Some things are doomed to failure. That’s why some classmates found humor in a couple of recipes in Henley’s 20th Century Formulas, Recipes and Processes. Our elementary/junior high was a high school back in the day, and the library was filled with books on that level. Henley’s was one of them, and we all got a kick out of some of the formulas. Blacks found two recipes, both for blacks, hilarious. One was a skin lightener and the other was a hair straightener. Aside from a compound even junior high kids recognized as dangerous, the humor was in the reason behind these two recipes: such things were once used by blacks who wanted to pass as white.
Here, well over a century removed from Henley’s first publication, we might find it strange that anyone would try such a thing. Such was the level of racial prejudice that some tried to avoid it by posing as something they weren’t. It was, in most cases, doomed from the start, which was one reason blacks found these two recipes so funny. Even if a person managed to “pass,” it didn’t address the problem of bigotry. Most of the time was it made things worse because the bigotry was centered on race not skin color.
Trying to pass is common where there is widespread prejudice. Nor is it restricted to race. In our own time we have those who, when faced with bigotry, attempt to “pass” by what’s known as virtue signaling: saying the “approved” things. Except this usually works as well any other effort to pass.
One such case, which is like watching a slow motion train wreck, is an author who’s lately gone through the gymnastics of virtue signaling, but will never be truly accepted among those where such views matter. Why? Because he’s a Mormon, and in our age there are those in publishing who look down on this because of the denomination’s stand on homosexuality. Even if he’s not virtue signaling, it’s not going to matter, because to their bigoted eyes he’s always going to be a Mormon. He’d never going to gain their favor.
Another such instance is the Southern Baptist Convention, who’s taken to passing virtue signaling resolutions, perhaps to shore up declining membership. And yet this is doomed to failure as well, for those who hate the Southern Baptist Convention do so first because the denomination is largely made up of fundamentalist Christians, and second for its stand on homosexuality. All this posing and packaging does nothing except alienate existing congregations, who think it should be concentrating on the Great Commission, which was the whole point in forming the convention in the first place.
So it goes. I don’t know if the author has lost more fans than he’s gained; given what he writes, it’s likely. The Southern Baptist Convention has done nothing to stop eroding membership, and by forgetting its original purpose has likely caused it to accelerate. Such is a consequence of running after the approval of those who view you with the utmost contempt, and who will never give it regardless of how many hoops you jump through.
To be honest, this doesn’t tell the entire story. For over the long history of man there have been a few who managed to pass. Some cut themselves off from everyone they know, assumed a new identity, and lived a lie. Others have made a huge deal changing sides, renouncing all that they held dear to embrace what they once opposed. Both usually burn all connections with their past, with the latter at the risk of never being fully accepted.
Such is the price of trying to pass. The question that we must ask ourselves, should we be tempted to travel such a path, is whether it’s worth it.