“I’m a good person.”
That’s what we tell ourselves, right? And maybe, for some of us, it’s the truth. But anything can be the “truth” if you reeeeaaally believe it’s true – for you, anyway.
So… is it true that you’re a good person? Who’s to say? There’s no right or wrong answer. It’s not simply black or white- but the characters in this play definitely are.
Written in 1946, Jean Paul Sartre’s The Respectful Prostitute blatantly addresses the suffocating racial tension, gender bias, sexual oppression, and stereotyping of the era. She&Her Productions’ adaptation has been lightly altered for modernity- yet, despite a 70-year passage of time, nothing has changed.
The first character we see is THE PROSTITUTE, who has just moved to Alabama.
She’s found a new client and things are looking up… until THE NEGRO starts banging on her door. Picture him in your mind: he’s average in age, height, weight, and stature, and he’s wearing jeans, a T-shirt, and a red hoodie. He’s in danger of a certain and gruesome death, or, at the very least, spending the rest of his life in prison for the crime of a white man; a crime she bore witness to- but she still won’t help him. She wants to think of herself as a good person, but unfortunately for her (and him), it’s our actions that define us, not our intentions.
So why do we turn the other way simply because we’re afraid of things we don’t understand? We hate to perceive ourselves as vulnerable, yet we often throw our hands to the sky and turn to our deity of choice as if we’re in control of absolutely nothing. We publicly voice our hatred of prejudice and bigotry, yet when our ‘racist friend’ says something awful, we awkwardly laugh it off to avoid conflict.
If we aren’t strong enough to stand up and say something, does that make us racist, too? An accessory to murder can still go to jail even though they didn’t kill anyone. Can we all say we’ve silenced every racially-insensitive blanket statement we’ve ever heard? Have you? Are you a racist? Aren’t we all at some point? Most of us like to think we aren’t. Maybe we should look in the mirror more often.