Themes and Meanings

(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

Black No More is a lacerating satire of the mores of race and ethnicity in the United States in the first third of the twentieth century. Indeed, Schuyler’s mocking epigraph sets the tone for the entire novel:

Dedicated to all Caucasians. . . who can trace their ancestryback ten generations and confidently assert there are noBlack leaves, twigs, limbs or branches ontheir family tree

Though the epigraph focuses on white obsession with bloodline “purity,” Schuyler exploits the color-obsession of African Americans as well, noting that insofar as “whiteness” is the standard, all races and ethnicities, including non-Anglo-Saxon whites, aspire to “whiteness” on some level. Thus, “whiteness” stands not for race but for a whole set of beliefs, behaviors, and modes of access to political and economic power. More important, Schuyler demonstrates how this obsession with skin color blinds every American to scientific “truth,” which is not based on appearances alone, and to class conflict, which drives and accounts for economic and political power in the United States. Thus, for Schuyler, poor whites, Jews, and Catholics act against their own interests, because they remain mesmerized by the chimera of race. The crowning irony is that everything represented in the novel as the pinnacle of whiteness turns out to be corrupt, immoral, and violent.