The world is filled with many different stereotypes about race, culture, gender, age, and sexuality. These stereotypes can be powerful in many ways, it can change people’s ideas and thoughts. Over time these stereotypes have worn away, while others have grown stronger. In Octavia Butler’s book Kindred, the main character Dana is used to breaking these ideals that black women can not be educated, have power and be able to love whoever they want.
Dana as an educated black woman is able to prove that being enlightened should not be looked down upon and rather should be used to do what is right. Dana, when brought to the plantation, is singled out as an alien due to her education and capability to speak for what she believes. Weylin although amazed by her intellect, disrespects her and treats her as a slave, encouraging other slaves to not be like her. Whites ignore the fact that both women and blacks have the capability to be educated and have the knowledge, by keeping this ability to themselves they reassert their power over other inferior groups. These principles have a large effect on the world, the growth rate is slower and literacy rates are much lower all because education is offered to the so-called dominant white males. At one point one slave states that "[Weylin] was pretty sure you could read and write. That's one reason he seemed so suspicious and mistrustful. Educated slaves aren't popular around here” (Butler, 96). The slave points out how Dana’s education is what makes her a bigger threat to the Weylin’s and it is the reason why she is treated so inappropriately. Her education is a hazard for plantation owners such as Weylin for it can start revolutions calling for equal treatment of races. Schooled blacks have the capability, according to plantation owners, to encourage slaves to see that life is more than working for masters. That life is more than work focused on someone, and it is instead a life focused on themselves and who they care for. To these men, education for blacks can only lead to problems within the slave community. Dana states “It was dangerous to educate slaves… Education made blacks dissatisfied with slavery” (Butler 50). New thoughts and ideas that come through schooling can lead to revolutions and civil wars. It can take away much from big slaveholders, especially those who take pride in their collecting slaves. Education plays a big role in this time period, it has the capability to make a change. Dana’s understanding begins to make her bring change, by teaching other children. When found, she is severely punished for her actions, “I thought Weylin meant to kill me. I thought I would die on the ground there with a mouth full of dirt and blood and a white man cursing and lecturing as he beat me” (Butler 93). When Dana finally decides to take a step in starting a change, she is severely punished and is used as an example to show slaves that education can only cause more problems and punishments. Here again, Tom Weylin reasserts his power by making an example of Dana. Through her whipping, he pushes the idea that education is unnecessary and inferior to the minds of the Black.
Among the oppression that pushes people down, characters like Dana are determined in believing what is right. But Dana’s persistence for believing in what she thinks is right causes a change in Tom Weylin. He, rather than suppressing her intellect, takes advantage of it by using it to teach his son Rufus. Dana state's “Tom Weylin didn't want me reading on my own, but he had ordered me to read to his son”. In this Dana is given to the job as a teacher for Rufus. People’s ideas change through Dana’s display of her intellect. The characters within this book who were seen as dominant are slowly falling back, and others who were once oppressed are able to take charge. Blacks and women, through his actions, are able to show that they have the right to education as much as any white man.
Throughout Kindred, Dana tries to reassert her power in a world where white men have all the power. When Dana enters Maryland during 1815, in a world of slavery she sees that both blacks and women have no power. Women are expected to work in the family, taking care of the children. This idea of separate spheres is very prominent in this time period and restricts women from achieving their full potential. Being black has its own pullbacks within this book. Slaves are expected to do whatever the master's order, and keep who they work for above anything else. Dana states that "I'm not sure it's possible for a lone black woman—or even a black man—to be protected in [this] place”(Butler 35). These plantations are a dangerous place for blacks. Slaves cannot take charge, live a life, or escape this nightmare. Dana, who is unaccustomed to these ideas finds this world impossible to live in as a black man or woman. But even though these miserable situations she stands for what she believes as reasserts her power as a black woman. She proves her usefulness and intellect when others get and when times get tough in the plantation. Her education and prior life experiences allowed her to display power in the world where everything’s revolved around the importance of a white man. When Rufus and Alice are found in life-threatening experiences she is able to nurse them back to help, making others such as Tom Weylin begin to appreciate her presence within the family. When Rufus gets sick Weylin tells Dana “You’re a doctor enough for him” (Butler 205). Weylin begins to see the importance of a black woman in the world, he no longer sees them as useless and as a burden.
White and Black marriages are looked down upon in both the past and present day, and yet Dana and Kevin break through these stereotypes by staying together even with these prominent ideas in their life. In 1815 marrying a black woman was looked down upon. Rather it is more socially acceptable for a black woman to be raped by the master than being married. Dana “was beginning to realize that… There was no shame in raping a black woman, but there could be shame in loving one.” (Butler 87). Dana mainly sees this when spending time with her husband Kevin. In order to stay on the good side of the Weylin family, she goes with the idea that she is just a slave to Kevin, her master. An interracial relationship in this time period can single people out as aliens, who are treated with scorn and disrespect. Even in the present world, her relationship with Kevin is still odd for people. Dana states that “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” (Butler 56). Dana addresses that this principle is still very prominent in the present world. Dana and Kevin even though these prevalent stereotypes stay together strong. Their love and support for one another beat down these stereotypes that people have placed in the world.
Stereotypes are meant to be broken, and should not be something to follow. Dana as a black woman defies stereotypes that she can not be educated, have power, and love who she wants. Dana should be used as an example for people all over the world who are oppressed because of these binary opposites. People should be able to stand for what they believe in, rather than being restricted because of other's opinions.