Racialization In “The Tempest” By William Shakespeare

Racialization, “the act or process of imbuing a person with a consciousness of race distinctions or of giving a racial character to something or making it serve racist ends” (Merriam Webster). While it still remains a problem of racial identity on different countries, people are living in a civilized area where there is no racism involved. In this case, in the event that modern civilized individuals are incapable to manage with racial biases, what are we able to say about the England times of William Shakespeare? In Ronald Takaki’s book, “The Tempest in the Wilderness”, he tries to consider the issue of racial discrimination of Indians in his essay. Takaki uses “The Tempest”, which was a play by William Shakespeare, to analyze the discriminatory of the Indians that are being treated by the English mens, calling the inhabitants as “savages”.

Takaki uses a phrase in what he refers to as the “racialization of savagery”. The inclination on the part of white Americans to relate brutality with dark skin, a demeanor that would decide the treatment of black slaves as well as the Indian tribes. He uses Caliban as an example, who is the quasi-human native of the island to which Prospero is banished and over which he claims dominance, has become a figure for the natives of the New World and afterward, for the Africans who were brought as slaves. Takaki’s example by using Caliban is used throughout his study to portray the struggles particularly of those foreigner groups, especially the Chinese as well as African Americans and Native Americans, that may not comprehend into average American society due to the racial contrasts. Like the Indians, they were regularly criticized within the same words such as savage, lazy, dirty, inferior, and treacherous, in order to advocate harsh approaches towards them.

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Many people live in a country that are divided and separated from other countries in order to live their religion. However, when you have someone who is different, some humans racialize that person due to their physical characteristics such as skin color, eye shape, and hair texture. “Human beings across the world do in fact vary in physical appearance and genetic composition” (PBS). Just like the native people in Takaki’s essay, the Indians tried to identify the visitors. “The native people were struck by the “ugliness” and “deformity” of the strangers—their “white” complexions, hair around their mouths, the eyes with “the color of the sky” (Revisiting America 14).

Shakespeare brings the concept of “savagery” to life by creating the character “Caliban” to show how bad civilization really is. It is portrayed as evil, corruptive and destructive, in which Stephano wanted Caliban kill Prospero to show that the civilized could be more unruly than the savages. Shakespeare uses many techniques that are clever enough to portray “savagery” and how it is inherently bad. In the Tempest, Shakespeare uses Caliban to show his “savagery” side by him almost trying to rape Miranda when Prospero was talking to caliban about it in Act 1 Scene 2. All of this is shown how Shakespeare brings the concept of “savagery” to life by using Caliban in the play.

In the Tempest, Shakespeare portrays Caliban as a “savage” horrid beast and as the slave of the Western, Prospero. He also views him as a lesser being, and that he represents the islander who is forcefully controlled by the Westerner. His interpretation of Caliban looks like that he is racist and stereotypical but also, he represents the falsified image of the Caribbean people. “Caliban also seems to resemble the Irish as they too are called as “savages”, (Revisiting America 16) according to Takaki’s essay, due to them behaving accordingly. Because of that, when the frontier stretched to America, Englishmen began to treat the Indians the same as the Irish men.

Caliban’s life wasn’t all too perfect for him, he was actually enslaved by Prospero and would punish him and would throw insults at him because of his monstrous behavior. In Act 1, Scene 2, there’s a good relationship happening between Caliban and Prospero when Caliban says, “When thou cam’st first, Thou strok’st me and madest much of me, wouldst give me water with berries in ‘t, and teach me how to name the bigger light and how the less, that burn by day and night. And then I loved thee, and show’d thee all the qualities o’ th’ isle, the fresh springs, brine pits, barren place and fertile”. (331) What Caliban is saying is that he is telling Prospero how to survive on the island in which Prospero taught him how to speak. Whats strange is how he is acting nice to him, and then he changes back to treating Caliban like dirt.

Another issue that resembles to Takaki’s issue of racialization, is America’s problem with multiculturalism. Just like the English slaughtering the Indians, “centuries ago, the Vikings landed on a beach in Vinland, slaughtering a group of Indians attempting to hide nearby”. (Commentary Magazine). Takaki, however see’s this as nothing but a long trail of suffering, discrimination, and violence, and this is aiming to affirm America’s racial diversity. Comparing both of these events, its clear that they are both connected to racialization and this is evident due to the fat that the Vikings and the English killed and murdered Indians, and we see this as a big issue still in our own community that we are still facing in this present day.

