It's not all black and white
September 19, 2005 1:06 PM   Subscribe

Throughout his childhood, David Myers was told that his skin color was a disease called melanism. He was lucky, his mother said, because the skin discoloration was all over his body, instead of just splotches of brown like most people had. So despite his dark skin, Myers grew up in white, middle-class neighborhoods in Ohio and New York believing he was white.
posted by mr_crash_davis (55 comments total)
 
what's a little white lie every now and again, really?
posted by kcm at 1:13 PM on September 19, 2005


"And it would convince him that his story is the story of America -- a white America that has been lied to, a black America oppressed and discriminated against, and a society unable or unwilling to discuss race."

Hmmm. It seems to me most of the problems of this story stem from someone unwilling to face up to the consequences of their sexual behavior rather than an inherent racism.

But then agin, that's one theory I've been given to understand racism: it's not simply a story invented to feel superior, but one invented to justify treating other people as inferior.
posted by weston at 1:16 PM on September 19, 2005


[insert appropriate quote from Steve Martin's "The Jerk"]
posted by mecran01 at 1:17 PM on September 19, 2005


Wow, the mother is a real winner. She has, with her actions, totally soured me on the white race.
posted by allen.spaulding at 1:24 PM on September 19, 2005


The fliers identify him as "Dave Myers -- Subject Matter Expert" and direct people to his Web site.

Anybody got a link? I did a quickie Google search and didn't turn anything up.
posted by alumshubby at 1:31 PM on September 19, 2005


alum - I think it's in the article - DiscussRace.com
posted by muddgirl at 1:33 PM on September 19, 2005


I were raised with the lie that the eyepatch and pegleg were just quirks that made me special, like the windsprit on a right beautiful galleon. All the other children from the coastal farms and villages made fun of me, but I told them I was just like them - even though I felt deep in me hearrrrrt it weren't true.
posted by freebird at 1:35 PM on September 19, 2005


That has got to be one of the saddest stories I've ever heard. Peace to all of them.
posted by tristeza at 1:36 PM on September 19, 2005


Has anyone found "his website" mentioned in the article?

He is right. Talking honestly about race is much less common than, say, talking about one's intimate sexual or medical situations.

W.E.B. Du Bois was prescient enough in 1903 to proclaim that the problem of the 20th century would be "the color line." I wonder if he thought we might have come a little closer to solving it by the 21st century.
posted by kozad at 1:37 PM on September 19, 2005


Sounds very similar to this episode from This American Life, Act 1: the story of Dave Palidino

"While he was growing up, Dave Paladino always felt different from the rest of his family. People were always asking him if he was adopted, and Dave, who isn't adopted, would explain to them that his mother's father was "dark Italian." He would say that it was a recessive gene that had expressed itself only in him and not his sisters. This was his theory. Ockham's Razor states that if two theories predict phenomena to the same accuracy, then the one which is simpler is the better one, and in Dave's case, there was another simpler theory -- one that he only learned of at the age of thirty -- and it explained why he looked the way he did better than anything else he had ever heard."

Click their Real Audio link for a free listen. Very interesting.
posted by StarForce5 at 1:37 PM on September 19, 2005


This story is sad in so many ways.

"Do you have any black friends now?" Myers asks.
"I don't have any friends at all," the woman says.
"I don't either," Myers says. "That doesn't matter much."
posted by Morrigan at 1:42 PM on September 19, 2005


Sounds like the mother is a right piece of work. He's "not [her] son anymore" because he's actually living out the consequences of her lies, her reprehensible behaviour? Sounds like she still hasn't taken any responsibility for fucking up her son's life.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 1:49 PM on September 19, 2005


When a young Dave Myers asked his mother why police in Alabama were spraying black civil-rights protesters with fire hoses, she told him it was because they were hot.
posted by iamck at 1:50 PM on September 19, 2005


on preview: I was just about to post the same sentence iamck did. Jesus wept.
posted by FYKshun at 1:52 PM on September 19, 2005


I was going to post that, too. Also:

Judy Myers insists the rape story is true: "Any black who rapes a woman will say she asked for it."

