Race, Society and Politics - Black and White Like Me
What skin color will make you successful in the city?
Change, change, change...
In the first decade of the 2000s, it became possible to change nearly any aspect of the human body. Such advances in technology included body and eye color as well as hair color anywhere on the body - via surgery, dyes, drugs, radiation, gene splicing, cosmetics, tattoos, tinted contact lenses, and other means. One can ingest colloidal silver, if one wishes to turn as blue as some extraterrestrials and some senior citizens' tinted blue hair.
Humanity has become a culture - for those with the mean$ - of the Star Trek® surgical disguises that aided the Captains and crews to penetrate Klingon strongholds and Bajoran temples. However, there are risks involved with such changes, whether they are permanent eyeliner or liposuction or a full body makeover. People can be informed about these risks and choose accordingly, but some people will likely still have a bad experience with physical changes. This involves physical and emotional, but also social risks.
(S)He who has enough money and insurance can be anyone of any race - almost.
If cultural proverbs and the Bible are correct in stating that there is a season for everything under the sun, then we should not be surprised that we can now change almost anything. People can make these types of choices for themselves if they wish, but I do not think that adults should force these changes upon children, nor spouses and partners on one another, nor a government upon its citizens or a ruling class upon its captives. These physical changes changes should never be forced, unless perhaps it be gastric bypass in order to save the life of a morbidly obese child or similar.
There also may be a case for individuals changing their appearance in order to avoid genocide. Some individuals of various ethnic groups have "passed" as members of other ethnic groups for centuries, sometimes in order to survive. Research annals and family histories are full of these events.
Some people have also experienmented with going from white to black or black to white. However, you may remember the uproar when Michael Jackson's skin-litening vitiligo was revealed and some accused him of skin bleaching. Change is not always accepted by others
"Black Like Me"
Although the Genographic Project of National Geographic, The Smithsonian Institution, and IBM has shown that color differences among human beings are statistically insignificant (equivalent to not existing), they are significant to many individuals and some groups of people. Even among some ethnic groups of darker-skinned peoples, the lightest complexions carry the highest status. Differently "colored" ethnicities are sometimes mistreated by other groups when they find themselves among the Other. Racial tensions still exhibit themselves in America.
While I myself am very white-skinned, with brown hair that indicates someone generations back with black hair married a blonde, and blue eyes, I also have high cheekbones and other characteristics that give away Native American heritage. When some people notice these, they turn very nasty and rude. At other times, it is funny - as when some colleagues unaware of my background attend conferences and go on and on that all Indians are drunks and I pipe up with, "Oh, you mean me?" And my ethnic nation is related to the Zulu -- If I say this, some people invariably back away, because of color association, not with the fierceness of that group..
Overall, I would not change skin color, because I think it is too much trouble. To me, even makeup is a hassel for everyday use.
BLACK LIKE ME
A book and film have been produced form the experiences of a white man in the 1960s that volunteered to take a drug that caused his skin to darken.
John Howard Griffin
Black Like Me(1961) was written by the journalist John Howard Griffin from a diary. From Mansfield, Texas and white, Griffin spent 6 weeks in 1959 as a black man via anti-vitiligo drug treatment, travelling on the Greyhound bus. He rode across the racially segregated South: Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi. He lived on payment from his sponsor, Sepia Magazine, which published a series of articles about this experience. It was all eye opening.
Griffin wrote that everywhere he went in the American South, white people stared at him in clear hatred. He had trouble in 1959 finding anyplace that would serve him food or let him use a restroom, let alone spend the night.
Anyone changing their skin color may have an interesting time of it in the 2000s as well. One might be able to find food and shelter readily, but lack of knowledge of local ethnic customs might cause conflict. The total experience might make an interesting story.
Watermelon Man's Burden
Another film about color change is Lenny Henry's True Identity (1991). In this story, Lenny Henry plays a man that needs to hide from the Mafia, so he disguises himself as a white man. The Mafia still gets hold of him and hires him as a white man to go out and hunt down and kill his own black alter ego.
While this film is humorous, it rather points to potential problems that may occur when one changes one's skin color. There was certainly an ongoing uproar over Michael Jackson's fading skin color, remember. We may not be hired to hunt ourselves down as in True Identity, but will our family and friends accept us in a different color?
Watermelon Man is a 1970 film that portrays a black man that has become white, and all the problems this change brings upon him. It's a comedy, but points out some real problems.
White Man's Burden stars John Travolta in an ethnic role reversal drama in which an alternate history places African Americans historically in the upper echelons of America and the whites in the ghettos. It is thought provoking.
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