Analysis

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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 220

The Blacker the Berry by Wallace Thurman is a commentary on the hypocrisy in African American society that generates a disdain for blacks of darker skin color. The feeling that “blacker” blacks were undesirable permeated not only white culture, but black culture, even in Harlem where the issue of colorism affected African Americans who struggled to confirm their value in a society through their artistic and cultural contributions. The Blacker the Berry shows how colorism held them back. Thurman expresses disdain for the mainstream black establishment, and he conveys the idea that in the black community, this type of prejudice reflects a desire to impress white people, which devalues African Americans and contributes to racial prejudice that keeps them marginalized in society.

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In the story, Thurman focuses more on Emma Lou’s self-disdain more than on disdain of others for her. He also makes it clear that her lack of confidence and her pessimistic outlook resulted directly from her opinion that she was somehow undesirable because of her skin color. Thus, Thurman’s main concern is not to expose the pervasiveness of colorism in black as well as white communities, but the effect of colorism on a person’s outlook. He also makes it clear that colorism and the attitudes that accompany it affect African American woman more than men.

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