Jesus.
posted by amarynth at 1:55 PM on September 19, 2005


She also sounds upset that he went public. Now the whole world knows she had a black baby.
posted by caddis at 1:55 PM on September 19, 2005


did i miss the part where the mom explained his kinky hair?

i couldnt find that.
posted by tsarfan at 2:01 PM on September 19, 2005


It's funny/sad that this reminds me of Clarence Bigsby (Chapelle Show Character) ...a blind black kid who thought he was white his whole life and joined the KKK

Man I hope they release the 3rd season on dvd
posted by matimer at 2:03 PM on September 19, 2005


This isn't a race story. This is a mentally-ill-woman-fucks-up-her-entire-family's-lives story. Mr. Myers sounds like he could get along fine with either his biological father or his mother's husband (who raised him as a father, which makes him the real father for all that I can tell), and I think he should feel free to seek out close, loving, familial relationships with either or both of them, after giving this sick woman the boot for good.
posted by Faint of Butt at 2:06 PM on September 19, 2005


The mother sounds like a horrible human being. In my mind it is a human responsibility to unconditionally love your offspring regardless of whether they turn out to be black, white, hispanic, gay, straight, deviant, law-abiding, of a different religion or political philosophy, whatever.
posted by Ndwright at 2:07 PM on September 19, 2005


Where is the line to beat the mother? What a pathetic, sick, ass backwards, psycho, racist.

I do like the part about the guy hoping he'll get on Oprah. Sorry buddy...you are messed up and all, but, it's your mother's fault and her fault only. Oprah can't make cash off of that...
posted by mrblondemang at 2:18 PM on September 19, 2005


back then, it was not wise or safe to 'admit' to having an affair with a black man, let alone bearing his child. heck, the man could have been lynched for having consensual sex. it would have been better to find the baby a loving home rather than raise him this way. how can one not expect some bitterness on his part? and then when she had a chance to come clean, so to speak, and try to make amends, she made it even worse. and now she is right out there with her further cruelty to her son. bad, Bad, BAD woman.
posted by TrinityB5 at 2:29 PM on September 19, 2005


I love the way it's now his fault and he's totally soured her on black people. Clearly she was just fine with black people before he started being such an unbearable reminder of her selfish, small-minded choices.
posted by rebirtha at 2:36 PM on September 19, 2005


Yeah. And I can't get over the fact that although she finally admitted he was half black, she sticks to the story that it was rape. I call bullsheeeeeeeit.
posted by Specklet at 2:38 PM on September 19, 2005


"I was fine with black people until you had to go and BE ONE."
posted by 23skidoo at 2:38 PM on September 19, 2005


Yep, he lost me with the " In finding himself, Dave Myers fantasizes that some day he will find himself on Oprah" part. I've always pictured the goal in life as being at peace with myself, not existing in the emotional and spiritual chaos that would bring me 10 minutes of fame with Oprah and her congregation.

And, I agree with Faint of Butt, this has very little to do with race and everything to do with a very disturbed family.

I hope they can all get this straightened out someday, but I'm guessing that might not happen....
posted by HuronBob at 2:59 PM on September 19, 2005


Wow, the mother is a real winner. She has, with her actions, totally soured me on the white race.
posted by allen.spaulding at 1:24 PM PST on September 19


Seriously. The white leadership of this country should speak out against her actions; but I guess there's just something wrong with the white culture that encourages this kind of thing. ><
posted by Optimus Chyme at 3:01 PM on September 19, 2005


This is the ssame case of the socalled "Justice Thomas" The Sumbitch still think he is white
posted by CRESTA at 3:04 PM on September 19, 2005


wtf, cresta?
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 3:12 PM on September 19, 2005


Metafilter: The Sumbitch still think he is white
posted by iamck at 3:14 PM on September 19, 2005


W.E.B. Du Bois was prescient enough in 1903 to proclaim that the problem of the 20th century would be "the color line." I wonder if he thought we might have come a little closer to solving it by the 21st century.

