Racial Capitalism in ‘Black No More’
‘Black No More’ by George Schuyler is a satirical race novel that is set during the 1940s America, a time when segregation and racism were highly prominent among white and black Americans. The plot of ‘Black No More’ narrates the consequence when black Americans are able to transform into a Caucasian (including erasing all African features); however, their black traces can still be detected in their offspring (whom shall have black skin like their once-black parents). The main theme is Racial Capitalism because Race and Capitalism are two elements that define the democracy of the United States. In Chapter 4, the main character Matthew, a successful outcome of Black No More, Inc., begins to witness the changes in society when the black community is starting to diminish. This passage marks Matthew’s moment of realization about Racial Capitalism and his intention to take advantage of it for his profitable benefit.
Once he becomes a Caucasian, he is in a period of ‘idleness’ and ‘soft-living’ which depicts his white privilege. The life of a Caucasian is breezy and stress-less. ‘Soft-living’ implies luxury because he doesn’t have to care about the struggle of race condemnation. ‘Soft’ has connotations to delicacy and ‘-living’ is very life-positive. As Matthew reads the newspaper, he was in a double consciousness between being white and black. Only ‘formerly been a Negro’ (while adopting a white mentality), he was on the ‘vantage point’ and seeing ‘how the newspapers’ write in a certain way. Now that he is a Caucasian man, he has a ‘vantage’ view, which implies a view of dominance, he is able to rationalize his former view of a ‘Negro’. This sentence implies a loss in identity of a once-Black person because Matthew is able to understand, or even sympathize, how a newspaper can fan the ‘color prejudice of the white people’. Color prejudice’ is a very formal phrase which heightens the stake of racism. Moreover, by highlighting the concerns of the white, it leaves the colored people voiceless which further defines the United States as a white-dominated country.
Racial Capitalism starts being more evident in society as the newspapers talk about the bitterness of the ‘business men’ who ‘opposed Dr. Crookman in his effort to bring out chromatic democracy’. The diminishing black population hurts capitalists because they offer ‘cheap labor’ that is effective in ‘luring industries into the South’. This somewhat dehumanizes the value of a human being because ‘labor’ is quantified into terms such as ‘white masses’ or ‘unorganized’. It is implied that humanity is erased through Capitalism’s obsession with profit. This economic organization enables our human desire for money to degrade humans into numerical values – either ‘cheap’, or expensive. For the business men, they would rather have a race hierarchy in society in order to categorize people into a destined labor. As Schuyler is a Communist, this passage is an example of Capitalism because it works dually with racism (race as an engine for capital allocation).
As Matthew acknowledges about the conflict between the business men and Dr. Crookman, he realizes that race is not purely a matter of ‘political control’ or ‘the backwardness of the South”, but because of economic advantages – ‘it suddenly dawned upon Matthew Fisher that the Black-No-More treatment was more of a menace to white businesses than to white labor’. Prior to the chaos, Matthew believes that the Black-No-More treatment was to erase racial hate, and everyone would be more acceptable. Yet, he realized that the “chromatic democracy” of America is synonymous to Racial Capitalism – the freedom in economic is intertwined with the racial allocation of labor, which is a twist in Jim Crow America.
The diction ‘dawned’ depicts his moment of realization, and it also signals a life-changing opportunity to Matthew as he has transformed to a Causasian; it is as though his life is a promising new beginning because dawns have connotations to hope. The diminishing black population is compared to a ‘menace’ to ‘white businesses’ rather than to ‘white labor’. Business and labor, although both ‘white’, are connoted differently: ‘business’ is more related to power,while ‘labor’ has relations to the lower-class. This implies that the higher, white class of America is easily sensitized as they are afraid to lose their prestige. After all, Racial Capitalism is justified at the end of the passage when Matthew realizes his profitable advantage of being Caucasian. Being white means that he is more exposed to the “money-making possibilities” which shows a light of optimism. He even symbolizes the “present situation” as a “veritable gold mine”, yet he is still finding the “ore”. The imagery of “gold” is powerful because it resembles the luxury (which is an American Dream) yet “gold” is also a capitalist’s greed because the symbol is the pinnacle of wealth. “Ore” arises images of extraction, or exploitation in which something Matthew is interested in doing. These implications foreshadow his actions later in the novel.
Schuyler’s writing effectively captures Racial Capitalism through Matthew Fisher’s realization about his profitable optimism (as a white man) which is bound to happen. The passage also cleverly includes social concerns, whether real of fiction, such as the loss of identity in the black community as they become white, the profit-driven capitalist, and the destined labor aristocracy based on race. Moreover, it challenges America as a democracy because America is a country that promises economic freedom for all and the possible achievability of the American dream, yet the matter of race is a filter that allows a certain privilege group to succeed.
Schuyler, George. Black No More. 1st ed. Olympia Press, 2015. Print.
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‘Black No More’ by George Schuyler is a satirical race novel that is set during the 1940s America, a time when segregation and racism were highly prominent among white and […]