I thought I'd be getting off the African themes for a while in my reading, but then my husband brought home a book from the recycling center, in new condition, called "Kingsblood Royal" by Sinclair Lewis. I've never read Sinclair Lewis, I think his books were probably banned by the Magisterium in my day. (He wrote blockbusters in his own day, like "Elmer Gantry.") But especially for young people today who want to know what racism was really like in its hey-day, "Kingsblood Royal" is the book to read!
What stands out to me about this book, probably because this was something that deeply affected my mother, and therefore affected me, was the prejudice against 'white negroes,' and I'm reflecting on how the elimination of this category from the world of racism has changed the playing field - in favor, actually, of those elite who want to keep the social structure the way it is, with 'blacks' on the bottom! (Actually, I feel that Native Americans are even more 'on the bottom' than blacks, but with with all the attention right now on places like 'Ferguson', I think this is the moment to focus on prejudice and injustice towards blacks.)
There isn't much sympathy on either side of the black-white divide for the 'white negroes' of Olde, but they certainly suffered, and I don't think anyone can compare 'sufferings.' Who suffers more? The person who can't walk because of arthritis, or the person who can't walk because of diabetes? (amputations) Some people do suffer more than others, for sure, but that doesn't diminish the suffering of the others, does it? The 'white negroes' had their share of suffering, and as far as my experience tells me, even after they had 'passed' into the white mainstream, the ones I grew up around certainly supported the civil rights movement, despite opposition from co-workers, neighbors and so on - although, again in my experience, most of the neighbors were also former 'white negroes,' Native Americans or recent immigrants from war-torn lands. Some of the latter were prejudiced against blacks, no doubt about it - but their level of petty prejudice, though it can do a lot of damage, is nothing compared to the power of prejudice in the hands of the monied elite.
To get the real skinny on race in America, read John A. Powell's recent book "Racing to Justice" which explains the structure of our social system, and why 'blacks' (ie the darkest of our human family) 'have to' remain on the bottom. It is grim, discouraging reading, but nothing will change if we hide our heads in the sand like ostriches. We've got to look at it, at least.
For me, this book helps to explain why our attempts to integrate the middle class seem to be resulting in a shrinking of the middle class. Sobering reading, for sure.
More on "Kingsblood Royal" to follow - I'm only about half way through the book.