Themes and Meanings
One of the subjects of The Blacker the Berry is color prejudice among black people. Thurman attacks this kind of discrimination in several ways. As a satirist, he shows the folly of basing any estimate of worth on appearance. Thus Emma Lou’s grandmother, Maria Lightfoot, is proud of her “blue vein circle,” so named because one must have a skin light enough so that one’s veins are visible in order to belong. The fact that this aristocratic group is located in a place as small as Boise, Idaho, makes her pretensions even more patently ridiculous.
It is particularly illogical for African Americans to assign social status on the basis of how un-African one looks, since by doing so they are denying their own heritage and accepting white values. When Maria calls Emma Lou’s father and Emma Lou “niggers” or “niggerish,” she is echoing the words of white racists. Similarly, when the comedians at the Lafayette Theater show a thick-lipped, coal-black Topsy as someone whom no one would want, they are underlining the assumption that ugliness is colored black. In “Rent Party,” a group of intellectuals discuss the racist basis for color prejudice; however, they ignore the most eloquent argument against it, the suffering of the girl who is sitting mute beside them.
In the person of Emma Lou, The Blacker the Berry shows how color prejudice harms individuals. On the basis of her color, Emma Lou is made to feel unattractive...
(The entire section is 564 words.)