Sunday, July 26, 2009


Racism wasn’t an option it was a way a life in the time of post colonialism. Post colonialism is the period after colonialism. Post colonialism is a time when racism and segregation were at its highest points, especially in the United States. The book “Passing” by Nella Larsen, takes place during the time of post colonialism when racism was seen everywhere by the white Caucasian people against the African American people. In the book this was during the time when slavery had just ended in the United States.

In this classic American novel the main characters Clare and Irene are victims of their own skin. Clare and Irene were born unusually white for being of African American descent. The story continues with Clare running away with her young Caucasian lover Jack, who was not aware of Clare’s African American background. “My goodness, Jack! What difference would it make if, after all these years, you were to find out that I was one or two per cent coloured?’ Bellew put out his hand in a repudiating fling, definite and final. ‘Oh no Nig’ he declared, ‘nothing like that with me. I know you’re no nigger, so it’s all right. You can get as black as you please as far as I’m concerned, since I know you’re no nigger. I draw the line at that. No niggers in the family. Never have been and never will be.”

Clare was always very conscious about her African background and even though she was of white skin she suffered a great deal through her pregnancy. “No, I have no boys and I don’t think I’ll ever have any. I’m afraid. I nearly died of terror the whole nine months before Margery was born for fear that she might be dark. That goodness, she turned out all right. But I’ll never risk it again. Never! The strain is simply too-too hellish.” She was scared that her child would be born with dark skin, almost thought of it as a disease. The author gives you the impression that Clare was relieved that she didn’t have dark skin because if it were otherwise she would live in poverty and not be married with John (Jack).

Achebe quotes Conrad “we glided past like phantoms”. It is interesting that Conrad uses the word phantom because the conquerors are white people, the narrator seems to emphasize how different, how dark Africa and it’s people are. This is how John Bellew though of himself in the book Passing, greater than any African American even better than his wife once he found out that she was half African. "So you're a nigger, a damned dirty nigger!' His voice was a snarl and a moan, an expression of rage and of pain." (This describes John's reaction when he found out his wife's secret.) Clare had one caucasian parent and one African parent which is why her skin color came out like that of a caucasian person.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting--be careful with some of those claims in the beginning of your piece, where you imply that racism can't be seen 'everywhere' anymore--many readers would disagree. Also, it's interesting to note that you're talking about post-colonialism in terms of American slavery. The parallels are obvious, but it's also interesting to think about the differences: for example the way that the 'colonized' can't become the mainstream or dominant group simply by virtue of numbers, or the way that they continue, even when slavery ends, to live in a society that's quite different than, say, S. Africa after Apartheid (which has it's own deviations from the traditional post-colonial situation).