In between white men and black women in the

In
the novel, Kindred, Butler shows that race is not the only factor in the
power hierarchy between white men and black women in the story. Gender plays just
as a significant role in power than race. We, the readers, see how white women
like Margaret Weylin are seen as inferior to their husbands, who have a public
presence in society and can do as they please. In addition, society expects
them to be nothing more than wives and mothers. On the other hand, black women
are constantly victimized and treated inhumanly: 20th century women
like Dana are still undermined by white men like Kevin, who is shown to
reinforce patriarchal values through his treatment of her. Moreover, it is
repeatedly shown in the novel that 19th century black women were
even more oppressed than their white counterparts as they are deprived of their
basic roles as mothers and wives and even indiscriminately raped. Due to their gender
and race, black women had their human rights rescinded and subject to even
worse condition than black men. In the novel, when Dana gets back to the
present after being away from Rufus for fifteen days, she recounts her horrific
experience to Kevin. She states, “You mean you could forgive me for having been
raped?” (245). Dana is in a state of disbelief when Kevin insinuates that he
could forgive an intimate act with Rufus if she has been raped by him in the
past. This comment reveals Kevin’s naïve understanding of the concept of a
woman’s right to control her own life. He doesn’t have the right to forgive her
or not for being raped. This is one of many incidents in which Kevin is shown
to be complacent in
Dana’s situation and dismisses her experience. Dana had to sacrifice her career
as a writer for a position as a slave in the 1800’s when she is unwillingly
transported back and forth from the past and present. She is forced into a
position of domestic duties such as cooking, cleaning the house and teaching
the children whereas, her husband Kevin is allowed the freedom to go about the
world as an observer from a different time period.  He has been accepted into a society dominated
by white men and as a result, has become racially insensitive towards Dana
provided by his position as a white man, free from oppression. In 19th
century America, white men had to maintain a system in place that dehumanizes
females and supports males. It may even be possible that Kevin only feigns ignorance in order to avoid
the harsh reality of American history and avoid any sense of
guilt or responsibility he may feel for leaving Dana to carry the burden of her
ancestors alone.

Although, we see
how 20th century men like Kevin still benefit from such a
patriarchal and racially oppressive system, the novel largely focuses on the
power Rufus has over his female slaves. In the novel, Rufus constantly asserts
his racial superiority and abuse over African Americans. For example, he
repeatedly sexually abuses Alice without anyone saying anything or stopping him
(with the exception of Dana and Isaac) as part of his power and privilege as a
white man. Though, his cruel and demeaning behavior could be a result of his
family and society reminding him that his gender and race gives him authority.
In the novel, as Dana is forced to work for the Weylins, she begins to notice
an unhealthy pattern between Rufus and his mother, Margaret. She states, “I remembered suddenly
the way he used to talk to his mother. If he couldn’t get what he wanted from
her gently, he stopped being gentle. Why not? She always forgave him” (218).
Dana begins to piece together that Margaret Weylin’s spoiling behavior toward
Rufus is what influences him to grow up a misogynist towards black women.
Margaret instilled in Rufus a toxic mindset that makes him believe that women
will forgive him immediately after being cruel to them. Furthermore, his mother
Margaret, isn’t the only one who contributed to this view of the world that
Rufus has. His father Tom Weylin reinforces Rufus’ views through his treatment
of his own slaves. In the novel, Dana points the detrimental effects Rufus’
family treatment of black slaves had on him growing up. She states, “He
had spent his life watching his father ignore, even sell the children he had
had with black women” (231). Rufus’ spent his life watching his father sell the
children he fathered with his black female slaves off for profit as though they
but mere investments rather than human beings. Rufus’ environment and home life
fueled him to degrade black women into nothing more that toys for his amusement. It is shown constantly throughout the story how
manipulative and detrimental Rufus’ worldview has been on himself, Dana
and Alice. He subjects both women (mainly Alice) to sexual abuse and
psychological manipulation to create what appears to be Stockholm syndrome in
these women in order to have them forgive in easily. Though, it only results in
both Rufus’s death by Dana and Alice’s suicide in the loss of her children. In
conclusion, Dana’s experience in Antebellum southern America reveal the racial
and gender privilege enjoyed by white men such as Kevin and Rufus which has
shown to negatively impacts the lives of both men and the lives of their
African American female counterparts.

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