If You Can't Beat Them, Join Them: An Interpretation of "Black No More"

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If You Can't Beat Them, Join Them: An Interpretation of "Black No More"

Brief Description

The novel, "Black No More" examines a satirical reality in which African Americans are given the opportunity to change their skin color.

Extended Description

The novel “Black No More,” follows Max Disher, an African American man who decides to undergo a process that changes his black skin into white skin. The story poses the question “what if we turned all the black people in America white?” What would happen to our history of racism and discrimination based on the color of one’s skin? From a black perspective comes the viewpoint of “If you can’t beat them, join them.”

George S. Schuyler writes a satirical novel that challenges readers to think outside of the box and break out of their comfort zones. Arguably the largest dividing classification American society faces not only today but at the time of the novel’s release in 1931 is race. Danzy Senna, introduces the novel stating, “ ‘Black No More’ argues compellingly, provocatively, that the idea of blackness is necessary in order for whiteness to survive.” This viewpoint is important as it challenges the very existence of race as we know it.

The narrative centers around the invention by a Black scientist named Junius Crookman, of a three-day treatment known as ‘Black-No-More’ which has the ability to completely convert black people into white people. The main character Max Disher, an African American man, becomes interested in the process as a way to win over the white woman that rejected him as a black man. Upon changing his skin color and choosing a new name of Matthew Fisher, he is pleased as he immediately experiences a reprieve from the challenges of being a black man. He even wins over the white woman that rejected him when he was black. Ultimately, he recognizes that identifying as a minority, specifically in the United States, presupposes a substantial disadvantage to attaining the full advantages of human life. It is not only likely but inevitable that some degree of discrimination will be experienced throughout a Black person’s lifetime. This is in part due to the systemic nature of discrimination but also due to individual bias.

Schuyler presents a perspective on mobility by allowing a shortcut to social mobility. Social mobility is the movement of individuals or groups of people in society. The driving motivation behind social mobility in the United States is the American Dream. Citizens have always believed in America that they control their own destiny. The goal for many people was to live the picturesque American life that included a family with kids and a white picket fence house. Nowadays, that dream is fading as social mobility in America decreases. An important factor involved in the facilitation of social exclusion is when social mobility is stagnant or even nonexistent. When a black man is offered the chance to change his skin color, many readers of color feel a complicated mix of emotions. On one side, there a seemingly ‘quick fix’ to all discrimination that African Americans face because of the color of their skin. On the other side, there is an enormous loss of individuality that comes naturally through being a minority in America. Though enjoying certain advantages with a new name and skin color, he finds a downside to his new reality as he reflects upon a certain incomparable freedom that only people of color can experience.

Both white and black readers are posed with a moral dilemma of race relations in America. Black Americans often struggle to imagine a future that is fully inclusive of the American Dream. This is a result of the everchanging racial scene America is known for. Features of Afrofuturism are visible within the novel as Shuyler examines the idea of assimilation of white values going as far as to change skin color. The narrative presents a moral dilemma that presupposes a natural superiority of white skin.

On a basic level, we all want happiness and equality. Is this really possible in our world? We are all made different with individual personalities. In part, these differences are who we are. It is argued that if we were all the same, life would be boring.


Harlem, New York

Student creator name(s)

Makayla McNee


Item sets