Sunday, July 08, 2001
: . White Love, or Four Views of Double Consciousness:
Frantz Fanon, from Black Skin, White Masks
Out of the blackest part of my soul, across the zebra striping of my mind, surges this desire to be suddenly white.
I wish to be acknowledged not as black but as white.
Now—and this is a form of recognition that Hegel had not envisaged—who but a white woman can do this for me? By loving me she proves that I am worthy of white love. I am loved like a white man.
I am a white man.
Her love takes me onto the noble road that leads to total realization…
I marry white culture, white beauty, white whiteness.
When my restless hands caress those white breasts, they grasp white civilization and dignity and make them mine.
Zora Neale Hurston, from Their Eyes Were Watching God
Ah was wid dem white chillun so much till Ah didn’t know Ah wuzn’t white till Ah was round six years old. Wouldn’t have found it out then, but a man come long takin’ pictures and without askin’ anybody, Shelby, dat was de oldest boy, he told him to take us. Round a week later de man brought de picture for Mis’ Washburn to see and pay him which she did, then gave us all a good lickin’.
So when we looked at de picture and everybody got pointed out there wasn’t nobody left except a real dark little girl with long hair standing by Eleanor. Dat’s where Ah wuz s’posed to be, but Ah couldn’t recognize dat dark chile as me. So Ah ast, ‘where is me? Ah don’t see me.’
Everybody laughed, even Mr. Washburn. Miss Nellie, de Mama of de chillun who come back home after her husband dead, she pointed to de dark one and said, ‘Dat’s you, Alphabet, don’t you know yo’ ownself?’
Dey useter call me Alphabet ‘cause so many people had done named me different names. Ah looked at de picture a long time and seen it was mah dress and mah hair so Ah said: ‘Aw, aw! Ah’m colored!’
Den dey all laughed real hard. But before Ah seen de picture Ah thought Ah wuz just like the rest.
W. E. B. Du Bois, from The Souls of Black Folk
It is in the early days of rollicking boyhood that the revelation first bursts upon one, all in a day, as it were. I remember well when the shadow swept across me. I was a little thing, away up in the hills of New England…In a wee wooden schoolhouse, something put it into the boys’ and girls’ heads to buy gorgeous visiting-cards—ten cents a package—and exchange. The exchange was merry, till one girl, a tall newcomer, refused my card, —refused it peremptorily, with a glance. Then it dawned upon me with a certain suddenness that I was different from the others; or like, mayhap, in heart and life and longing, but shut out from their world by a vast veil…
The Negro is a sort of seventh son, born with a veil, and gifted with a second-sight in this American world,—a world which yields him no true self-consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world. It is a peculiar sensation, this double consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his two-ness, —an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.
Carlos Bulosan, from a letter to Jose de los Reyes outlining the plot of a novel ‘that concerns racial relations between Pinoys and white Americans’
Suddenly in the night a Filipino houseboy kills a friend and in his attempt to escape the law he stumbles into his dark room and bumps into a wall. When he wakes up he is confronted by a veiled image in the darkness who reveals to him that he has become white. It is true, of course, that he has become a white man. But the image tells him that he will remain a white man so long as he will not fall in love with a white woman! Then, according to the warning of the image he would become Filipino again, ugly, illiterate, monster-like and viscious.
This is a parable, of course, an American parable. Some elements in America gave us a gift of speech, education, money, but they also wanted to take away our heart. They give you money but deny your humanity. So this is the great challenge to the protagonist of the novel: to give up the opportunity of being a white man who is intelligent, moneyed and also handsome, to become an ugly Filipino again in order to follow the tragic course of his heart—his love for a white woman—this is the theme. He was a white man for three days in the book; then he becomes a Filipino again. There was no use living a lie anyway. For one thing, he had killed a good friend; there was no choice. But the murder is secondary to the racial issue: that America denies our humanity.