While I appreciate the sentiment behind your comment, can you really say that "race relations" haven't improved dramatically since 1903? In context, there are certainly contemporary issues between white and black in American, and various other co-existing races around the world, but in 1903 the KKK was a serious political and paramilitary force, segregation was a given, the civil rights movement was 50 years away. I'd like to think that Du Bois would thrilled with America in 2005 relative to 1903, while acknowledging that more effort is required on both sides.
posted by loquax at 3:19 PM on September 19, 2005


CRESTA, huh?
posted by Specklet at 3:21 PM on September 19, 2005


Wow, moving read.. I hope he does make it to Oprah, and I hope he takes his books with him, especially this one - It definitely changed my world.
posted by hypersloth at 3:22 PM on September 19, 2005


Yep, he lost me with the " In finding himself, Dave Myers fantasizes that some day he will find himself on Oprah" part.

HuronBob - I didn't think he was looking for "10 minutes of fame", but just a venue for frank and open discussions about race. If you look at his website (linked above but here it is again), I think he makes it pretty clear that he is just trying to get his message heard.
posted by muddgirl at 3:26 PM on September 19, 2005


Specklet: This woman's apparent reasoning rings of the sort of immature thought process that seems to be keeping us, as a whole, in the drink. I imagine the thought process like this: 'This could all be true-- they can't prove he didn't rape me, and I COULD have just been saying he wasn't black to protect everyone from knowing about the horrible thing that happened. How dare you question my attempt to do good (because you can't prove I wasn't)? I'm the injured party! I'll throw my child's picture in the trash; I won't be burdened with his crazy feelings!'

Sticky part of it, though, because she's so clearly lying about the whole black-son thing and so clearly prejudiced against black people, we assume she also couldn't possibly have been raped. I mean, I don't believe she was. But I don't believe it because the rest of her story stinks and because she revealed herself, in the article, to be so full of hate (
Judy Myers insists the rape story is true: "Any black who rapes a woman will say she asked for it.")
Not because I have any proof. I hate being part of the problem.
posted by rebirtha at 3:31 PM on September 19, 2005


Seriously. The white leadership of this country should speak out against her actions; but I guess there's just something wrong with the white culture that encourages this kind of thing.
posted by optimus chyme at 3:01 pm pst september 19


It's time for the white community to start listening to reasonable voices like Tony Danza who places the blame where it belongs, on poor whites, not on society. White people need to stop feeling sorry for themselves and pull themselves up by their bootstraps, yet when all the see on tv is Jerry Springer, no wonder they end up in cycles of poverty.

Wow, this could go on forever.
posted by allen.spaulding at 4:26 PM on September 19, 2005


What I wonder is why he had to go try to find out "what it meant to be black" and try to act it out. Didn't he already have his own way of being a person? I understand "Oh, that explains the skin!", but I don't get this whole "racial essence" thing.

Is it that the "black breed" carries inherent behavioral traits, analogous to Australian Shepherd dogs' tendency to nip at people's heels to herd them? If so, then the racists are right that black people really are different from everybody else, right? Can we then expect that a black person can grow up trained in a middle-class "white" way and then all of a sudden at age 32 come down with an irresistable urge to eat okra and chitlins? Can it even be true that as herding dogs herd so black people loot?

This is why I'm not buying that "inherent racial essence" argument, regardless of which "race" we're talking about and regardless of what kind of spin people try to put on the issue. I'm not claiming that "race" is irrelevant, only that it's way overemphasized and that the way people talk about the phenomenon is bullshit.
posted by davy at 4:37 PM on September 19, 2005


She told him "the truth" (you are black & the product of rape) on a fucking answering machine? Satan doesn't have much to do these days.
posted by Mack Twain at 4:43 PM on September 19, 2005


It's time for the white community to start listening to reasonable voices like Tony Danza who places the blame where it belongs, on poor whites, not on society. White people need to stop feeling sorry for themselves and pull themselves up by their bootstraps, yet when all the see on tv is Jerry Springer, no wonder they end up in cycles of poverty.
posted by allen.spaulding at 4:26 PM PST on September 19


When white executives learn that they won't be bailed out by the taxpayers every time they bankrupt a business, maybe those people will change their ways. It's the white culture of corporate socialism: all they care about is briefcases, bonds, and Benjamins.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 5:13 PM on September 19, 2005


I've heard that race is a construct, that in reality there are no such thing as scientifically categorizable "human races".