Using “The Tempest” and other plays by Shakespeare, Takaki gives us examples of the people of New England to Indians. To start with it, it has to be said that Takaki uses the Tempest not by chance. This play was the first where the Indian character were displayed. After that, the time when the play was composed coincides with the critical period within the history of America. Takaki’s concept of “Racialization of Savagery” was the result of inaccurate understanding of the reality, incorrect conclusions, and lack of want to assess the circumstance accurately, because it is continuously less demanding to put the generalization on other people than to consider their culture, to look for particular data and make new conclusion.

“The Tempest” was one of the only plays that Shakespeare wrote on his own with an original plot that he himself has created. He knew that his grope of audience members both the groundlings and his well of supporters were superstitious and were intrigued in the powerful. His motivation for writing such perfect play would have been an amazing one. Theres also many critics saying that the reason Shakespeare wrote “The Tempest”, at the end of his career, was because of his characters that he made, Prospero and Miranda, both reminded them as his daughters being closer together, and how he wants to be with them.

One of Takaki’s books that interest me was “Strangers from a Different Shore”. This one interest me because it presents a lot of history about the Asian Americans, and he also wrote about the Chinese who laid tracks for the transcontinental railroad of plantation laborers in the cane-fields of Hawaii, of “picture brides”, which was the marrying strangers in the hope of becoming part of the American dream. In the book opening pages, he explains, “Indeed, the story of Asian Americans is woven into the history of America itself. The Chinese began coming here during the 1849 California gold Rush, before the arrival of most Jewish, Italian, Hungarian, and Polish immigrants”. (4) In this way, Takaki situates his study among wider immigration patterns, and he also discusses how and why the Japanese, Filipino, Chinese, and Asian Indian immigrants chose to come to the U.S. and claims that the American dream is often unattainable for them.

It is noted that the word “savage” (referring to people) means “you dislike them because you think that they do not have an advanced society and are violent”. (Collins Dictionary). The biggest problem about this is stereotyping attitude to the indigenous group and the creation of wrong image with the reason to ease from this. Being Indians, the tribes were considered to be savages as there were no other variations, and as a result, Indians may not be civilized. One of the most reasons for Indians to be savages was the parallel made between them and Irish. Irish has earned such definition by their activities, inconsiderate and savage, while Indians just showed up in the wrong place and the connection to Irish naturally exchanged to Indians.

Racial Tensions Do Not Need To Be A Chronic Issue

81% of African-Americans and 52% of white Americans believe racism is a significant problem in the United States, a 30% rise from both races since 2009 (Bialik). With such dramatic statistics, it is clear that racial tensions have peaked in recent years, particularly on college campuses. These tensions risk escalating into violent hate crimes on campuses, so we urgently need clear, effective solutions to address existing race-related issues. To effectively reduce racial tensions on campuses, it is crucial to promote racial diversity, to remember the progress made towards equal opportunities in higher education, and to reflect on the privilege we enjoy as American citizens.

Universities are institutions that bring together people from diverse social and ethnic backgrounds. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that campuses have become hotspots for racial issues. Higher education institutions are challenging, pushing individuals out of their comfort zones. This is a positive challenge, however, as it encourages students to expand their understanding of diversity and gain experience through “uncomfortable learning,” a key factor in academic success (Perez 1). The significance of racial diversity cannot be emphasized enough. Research into minorities on campuses, their social interactions, and academic outcomes at Powers’ and Harmony campuses revealed that there are both academic and civic benefits to campus racial diversity. This research found that cross-racial interactions were correlated with an increased interest in promoting racial understanding and greater self-reported intellectual abilities, as well as improved abilities to get along with other racial groups (Warikoo and Deckman 961). Warikoo and Deckman’s findings echo the results of similar research conducted by Josipa Roska, a researcher from the Department of Sociology and Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia. She found that positive diverse interactions contributed to greater cognitive abilities than typical skill-based cognitive thinking (315). Diverse campuses foster vital social integration, promoting mutual respect and understanding. Communication between students from various ethnic groups is essential, as it gives those from different social backgrounds the opportunity to listen, understand, and learn from others’ experiences.

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But how can we specifically enhance effective communication between all individuals? The Warikoo and Deckman study tested two different communicative approaches at Powers’ University and Harmony University to observe racial inclusion: the “power analysis and minority support” and “integration and celebration” approaches. While the “power analysis and minority support” approach initially separated minorities and white majorities, the “integration and celebration” approach empowered all students regardless of ethnicity (960). Further, diverse universities can accommodate changing ethnic demographics in America. Currently, 36% of the American workforce is made up of minority individuals, a figure expected to rise to 50% by 2050. Simultaneously, about 50% of the population under 18 is projected to be people of color (Kerby). By reflecting these demographic changes, universities can foster a healthy racial balance in both the evolving workforce and general populations. As the mix of social and ethnic individuals on campuses has been shown to promote societal understanding and improve cognitive ability, diversity is critical for addressing racial tensions in higher education.

