The Autobiography of the Ex-Colored Man: The Ability to Pass
The Autobiography of An Ex-Colored Man depicts the narrator as a liminal character. Beginning with an oblivious knowledge of race as a child, and which racial group he belonged, to his well knowing of “white” and “black” and the ability to pass as both. On the account of liminality, the narrator is presenting himself as an outsider. Because he is both a “white” and “black” male, he does not fit in with either racial group. In the autobiography of an Ex-colored man, James Weldon Johnson uses double consciousness to show the narrators stance as a person that gives up his birthright for the “privilege of whiteness”.
Beginning from when the narrator was a little boy, being perceived as white by his classmates, while he was neither black nor white but a combination of both. As a result of the narrator being raised on the perception of being a ”white” male, that life style was all he knew. The narrator uses the “privilege of whiteness”, which is taking full advantage of the opportunities that is presented before you due to your race. “Privilege of whiteness” gave the narrator a since of ease, knowing by passing as a “white” was his chance to live the American dream.
According to the narrative, the narrator believed it was possible for blacks to be successful and make a lineage for the African American race to look forward too. He idolized famous historians such Booker T. Washington, wanted to be like them to form a name for himself as a positive “black” man. “Beside them I feel small and selfish. I am an ordinarily successful white man who has made a little money. They are men who are making history and a race. I, too, might have taken part in a work so glorious.”()
The day the narrator witnessed his first lynching he felt embarrassed for his race, shocked that another human being could be this cruel to one another and not be able to take up for himself. “A great wave of humiliation and shame swept over me. Shame that I belonged to a race that could be so dealt with; and shame for my country, that it, the great example of democracy to the world, should be the only civilized, if not the only state on earth, where a human being would be burned alive.”(137) Because of that day, the narrator made a decision that he felt was best for him at the time, which was to let the world make their own perception of him. “I argued that to forsake one’s race to better one’s condition was no less worthy an action than to forsake one’s country for the same purpose. I finally made up my mind that I would neither disclaim the black race nor claim the white race; but that I would change my name, raise a mustache, and let the world take me for what it would; that it was not necessary for me to go about with the label of inferiority pasted across my forehead.” (139)
In the narrative, it is conclusive; the narrator’s adult life is considered a performance. Due to the fact he is a man of multiple race, it...