From the Wikipedia article on race:
It has been argued that knowledge acquired through research on human genome variation increasingly challenges the applicability of the term 'race' to human population groups

I am of the opinion that class is much more of an issue in this country than race. Sadly, by focusing so much of his atterntion on his racial identity he has concluded that his "issue" is not only important to him but to all of us. This is how fanatics are made.
posted by Polarisman at 5:45 PM on September 19, 2005


The converted sinner is often the most fanatical Christian. I think something similar is happening here. He's right though, race is still the dominant issue in American society. It has been since the government was formed and continues to this day. When will it stop? When we are all light brown and homogenized.
posted by caddis at 6:23 PM on September 19, 2005


davy, you make a good point - we're all the products of our upbringing more than anything else. But his race (or his percieved race, when he was growing up - strangers didn't know he was a white boy with melanism, as he believed) does and will affect how he's treated, how he's percieved.

I imagine he feels in limbo - he was raised as the "master of the house" (if I may borrow Audre Lorde's comparison), but once he knows who he is, he suddenly finds himself marginalized, and outside of the house. He's been raised as an upperclass white, with all the assumed privilages and education that entails, and suddenly found himself a homeless black man, and all the assumptions that entails. He's in the midst of finding himself - not just as the son of a racist White woman, but as a Black man in America in 2005. And he has to integrate these two parts of himself - the White boy and the Black Man.

No wonder he's a little caca.
posted by kalimac at 6:25 PM on September 19, 2005


This is a shitty story.

It is also a shitty story that, to me, smells like Jayson Blair.
posted by mudpuppie at 6:28 PM on September 19, 2005


Race ?

Will someone please clue me into the scientific definition of that term ?

I am ignorant on this.
posted by troutfishing at 8:18 PM on September 19, 2005


It is also a shitty story that, to me, smells like Jayson Blair.

Can you qualify that, mudpuppie?

I may not go for media sensationalism, but I'm not going to call BS without a reason. Do you have one?
posted by rockabilly_pete at 8:33 PM on September 19, 2005


See no Evil, Hear no Evil, with Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder.

After a comment from his sister, Pryor bursts out (he's blind) in the subway "I'm not white?! Oh my god I'm not white?! Does dad know?"

Am I the only one who found this story humorous?
posted by rubin at 10:17 PM on September 19, 2005


He was a black man who knew nothing about being black. His family wasn't black. None of his neighbors had been black. None of his classmates had been black. Few of his friends were black.

Why does he say he's a 'black' man? Is he not both black and white?
posted by delmoi at 10:31 PM on September 19, 2005


Sort of reminds me of Loretta's story.

The face that society sees is not the one I was born with. My heritage and ancestry is not so easily identifiable by those with whom I interact. This is a painful experience particularly, because I was raised with a love and appreciation for my cultural and ethnic ancestry. This has had an impact on my family as well. My having Vitiligo has had a negative effect on my husband and our children. Some people mistakenly think my husband married a "White" woman and my children have been asked by their peers, if there mother is "White."

delmoi, it could be a natural reaction to his being isolated from the "black" part of his heritage.
posted by MoralAnimal at 11:13 PM on September 19, 2005


In my opinion, this guy has made a bad bad choice. Everyone has the choice in dealing with what happens to them in his life, and as an adult, he should be able to look at the situation and simply move on. Forget the whole racial thing and go out and actually do something useful in society. Instead, he spends all his time writing about nothing on some obscure website. He behaves as if something has changed in himself since he realised that he his father comes from a different part of the world than his mother - nothing has changed! Accept it and move on.

