David Mamet's new play is about race





PRESIDENT OBAMA, like his predecessor President Bill Clinton, has suggested that this country engage in a dialogue about race.

But what has our 230-year national experience been but a dialogue about race?

Our earliest drama on the subject, “Metamora,” by John Stone (1829), concerns the relations between the Massachusetts settlers and Prince Philip of the Wampanoags. So does the novel “Hope Leslie” by Catherine Sedgwick (1827).

Much of the contentiousness that characterized the First Continental Congress centered on the subject of slavery. Since then the Fugitive Slave Law, the Kansas-Nebraska Act, the Missouri Compromise, the Dred Scott decision, the Emancipation Proclamation, the 14th Amendment and so on, down to the Voting Rights Act and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the trial of the Scottsboro Boys, the internment of the Japanese, busing, affirmative action and the 2008 election, have kept the subject alive in the national discourse.

My current play, “Race,” is intended to be an addition to that dialogue.

As a Jew, I will relate that there is nothing a non-Jew can say to a Jew on the subject of Jewishness that is not patronizing, upsetting or simply wrong. I assume that the same holds true among African-Americans....

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