Friday, March 30, 2012

Identity Crisis?

I know I'm going a little blog-crazy, but I keep reading (unintentionally) really interesting things that are related to our class and I want to share with everyone!
I'm currently taking SPA 471, a topics spanish class, and this semester it is about "la imagen del negro en la literatura americana" (basically, how black people are portrayed in Spanish-American literature). My professor handed out an article (in English, so everyone can read it if they want) about a boy who is black, born into a White family.

In the article, a white mother has an affair with a former co-worker, who is black, and is impregnated with his child. The son is born in 1959, black, into an entirely white family. However, the mother tells him (as well as everyone else, to hide her affair) that he has a skin disease called melanin, and that he was fortunate that his entire body was affected (instead of being blotchy). Everyone accepted this story, perhaps out of ignoring the obvious, because "it was better to be a white boy with a skin disease than a black kid".

With the lie told, her son, David Meyers, grows up in a white, middle-class neighborhood believing he is white. He even states "I thought like a white kid. There was a feeling in me that I didn't want to be associated with blacks."

As David reached adolescence, he became defiant and treated differently. His mother was very angry towards him, attributing this anger to her son's behavior, not his skin color. Eventually, her mother stated she had been raped by a black man when she became impregnated with David. David tracked down his birth-father, who stated that there was no rape, they had only gone out a couple times and had consensual sex.

After learning that he was, in fact, black, David experienced an identity crisis, not knowing whether he was black or white. He had spent his entire life growing up and "acting white", only to learn that he was in fact black.

It brings up a couple really significant points: First, how does our skin color, or "race", affect our identity and perceptions towards others? (I'm aware that is a very vague question, but I mean more in the context of this article) ; Second, what are the repercussions of discovering a false ancestry? (This ties in nicely with 23andme, as well, in case someone learns their dad isn't really their dad).

The article is from the Providence Journal, September 27,2005 (if anyone is interested in looking it up) and is called "Mother reveals white lie and changes a family's history"


  1. Nice post. Your're getting at the "one drop" rule of blackness. That the person in your article was considered to be black even though he had one white parent, demonstrates this societal rule.

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  4. This may give you folks a bit more perspective ... One of the components to this story , as well as the reason behind the lack of interest shown by other students(as well as your professor) in adding commentary , is a little known system (in white america), named , "the system of white supremacy" .

  5. Hi Dave. Google'ing yourself?

    Holly Dunsworth was the professor of this course, so I'm not sure why you're accusing her of showing no interest in adding commentary. I also don't see how your article sheds any light on "the system of white supremacy" in terms of how it relates to the apathy of URI students. Issues of hypodescent, however, are discussed (if only tangentially) in other posts here.

    Normally I'd remove the link since Chrome is giving me warnings about trackers on the site, but I'll assume it was left in good faith (not that anyone checks this blog anymore).

  6. It appears that those who have read what I have posted previously , in my attempt at facilitating further , or increased "racial" understanding , have been the furthest from sincere . The System of white supremacy has an extremely curious and effective way of insulating white people from gainfully seeking , and thereby realizing new information that may threaten the white priviledge that is seamlessly interwoven into your comfortable daily existence .