British Get a Dose of Race in America

David Mamet's incendiary play about racism offers compelling lessons to those across the pond.

In a variegated, multicultural metropolis like London — a city that purports to be truly cosmopolitan — this is doubly shameful, especially given the play’s title and subject matter. Not only is this a human tragedy — great theater should not be the sole preserve of any one race or class — but it also highlights in a microcosm the underlying problem here in the U.K.: the painfully small (nascent, if you are feeling charitable) black British middle class.

Of course, it is mainly because of the differences in our respective histories, but I always assert that in the U.K., we are 30 to 40 years behind America in the development of an educated, black middle class. Despite America’s many failings, I remain convinced that the most consummate, mature blacks flourishing on the planet — be they artistic, intellectual or social — are nonetheless to be found in the U.S.

As Mamet stentoriously and lugubriously observes throughout this tour de force production, race continues to define and constrain us. Our challenge, as both human beings and truly global citizens, is not to let it, while still remaining true to ourselves and being forever mindful of the iniquities perpetrated in the past.

Lindsay Johns is a London-based writer and broadcaster. He currently blogs on current affairs and culture for the Daily Mail online.

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