oh. hello. your eyes are currently reading what i’ve typed. fascinating that you may even be reading this in my voice, huh? what was your day like today? before you answer that, i’d like you to ponder on some bullet points below:
- would you abandon your family for a better way of life?
- where would you have to move for people not to recognize you?
- if caught, could you accept the penalty of death?
those questions come off weird, maybe off-putting, but these are questions wherein some answered yes, right here in america. i’m talking about people like this (hover over for captions):
you guessed it; they’re all black americans; at least one parent is black, and here in america that’s all it takes (outside of the “one drop rule”). so, they’re invited to the cookout.
one of my favorite films is Imitation of Life, which explores this social area. seeing as black people come in all shades and hair textures with both parents being black as well, what is the basis of discrimination if not just skin color? when you think about it, people (read: black people) are honestly hated because of their skin color, which is why, black people who looked like the people above back in the 1700s-1970s?, passed as white. by passing as white, they forwent discrimination and entered into a life of privilege, if they didn’t get caught. if they got caught, more than likely they would’ve been lynched and their body parts sent off as party gifts, kept as souvenirs, or a postcard with a lynching would be sent to dear old dad’s house. i wish i was making this up.
npr did a podcast on this with author, Allyson Hobbs. In her book, A Chosen Exile: A Hsitory of Racial Passing in American Life, she chronicles stories of black people who passed for white in hopes of a better life. one family they talk about is the Johnston Family:
the patriarch, Dr. Johnston, passed as white so he could practice medicine. the navy picked him up but withdrew their commission on reports that Dr. Johnston had “colored blood;” on that basis, everyone has “colored blood” because it’s red.
and personally, this hits home. my great-grandfather could have passed for white, but when he registered for the draft of wwI, he recorded “negro” as his race. in connecting with a cousin of mine, because many of my family members could pass for white in the 1900s-1940s, white people felt comfortable around them and would speak to them. however, some white person would slip up with some racist rhetoric about black people and find themselves out cold by my family members, not knowing what they’d done; just because some could pass for white didn’t mean they forsook being black.
in Black Like Me, authored by John Howard Griffin, he darkens his skin to understand for himself the perils of institutional discrimination and state-sanctioned violence. from this article, Griffin said:
“What is it like to experience discrimination based on skin colour, something over which one has no control?” No white man could, he reasoned, truly understand what it was like to be black, because black people would never tell the truth to outsiders. “The only way I could see to bridge the gap between us was to become a Negro,” Griffin writes. “I decided I would do this.”
this dude lasted six weeks before it became too much being black, not being able to take the “hate stares” white people gave him. on top of that, a group of white men almost beat him to death for writing this book.
what i think the problem is, is denial. the people on earth now, we aren’t necessarily responsible for the problems of yesterday, but have you heard of inheritance, where the sins of the father can fall on the children? your dad/mom was an alcoholic, and you find yourself gripping the bottle in hard times when you’re their age, as an example. do you pass that on to your children, or does the buck stop with you? parents, more is caught than is taught by children if you didn’t know.
in conclusion, racism is satanic.