Questions for AD Powell about Anatole Broyard
The first question I have concern one of your quotes. "The more I live on this earth the more convinced I am that 'one drop" propaganda is almost SOLELY attributible to black elites and so-called "white" liberals. Black elites give "permission" to social-climbing so-called "whites" to attack creole whites and white mulattoes as "black" and not good enough for their white ancestry."
I wasn't aware that being called black is such an insult, why is it such a insult? Why isn't an insult Ms. Powell that somebody who has very light skin and yet black features, or somebody with very black skin and certain caucasian features, or somebody who falls in between is too superior to be called black anymore?? This is the "one drop of white" rule and in the societies where it is practiced it is just as silly as the "one drop of black" rule.
A next question concerns a quote you made in your reply letter to Marc Eisen. "What is Eisen trying to prove? He knows that millions of people in this country de-emphasize or fail to mention Jewish, Slavic or other ethnic ancestries, poor or working -class backgrounds, etc. In order to rise in the world or exercise the individualism and self-determination which are supposedly at the core of the American character."
I agree Ms. Powell that there are millions of people in this country who fail to emphasize or hide their backgrounds everyday. They are called actors, they are paid to do this. Anyone else is just a damned liar. Though you shouldn't carry around a genealogical chart with you, if somebody ask you about your background you shouldn't lie about it.
On a Saturday Night Live Skit, Martha Stewart was skewered for pretending to be a WASP when she is of Polish middle/working class background. If ethnic or class obfuscation is an acceptable behavior why did they have make fun of her for doing it??. How comfortable are you around people who would willingly lie to you Ms. Powell? If they would lie to you about simple things like background, what else would they lie to you about? Though in the past it has been necessary for people to pass it isn't always necessary now. And in the cases where people still need to do it we as a society need to correct it.
Wouldn't it be better if they were able to accomplish success without denying their background? In the past it wasn't always possible but in this day and age is it absolutely necessary? Wouldn't it show their mental and emotional strength? Wouldn't their fabrication tarnish all their accomplishments if ever found out? Isn't lying morally despicable? and aren't people who lie morally despicable? Are you one of these people Ms. Powell? Will you? Could you? answer these questions in your next article?
A next question concerns your comments about Hispanics. "The federal government's traditional way of dealing with the racial mixture( Indian, black, and white) that characterizes the Hispanic population was to "pass of" or declare all of them 'white' regardless of racial phenotype."
I was just wondering if this is because of general unconcern with race or lazy statisticans?? You should have been in Long Island a few months ago when two Mexicans of mestizo origin where severely beaten by two white men. Obviously they were uninformed of the Latino population being "white." A next person uninformed of this was a Latino comedian on the BET network. In one of his routines he told of how the police reacted to him when he refused to get on the floor when they said "okay all the niggas on the floor"
apparently the cops in this skit were unaware that the Latino comedian was considered white by the federal government. when you get the opportunity could you tell them this?
Another quote of yours that raised questions is this one. "Both Eisen and Henry Louis Gates Jr. are jealous of Anatole Broyard. Gates jealous because he wishes he had Broyard's whiteness and ability to assimilate. Eisen is jealous because he wishes he had Broyard's literary fame. He cannot stand the thought that a man from a ethnic group he despises (The multiracial Lousisiana Creoles) achieving the fame and respect that has alluded him."
Is Gates really jealous of Broyard ability to assimilate because of his complexion? Despite being able to achieve a level of fame, reknown, and accomplishment inconceivable to Broyard, and as a BLACK man? If Gates was really jealous then why did he present Broyard as such a bon vivant and charismatic personality, and not in a less pleasant manner? Moreover while Marc Eisen may not have Broyard reputation as a critic when he is ready to write his own memoirs he won't run into the writers block that Broyard did. In his essay on Broyard, Gates discusses Broyard's failure to write his much anticipated memoirs.
"As the Seventies wore on, Miller discussed the matter of blockage with his friends in relatively abstract terms: he suggested that their might be something in Broyard's relationship to his family background….Some people speculated that the reason Broyard couldn't write his novel was that he was living it-race loomed larger in his life because it was unacknowledged, that he couldn't put it behind him because he had put it beneath him."
Will Mr. Eisen have writers block when he writes his memoirs because he doesn't want to mention his black parents, or his black sister, or his black Puerto Rican, wife or his child from his first marriage who he abandoned so he could run off and become white? I doubt it, but Will you? Could you? Answer this question in your next article?
The next question I have to ask concern's Broyard's wife who commits the crime of saying that Broyard was passing!!!
"I think that his own personal history continued to be painful to him," and she adds, "In passing you cause your family great anguish, but I also think, conversely, do we look at the anguish it causes the person who is passing? Or the anguish that it was born out of?"
