There and Black Again
George Schuyler’s “Black No More” made me think about the uncomfortable topic of racism by essentially slapping me in the face with racist content. However, it was artfully done, and I found it to be a wonderful critique of the socioeconomical use of racism. Often, we recognize racism for what it is: blind, senseless hate and/or fear of a group of people who have a different skin color than our own. This is true, but I also believe racism to be more than just that.
Historically speaking, racism has often been used as a tool to distract the white lower class workers from their dismal working and living conditions. It has also been used as a way for those same white lower class workers to gain a higher societal position. If someone else is below you on the social scale, then you aren’t the bottom anymore, right? Since racism is a tool in this view, what would happen if we took that division away? George Schuyler’s novel is a great demonstration of the possibilities, but some of the outcomes are negative.
For example, the African American economy basically collapses. Schuyler uses his character, Mrs. Blandish, to exemplify the consequences of this. Mrs. Blandish made her living selling hair straightener products and her talent for taming the unruly hair of African Americans in Harlem. After Dr. Crookman’s company, Black No More, Inc., came out, Mrs. Blandish’s business was all but done for.
On a different note, the invention of Black No More, Inc., caused a shift in the socioeconomic structure of American society. The African Americans were no longer black-skinned, and therefore couldn’t be targeted with racism and segregation as easily. As a result, white lower class workers once again became the lowest economical class in the United States, which didn’t sit very well with them and, eventually, having a darker complexion actually became the desired skin color. Schuyler is brilliant at this point of his novel when he pokes at a question we don’t often ask: What will the world be like once racism is completely abolished? Will a new form of prejudice and segregation emerge from its demise?