you how different people can be when they're confronted directly with their own hidden racism.

"Do your job! Go tell him! That's what you for—to help white folks keep n—s down. That's why he sent you to me. They be calling you mammy in a few years." (4.11.114)

Alice accuses Dana of betraying her entire race when Dana tries to convince Alice to sleep with Rufus. Little does Alice know that Dana is her descendant and that Dana will never be born unless Alice gives in to Rufus' advances.

In fact, [the South Africans] were living in the past as far as their race relations went. They lived in ease and comfort supported by huge numbers of blacks whom they kept in poverty and held in contempt. (5.1.105)

Dana returns to 1976 from the past only to discover on the news that things haven't changed all that much for certain parts of the world. South Africa didn't get rid of its racist apartheid system until the early nineties, which goes to show just how much racism can continue to pervade society even when we don't notice it.

"You don't want to hear me, get out of here. The way you always suckin' up to that woman is enough to make a body sick." (5.7.26)

Alice doesn't let up when she's mad at Dana. She criticizes Dana for sucking up to Margaret Weylin, but Dana just wants to do whatever she can to stay out of trouble. Scenes like this just go to show that not all the conflict in this book is between black people and white people. Much of it is between black people or between white people.

And we found Burger King and Holiday Inn and Texaco and schools with black kids and white kids together and older people who looked at Kevin and me, then looked again. (Epilogue.1)

Even in modern times, Dana knows that people aren't quite ready to accept interracial marriages. She suggests that this racism is especially still present in the southern United States, probably because people from this area still suffer from a historical guilt that the rest of the country doesn't.