Exploring African Americans Stereotypes

shipment-2-1In a world full of biases towards black people, one can only imagine the unsettling labels cast upon one race; a race that is often viewed as minstrel players in our society just performing to the standards of whites by singing, dancing or playing music.

'The Shipment' a play written by Young Jean Lee mainly focuses on how white people negatively perceive black people. Lee who also wrote and directed Straight White Men unearths the clichés that come with distorted and intense dexterity.’ The title of this play ‘The Shipment’ is based on a rap song about drugs, which Ms. Lee believes the drugs evoked the African slave trade.

Look back in history, and you will see that for century's minstrel shows and stand- up comics were what white Americans expected black people to do for them, entertain them. Lee's central purpose in ‘The Shipment' seeks to knock down the superficial stereotypes and tropes of blacks that are infiltrating the media, entertainment industry and the dominant culture (white people) with false truths.

Unpacking the shipment is all about unleashing the racial biases of black people. In the opening scene of ‘The Shipment’ two overly exaggerated, tuxedoed black men are dancing in a minstrel and vaudeville show. In another scene, a black stand- up comic, (think Def Comedy Jam) who happens to be married to a white woman unleashed profound material on what the races feel about one another. He irreverently crossed the line of tasteful comedy talking about incest and pedophilia, all while complaining about being a black man in comedy.  

shipment-3Young continues with more stereotypes when the cast robotically portrays characters that are more flesh than blood. In this scene, a parable is told about a young black boy who wants to become a rapper but ends up selling drugs, grinding in the negative views on how whites believe is the usual standard for blacks.

Young covered a lot of bias territory in the first half of the play which prepared the audience for more discomfort in the second half. The sleight of hand continues in the last scene at a cocktail party when the five black actors seem to act white.  

The Shipment is not a self-contained commentary or a documentary on race in America it was more like a variety show of blackface minstrelsy. Although it was compelling to see what Young had up her sleeve next, unfortunately, this very delicate subject didn’t seem to deliver any eye-opening material.

Although the acting in part two was great and the overall message about the stereotypical views was a smack in the face reminder of how we negatively think about each other; we weren't impressed with the overall writing of the script which left you confused with what was the main message Young wanted the audience to receive. It also didn't seem to flow well, it was somewhat risky in moving people away and making them think and the pause where the actors seem to be on stages in silence for several minutes almost made us scream; "Get on with it already." 

shipment-6This play is categorized as a comedy; however, there was nothing remotely funny about it; if playwright Young Jean Lee and Director Wardell Julius Clark intent were to strike up a conversation, it might not be the one that they actually wanted.

Let’s Play ‘Somewhat Recommends ‘The Shipment.’ 

The cast includes:

Sheldon Brown, Hunter Bryant, Eric Gerard, Marcus D. Moore, and Kiayla Ryann

RED TAPE THEATRE is proud to present…


Written by: Young Jean Lee

Directed by: Wardell Julius Clark
Associate Director / Music Director: Sydney Charles

September 7th – October 13th


Filed under: ChicagoNow

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