I was reading about Anatole Broyard a highly acclaimed writer, novelist and essayist (I was really feeling the -ist)…..
This man spent all of his adult and professional life masquarading as a white man, I was not fooled when I saw his picture so I am amazed that anyone else was… any whoo…. he went undetected as the light skinned Black Creole he was until he was on his deathbed.
I also read a few criticisms of this man and his newly cajuned family. Why didn’t he champion the race? How could he sell out like that? Surely this half and half daughter of his didn’t think she was as mixed as say a Halle Berry, or Mario Van Peebles? But she really can’t think she’s white, can she?
I thought of the absurdity of this,
I was taken back to the first time I read Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man (James Weldon Johnson). And the un-named protagonist battles the question of his ethnicity playing a sad satirical comic role in shaping his destiny. Hint here He-Who-Was-Not-Named was a light-skinned black that could pass for white, in the Lynching years.
Then I remembered Invisible Man (Ralph Ellison), and Malcolm X (as told to Alex Haley)….
Both protagonists one ‘REAL’ and one ‘Symbolic’ fight this world for legitimacy. Isn’t that what ‘the struggle’ is about? Isn’t that the basis of human existence? We want to earn our stripes as humans make our mark…. so we make things, take things, destroy things, and live to do so.
Life Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. Horatio Alger. The Mayflower.
We have built a nation on this quest for visibility to the heavens (Tower of Babel), to each other, to lovers and haters.
Could you pass up the chance to be stigma free?
Could you abandon the chance to be seen?
The idea of Art as a Movement for recognition of humanity has not changed since the 1st boat sailing mad the 1st man invisible. The overlooked fight. SEE Lillith Fair. We still cling to the hope that this universal language will speak for us in unknown venues and it has occasionally.
Whether well meaning and liberal, or honest and right-wing we perpetuate the things we hate most.
If you don’t belive me think about when you’re in a public place who do you SEE?
Are the staff at a restaurant a part of the scenery?
Are you doing good deeds but willing to step over the same people you may write a check for?
Are your eyes open?
If not the answer to the title question is NO.
(See Ann Rice’s Feast of All Saints for more about Black Creoles).