David Myers (1960- ) was a black boy who thought he was white. Everyone else in his family was white, but his skin was brown. His mother said it was a skin disease, melanism.
He grew up as a middle-class white American boy in Ohio and upstate New York, not knowing any black people:
For many years I thought I was white. I thought like a white kid. There was a feeling in me that I didn’t want to be associated with blacks.
Almost everything he knew about blacks came from television, little of it was good. It seemed to him it was better to be a white boy with a skin disease than to be black. He wanted the story about his melanism to be true.
One time on television he saw black people running in the streets getting sprayed by fire hoses. He asked his mother about it. She said it was because they were hot. He was afraid they would come to his house: he asked his father to make sure he had his gun ready.
His parents fought over him. The children at school called him names and would be mean to him for no apparent reason. That sort of thing was completely beyond his parents’ experience. They told him that it was his fault for not knowing how to get along with people. It certainly had nothing to do with race.
It only got worse as time went on, especially at home with his mother. She said, “He was just uncontrollable. None of my other children acted this way.” When he was 18 she kicked him out of the house.
His mother was a very unhappy, hard woman, full of anger, and it went on that way till she told him the truth at last – well, part of it: that his father was not her white husband but a black man who had raped her.
He was 26 then, living in San Francisco. His life fell apart: he was homeless for three years. He looked for his father, Fermon Beckette.
A year later, in 1987, he found his father’s telephone number and called him. Beckette said he never raped his mother: “That’s an old-fashioned, Southern lie.” One she told to save her marriage. She still maintains she was raped: “Any black who rapes a woman will say she asked for it.”
He tried out different identities, tried to talk black and so on, but in the end it did not feel right. His friends say he is the whitest black man they know.
Today when asked if he is black or white, he simply says he is a man. He does not think that he should see himself as black just because he looks black.
- Discuss Race.com – his website
- tragic mulatto
- One Drop Rule
- Those with somewhat similar experiences:
- Nella Larsen – a writer from the Harlem Renaissance who also grew up the only black person in a white family
- Obama in Hawaii – where he was brought up by his white grandparents in the 1970s
- Lisa Bonet – also brought up by the white side of her family
- Eric Clapton – also lied to about his birth, also did not get along with his mother.
- Korean adoptees – also brought up white but never accepted as white
- Caille Millner – wrote about growing up a black girl in white suburbia in the 1990s in her book “The Golden Road”.