The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man

The Whitening of Souls: A Note on Shame, Internal Monologues, and White Hegemony College

The Whitening of Souls: A Note on Shame, Internal Monologues, and White Hegemony

In James Weldon Johnson’s The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man, the unnamed protagonist lives his life walking the line between white and black. He is a man who can choose to be a person of color, or can “pass” as a white man, and as is evident by the title, he chooses the life of a white man. But even while he is grappling with the idea of choosing a race, he is naturally inclined to elevate white people and subtly discriminate against black people. These events take place in his inner monologue despite him knowing internally that he himself is black. While this could be seen as betrayal of one’s race, the text substantiates the reality that the hegemony of the white population is so pervasive that it alters even the standards and feelings of the black community within themselves. The narrator’s feelings are only a refection of his world.

Even as a child, the narrator falls into patterns of discrimination against other black children. He recounts siding with the white children naturally in elementary school, and one event where he “ran after [the black children] pelting them with stones” (10). Finding out he himself is black is a moment of...

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