You know, speaking of this, I know a certain girl down here in germany. This girl is dark skinned also, when I saw her photo, I was so SURE that she was mixed race. Her face, her features also hint at her being mixed race. I asked about it, and hse said that she simply got dark really quick when she was in the sun. I dunno, maybe it's true, but in my opinion, her mum had a little somefink somfink with an American GI.
posted by markesh at 1:55 AM on September 20, 2005


"He always has to get into racial discussions or the 'poor me' discussions," says Bill Myers. "He can't accept the way things are and go forward with his life. He has to keep stirring up the dirty water."

Dave's contention that racism is responsible for the problems in his life, his mother says, has made her more prejudiced against blacks.


Jesus. It really is America in a family portrait.

It's too bad that DiscussRace and his seminars aren't drawing more people, but I think he's got to work harder to create a hook. Instead of trying to reach people who aren't thinking about it he should start with people like that woman who has an interracial relationship in her family and hasn't seemed to have fully processed it.
posted by dhartung at 2:09 AM on September 20, 2005


Over the next decade, DNA testing is going to disinter a lot of stories like these.
posted by MinPin at 3:47 AM on September 20, 2005


Everyone has the choice in dealing with what happens to them in his life, and as an adult, he should be able to look at the situation and simply move on.

You mean, stop "stirring the dirty water" and quit with the "poor me" discussions?

That's all very easy to say to someone who was fucked up by his family, whatever the nature of that being fucked up. He's the one who had no fault in all this and yet he's the one who has to carry the consequences of having two vile parents (I don't see how the mother's husband gets away with it). It's not easy to accept that you're not going to get any justice from the people who raised you, when they've treated you like a curse and have even stopped talking to you, and all because of something they did to you. I can only imagine the amount of anger and frustration.

This is not just about the actual lie about his race and his non-existent illness and his biological father and being born out of rape (that alone would be a very tough thing to deal with), it's all that, plus being raised by emotionally abusive people who made you hate yourself, something that is not as rare as a black child being raised to believe he's white. It's such a tangle of screwed up stuff, not something you can brush away that easily especially if no one wants to hear about it. Judging by the simple fact he is still alive, maybe his "obsession" with race is not such a bad way to cope. It'd be suprising if he had no interest at all in racial issues, that wouldn't be "moving on", that'd be continuing what his parents were doing, lie and pretend and brush things under the carpet.

His story is very peculiar but it is also has obvious aspects that do represent those larger issues - even if we put down her mother's behaviour (and her husband's endorsement of it) to individual looniness, or hypocrisy, or anything entirely up to her, would it have taken that way to express itself it hadn't been fifties' white America and if there had been no racial segregation and no stigma attached to interracial relationships? I don't think so.
posted by funambulist at 4:17 AM on September 20, 2005


So, following MinPin's link, maybe I'll eventually be able to prove I really wasn't lying on the 1990 Census. That year you could pick your own race to report, so I chose "Asian and Pacific Islander" and wrote beside it "Samoan"; to this day I have difficulty remembering that was before Pulp Fiction, perhaps because I've been brainwashed by the Corporate Media (hi bugbread).
posted by davy at 10:11 AM on September 20, 2005


very sad story indeed. my heart goes out to this guy. his mother should be ashamed to death.

In my opinion, this guy has made a bad bad choice. Everyone has the choice in dealing with what happens to them in his life, and as an adult, he should be able to look at the situation and simply move on. Forget the whole racial thing and go out and actually do something useful in society.

WTF??? That has to be one of the most insensitive and asinine comments i've ever read.

Besides, how is "the whole racial thing" not useful - especially in today's society?
posted by tu11ym0n at 10:23 AM on September 20, 2005


davy : "I've been brainwashed by the Corporate Media (hi bugbread)."

Hi, davy! I see that you've referenced "brainwashing by the Corporate Media". That plot point is taken from the Josie and the Pussycats film, copyright MCA/Universal pictures. Feel free to write me a check for 10 cents for the use of this intellectual property.
posted by Bugbread at 10:38 AM on September 20, 2005


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