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Race, Society and Politics - Black and White Like Me

Updated on January 30, 2012

What skin color will make you successful in the city?

(Photos this page public domain.)
(Photos this page public domain.)

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.

Black, white, yellow, pink, olive.
Black, white, yellow, pink, olive.

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, white, Asian: Negroid, Caucasoid, and Mongoloid "races."
Black, white, Asian: Negroid, Caucasoid, and Mongoloid "races."

"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.


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
Watermelon Man

Codfrey Cambridge changes from black to white.


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.

Some people say that if we all try to look like other "colors", then we will all just become gray.
Some people say that if we all try to look like other "colors", then we will all just become gray.

Comments & Experiences

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    • dusanotes profile image


      9 years ago from Windermere, FL

      This was a delightful learning experience blog for me. Thanks, Patty. You definitely are one of the great writers on Hub Pages. I feel it a treat to read your material. You think past most Hubers and into the things most of us dare not travel. I appreciate your approach and you. Don White

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      9 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      O Hi! Lady_E, I'll read it now. Thanks.

    • Lady_E profile image


      9 years ago from London, UK

      What an Insightful Hub. There is a comment in it "Even among some ethnic groups of darker-skinned peoples, the lightest complexions carry the highest status." - Oh, so True! - which is why everyone wants to be Light skinned.

      I posted the question in Q & A because I wanted to write about the issue. No one answered so I went ahead to write the Hub "Changing Skin Colour - The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. (It will be rude of me to post the link here).

      I'm glad you answered the question. Regards, E.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      9 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      @The Old Firm - I think I remember the TV Serives you mention! - The film I reference, and have seen, stars a black man, Godfrey Cambridge, who turns white - it is particularly funny when he wakes up white beside his black wife, who wakes up and screams. There may be, of course, remakes and other versions of which I am not aware. So busy writing, you see.... :)

      @maven101 - Baldness can be a pain in the head - do you sunburn easily?

      @lyrics - Make for me is for special occasions. It seems not to stick on very well. :)

      @dohn121 - The title came from a political event, carttons, and essays of another century, speaking of the heavy responsibility of English and American colonizers in helping Indigenous peoples. This film is sure a turnaround!

      Thanks for all the comments, Everyone!

    • The Old Firm profile image

      The Old Firm 

      9 years ago from Waikato/Bay Of Plenty, New Zealand

      The Chinese, I understand, regarded the Occidental with disdain and as virtual savages when they started nosing around China a few hundred years back, and probably still quite rightly do so.

      A line in an American TV series from the 80's sticks in my mind: An attractive girl arrived as the assistant of an elderly white Forensic Pathologist, and asked him

      "Do you mind working with me , I'm Coloured?"

      He looked at her with total disinterest and replied

      "So what colour are you; green?"

      That "So what the Hell" attitude I can live with.

      Incidentally, "Watermelon Man was about a White guy who woke up one morning Black, not the other way round.



    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I love and relate to your line, 'even makeup is a pain for me'. Really well written and I enjoyed reading this, thanks!

    • dohn121 profile image


      9 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

      I've heard of White Man's Burden but have not yet seen it. This is the very first time hearing ob True Identity. I will definitely check them both out. Thank you so much, Patty for this interesting read. We're conditioned to label everything in our lives not up to and including our credit score, occupation, race/ethnicity, age, etc. Thank you!

    • creativeone59 profile image

      benny Faye Douglass 

      9 years ago from Gold Canyon, Arizona

      Thank you for the hub of the black and white of it all. very informative. creativeone59

    • maven101 profile image


      9 years ago from Northern Arizona

      Very interesting Hub....I love your writing free flowing and easy to read...I have never had a prob re skin color, mine or someone else's...I'm olive complected from my Portuguese side, with green eyes and reddish hair ( what little remains ) from my Irish side... got a dab of Kiowa in there also...Sure wish they come up with a cure for baldness...Thanks again for an interesting Hub...Larry

    • RedSonja94 profile image


      9 years ago from Michigan

      Wonderful hub. Very informative and interesting.

    • Hmrjmr1 profile image


      9 years ago from Georgia, USA

      Thanks Patty another great one!


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