THE LIGHT SKINNED NEGRO
To the Editors of the CRIMSON:
The problem of the Negro in the white society, especially among white liberals, is that he is seen first as a Negro; he can become an individual, but only for a few intimates. A good example of this is the case of the light-skinned "Negro," the "passer." While liberals try to move forward, their attitude in this area is essentially that long ago erected by the slave owners: a man is either totally white, or he is black. There is no gray. Liberal friends of mine condemn a person because he, being 1/16 "colored," says he is white and "passes" for white; he is "rejecting his heritage." (It is no paradox that most of the leaders of the Black Muslims are light, although not light enough to "pass"; part of their attitude is a fanatical rejection of their gray heritage which has rejected them.) Ironically, if he tries to "pass," he is also condemned and rejected by Negroes. If only he would accept his heritage, i.e. the place decreed him by his black color, and try to help his race.
If only liberals on both sides of the race barriers could see this important problem, could recognize their mutual classifying in terms of race, rather than in terms of individuals, perhaps a start could be made. I may be condemned as undemocratic if I say that in the white world the white person is judged on his merits, as an individual; in the gray world everyone should be so judged. The Aryan scientist is a far more valuable person to the rest of mankind than is a Negro drunkard; and a Negro scientist is worth more than a white rapist; these cases of merit are clear. Our trouble is that as the distinctions blur, so do our judgments, and we use aids of blanket categorization rather than individuality. Until our standard becomes one of the individual as an individual, our problem will remain; and, pessimistically, perhaps the greatest difficulty will lie with the white liberals, who are blind to their own prejudice, that of treating each black person as a Negro. In helping men to be considered as individuals in our society, and to mould the attitudes of that society, the white liberal must simultaneously change his own attitudes. Jonathan Gillman '64