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Harding when he said in 1921: “racial amalgamation there cannot be.” Instead of viewing light-skinned Blacks as naturally equal to dark-skinned Blacks from an antiracist standpoint, Garvey fashioned the other less acknowledged ideological side of colorism.

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I hardly realized my own racist hypocrisy–that in turning colorism on its head I was exhibiting colorism. But to be clear, Garvey was neither a eugenicist nor a segregationist.

He intended to raise funds for a school in Jamaica, modeled after Booker T. Colorism, like all forms of racism, rationalizes color inequities with racist ideas, by claiming the inequities between dark and light-skinned people are not due to discrimination against dark-skinned people, but the inferiorities of dark skinned people.

Du Bois was absent, and Garvey said he was “unable to tell whether he was in a white office or that of the NAACP.” The plethora of White and light-skinned people on the NAACP’s staff, and all the light-skinned Black people in desirable positions in Black America, no doubt contributed to Garvey’s decision to remain in Harlem and establish his UNIA chapter there in 1917. From his base at the University of Iowa, Reuter made a name for himself arguing that anything Black people achieved was in fact the achievement of biracial, light-skinned people.

It was probably the silliest statement of Du Bois’s serious career.

He sounded as oblivious as the racists who had angered him for decades by discounting the existence of the other color line.


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