Great strides have been made to diminish racial tensions and promote equal academic opportunity. The days of separate schools, bathrooms, water fountains, and such are no longer with us, and this fact deserves celebration! Thanks to the efforts of several African-American political activists, America has evolved from a past marred by educational discrimination, making racial diversity a focal point not only in higher education but in all aspects of life. In 1961, Affirmative Action was established to “level the playing field for those historically disadvantaged due to factors such as race, color, religion, sex, or national origin” (“What is Affirmative Action and Why Was It Created?”).

Various organizations, such as the Black Student Association (BSA) at the University of Biola and the Association of Latino Professionals for America (ALPFA) at the University of Arizona, are among the numerous ethnic-related organizations established on campuses to create a welcoming atmosphere for minority students (“Student Clubs and Organizations”). Racial discrimination is no longer the norm, and any acts of racial violence are swiftly addressed, as students of all ethnicities have fought for and secured equal rights. Consider, for instance, the incident at Barnard College in New York, where a man who verbally harassed a group of African-American students was permanently banned from the university premises (“News”). Stories like the Barnard College incident provide testament to the progress America has made and the ongoing efforts towards equality in higher education. While acknowledging our imperfections, America has made consistent efforts over recent decades to establish a fair education system for all, regardless of racial background. It is vital for reducing racial tensions on campus that we recognize how far our country has come in providing equal opportunities for all citizens. No preferential treatment should be given to anyone based purely on ethnic background.

Nevertheless, many people from minority groups attribute their lack of success to “white privilege”, a common contention in discussions about racial inclusion and equality. In simple terms, “white privilege” implies that those of racially white backgrounds have an easier path to success in higher education due to societal and educational biases. This perception is widespread in today’s society and leads many minority groups to feel disadvantaged, nurturing resentment towards people of white ethnic backgrounds. It is undeniable, however, that America is the land of the free, where anyone can realize the American dream and achieve success through hard work and determination. Take, for example, my mother, who moved to America from the Philippines at the age of 19 knowing little English to pursue a career in Physical Therapy. Despite the obstacles, she persisted, got educated, and earned her degree. Thirty years later, she is now employed at the United Regional Hospital in Wichita Falls, Texas. In recent decades, America has seen a significant increase in minority employment, celebrated numerous figures in sports and entertainment, and even witnessed the inauguration of the first African-American president. This rise in minority employment is not coincidental.

Schools have done a great job promoting minority comfort and education as well. In the past decade, a record 87% of African-Americans and 94% of Latinos graduated high school, making minority candidates more hirable (Bialik). Not only are minority candidates more hirable, but most companies also agree that racial diversity is positive in the workplace, and for good reason. “Companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians” (“How Important is Diversity in Business?”). As it literally pays to have diversity, graduation and employment rates are at a high, and many influential figures of different ethnic backgrounds exist in America. It is hard to believe that race can play any kind of real detriment to one’s success, making the notion of “white privilege” a misconception in relation to higher education. The stigma that minority groups have a societal-instilled disadvantage in America may be a leading factor holding us back from the elimination of racial tension everywhere. It is instead important to realize the privileges we, as an American people, share. The First Amendment of the Constitution states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” The freedom given through the First Amendment is not guaranteed in many countries and should be cherished by every citizen in our country. If everyone were to realize the great privilege we have in the ability to express ourselves and be our own individual person, full equality may be reached, and racial tensions may cease to exist. Everyone is encouraged to listen to others and learn that anyone can achieve success, no matter their physical appearance or cultural background.

In conclusion, racial discrimination is, and always has been, wrong. Racial tensions have risen in recent years and simple, effective solutions are needed soon to fight against further racial divide. That does not mean fabricating hate crimes, committing real hate crimes against one another, or blocking out the opinions of individuals with opposing opinions. Instead, it means creating a diverse community willing to listen and forge solutions instead of creating new problems. Although the full elimination of racial discrimination will likely never be achieved, as there will always be small groups of radical individuals from all ethnic and racial backgrounds, America can, and has, made these opinions effectively taboo in education. Any individual can find success in this country, and the ability to live out the American dream is what has always continued to make the United States so great. Our country has made incredible strides to provide equality for everyone in higher education, and it is now the citizens’ job to embrace the increasing diversity and progress towards a more unified country. When we fully realize that our differences are not skin-deep, but lie in the personalities and attitudes we apply in solving racial differences, the sooner our society will reach full elimination of racial tensions and racial harmony can be achieved. As best stated by Martin Luther King Jr. in his “I have a dream” speech, “when we let freedom ring from every city and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, ‘Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!’”

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