Anatole's own wife Sandy Broyard thought that he was passing.She might have loved him, she definetely felt sympathy for his pain, but she also thought of him as passing for white. Does this mean that she is one of the "social climbing hyenas" like Tina Brown, and Henry Lousi Gates Jr who "attack Broyard's Corpse"? Is she one of the "white liberals" who get to indulge in ego- boosting racism who fears the white race's lack of purity? If she is these things then why did she marry and have kids with a man who she knew was black and would have made her kids "not pure"? Will you? Could you? Answer these questions in your next article?
Alas I am running out of time so I will ask you a few more questions about Broyard's "not passing". Although Broyard had only one distant white ancestor he claimed to be white. Isn't this the same rule of hypodescent you disapprove of in the "one drop rule"? Is it different for Broyard because he wants to be white? At least with Gregory Williams is obvious by looking at his father's side of the family. Did Broyard have white french cousins? or did he have cousins with black features or a mixture of both French and African features?
A next question is If Broyard was so white then how come every black person he was around was able to pick up on the fact that despite his light skin he was black?
"Among the black Literati certainly his ancestry was topic of speculation….
Arna Bontemps wrote to Langston Hughes, "His picture…makes him look Negroid. If so he is the only spade among he beat generation." Charlie Parker spied Broyard in Washington Square Park one day and he told a companion, "He's one of us he just doesn't want to admit he is one of us."
Were these three people who achieved a level of fame and success and enduring recognition as BLACK men jealous of someone whose legacy would never compare? Or just honest?
Not only were black people able to pick up on this but white people as well. "I remember thinking at the time that he had the look of an octoroon or a quadroon, one of those-which he strenuously denied. He got into a very great disputes with people." If Broyard was such a white man then how was it possible for people to see that he was not? One of the points Eisen made in his article was that Broyard never identified himself as a Creole in any manner. Neither your letters to Marc Eisen, or Anatole Broyard himself, did anything to refute this claim. As a matter of fact when asked by his future wife Sandy he lied. "He claimed he wasn't black but he talked about 'island influences' or said that he had a grandmother that used to live in a tree on some island in the Caribbean."
Unless Louisiana is located between Cuba and Jamaica Broyard was lying, If Anatole was willing to not tell the truth about his background to his wife what else did he lie to her about? And how far was he willing to go to protect his "not passing".
One Black Puerto Rican woman I knew once told me how her mother had the misfortune to be born black into a family of supposed "white folks." When not being teased about being found in the garbage because she was black and the rest of them were "white" she was constantly berated for her dark skin color. She was proof that they had not succeeded in "breeding the black out." Lawrence Graham tells a story in his book Our Kind of People about a man who in order to pass (something you say does not exist) did horrible things to his daughter who committed the horrible crime of being born with Melanin and not having "good" hair. He first told her to stop referring to him and his wife as mother and father and to refer to their black maid as mama. When she was old enough she was later exiled to boarding school not for a better education, but so that her father's façade could continue. Would Broyard have done this if this was his child? Ernest Van Den Haag discusses this possibility in Gates Essay.
"I do not think it is without significance that Anatole married a blonde, and about as white as you can get. He may have feared a little bit that the children might turn out black. He must have been pleased that they didn't."
If Broyard had a child that looked like his sister Shirley instead of himself how would he have treated that child? Would he embraced that child and loved the child like any of his other children or would he being the civilized "white" man he was, simply have opted for the leave the child in the forest option? Will you? Could you? Answer this question in your next article?
Also if Broyard was not black, and was instead "white" as you claim, was he a white racist? In Gate's essay he discusses this:
"He was actually quite anti-black," Evelyn Toynton says. She tells of a time when she was walking with him on a street in New York and a drunken black man came up and asked him for a dollar. Broyard seethed. Afterward, he remarked to her "I look around New York, and I think to myself, If there were no blacks in New York, would it really be any loss."
Just out of curiousity Ms. Powell do you think he was including his father, mother, sisters, and the rest of his black family in this wish?
In another quote from the Essay by Gates, Broyard's racism towards black people is further discussed. "Charles Simmons says that writer Herbert Gold, before introducing him to Broyard warned him that Broyard was prone to make comments about spades. And Broyard did make a few such comments. "He personally, on a deeper level, was not enamored with blacks" van den Haag says. "He avoided blacks. There is no question he did."
Perhaps his avoidance of blacks is why he never made his other children aware that they had a older sister named Gala, maybe it was because Gala's mother was black?? Do you think he consider his daughter or ex-wife to be "spades"?
If Broyard was "white" like you argue he would have been a racist. Would you rather defend Broyard as a racist white man or admit he was self-hating black man? And what would your choice tell us about you Ms. Powell?
Looking forward to your next article.