Black No More by George Schuyler is not a conventional book about racism. In this fast-moving story, Max Fisher is a black man living in Harlem, New York. One night, he is rejected by a white woman at a speakeasy because of his race. As a result, he becomes one of the first people to undergo a new procedure in which he becomes a white man. He renames himself Matthew Disher and then joins a white supremacist group to ward off any suspicion that he was once black.
What is great and unexpected about this story is that this book was not written in the 21st century’s age of wonderful The Onion satire, but it was actually written in 1931.
George Schuyler is a writer who actually started as a socialist that supported Marcus Garvey’s black nationalist perspective. He also worked for the financial side of the NAACP in an effort to advocate for black rights in the 1930s. Over time, his politics shifted to the right and he ran for a congressional seat as a conservative candidate.
His past politics can explain how Black No More criticizes both the left and right when it comes to race and racism. Unsurprisingly, many of his critiques are still relevant to today’s current social climate. Here are six quotes from Black No More that will make you curious about this book’s perspective.
“He had undergone the tortures of Doc Crookman’s devilish machine in order to escape the conspicuousness of a dark skin and now he was being made conspicuous because he had once had dark skin! Could one never escape the plagued race problem?”
“As a boy he had been taught to look up to white folks as just a little less than gods; now he found them a little different than Negroes, except that they were uniformly less courteous and less interesting.”
The economic side
“The working people were far more interested in what they considered, or were told was, the larger issue of race. It did not matter that they had to send their children into the mills to augment the family wage; that they were always sickly and that their death rate was high. What mattered such little things when the very foundation of civilization, white supremacy, was threatened?”
“Booted and starved by their industrial and agricultural feudal lords, the white masses derived their only consolation and happiness from the fact that they were the same color as their oppressors and consequently better than the blacks.”
A new problem arises
“The new Caucasians began to grow self-conscious and resent the curious gazes bestowed upon their lily-white countenances in all public places.”
“The upper class began to look around for ways to get darker. It became the fashion for them to spend hours at the seashore basking naked in the sunshine and then to dash back, heavily bronzed to their homes, and preening themselves in their dusky skins, lord it over their paler, and thus less fortunate, associates.”
George Schuyler is a writer of a different time, but has his book transcended time? What was a hot take in 1931 has turned into common discourse in 2021, but that can only be expected as many of these social and political issues continue to persist in our society.