WTF?

This is from the answers to correspondents column of the New York Clipper of September 11, 1880.  Sadly, the original question is not included.

It is quite possible for a white person to become as black as a negro.  The change is more common in women than in men, but with women it is less likely to be permanent.  There have been a number of instances of persons of the very lightest complexion turning black, some remaining so for only a week or two, and others continuing changed until their death, which resulted from a different cause from that underlying their change of color.  Negroes have also become white.

WTF?  This clearly is talking about more than a dark tan.  I wonder if this wasn’t an anxiety of the day, like those Victorian coffins with bells on strings, just in case you wake up post-interment.

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9 thoughts on “WTF?

  1. Fm Wikipedia, the Clipper would eventually be incorporated into Variety. Is it just about the makeup effects used for blackface?

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    • The Clipper covered both sports and “amusements” (theater, vaudeville, circuses, etc.) The combination was not uncommon in those days. Another similar paper, the New York Sunday Mercury, after two iterations ended up merging with the Daily Racing Form. In the case of the Clipper, it moved away from sports in the 1890s and concentrated on theater (and, interestingly, film; it is a major source for the study of very early film). Hence its merging into Variety.

      So as a matter of is blackface topical to the publication, it absolutely is. But this doesn’t look like that.

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  2. I have no idea of this talking about an actual physical change or just passing in a really oblique manner. This should just be seen as dumb stuff some people in past generations believed because reasons.

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  3. While this is likely to be, as says above, “the 19th-century equivalent of ‘you can’t get pregnant unless you enjoyed it'”, there’s something about it that touches me in quite another way.

    Something having to do with Rachel Dolezal. Something having to do with Anatole Broyard.

    Here’s some more.

    Race is a social construct.

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      • But there are so many other ways we could divide people into groups.
        More logical, certainly, than by “color and facial features”!
        (Try dividing people by immune system compatibility… to name one that we do intuitively… ahh, what’s the word for it? “chemistry”)

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