Another Imaginary Person From Obama's Past
Ghost #2 appears as an adjective — "ghostly" — used to describe the skin of a black man who used skin lightener, whom Obama claims to have seen in a photograph in Life magazine (though I've read that there really was no such photograph in Life). Obama's mother has taken the young boy to the library, where he's come across a collection of old Life magazines.
Eventually I came across a photograph of an older man in dark glasses and a raincoat walking down an empty road. I couldn’t guess what this picture was about; there seemed nothing unusual about the subject. On the next page was another photograph, this one a close-up of the same man’s hands. They had a strange, unnatural pallor, as if blood had been drawn from the flesh. Turning back to the first picture, I now saw that the man’s crinkly hair, his heavy lips and broad, fleshy nose, all had this same uneven, ghostly hue.
He must be terribly sick, I thought. A radiation victim, maybe, or an albino — albino—I had seen one of those on the street a few days before, and my mother had explained about such things. Except when I read the words that went with the picture, that wasn’t it at all. The man had received a chemical treatment, the article explained, to lighten his complexion. He had paid for it with his own money. He expressed some regret about trying to pass himself off as a white man, was sorry about how badly things had turned out. But the results were irreversible. There were thousands of people like him, black men and women back in America who’d undergone the same treatment in response to advertisements that promised happiness as a white person.I felt my face and neck get hot. My stomach knotted; the type began to blur on the page. Did my mother know about this?