Lipton’s Journal/January 27, 1955/320

From Project Mailer

For some time I have wanted to write a note about the Negro prejudice of Southerners.[1] I wonder if their rage at Negro advancements is due to the unconscious belief in the myth—which may well be right—that the nigger has a happy sex life, happier than the white, and so the negro is recompensed for his low state in society by his high state in the fuck. The scales are balanced.

Therefore, to the white southerner, an improvement in Negro rights is to tip the scale in the Negro’s favor. Status-anxiety so-called may consist essentially of the unconscious drawing up balance sheets in which people of lower status are considered to have equal status when the private benefits are added in. So, members of a high status group—to use that monstrous sociological jargon—feeling anxiety about a lower status group crawling up on them, are actually feeling the more intense anxiety that the lower status group is rising above them.



note

  1. Mailer’s comment about the sex life of Southern blacks resurfaced in 1957, when he challenged Lyle Stuart to publish a longer and more nuanced version of the idea in his monthly newspaper, The Independent. The resulting statement argues that “the white man fears the sexual potency of the Negro,” and this leads to whites believing that “the Negro had his sexual supremacy and the white had his white supremacy.” This insidious, unspoken arrangement allowed whites “symbolically and materially” to possess Negro womanhood, which, in turn, created a murderous rage among blacks. Stuart sent Mailer’s statement to William Faulkner, who replied that he had heard this idea expressed over the years, but never by a man, only by middle-aged women from the north or Midwest. Stuart published Faulkner’s response and those of others, including Eleanor Roosevelt, W. E. B. Du Bois and Murray Kempton, in the March 1957 issue of his newspaper. But Mailer was not done. Being dismissed by Faulkner, a writer he revered, incited him to compose a much longer rejoinder. So he began “the trip into the psychic wild” of “The White Negro,” and the publication of this essay in the summer 1957 number Dissent. In 1959 it was published as a pamphlet by City Light Press, and also included in Advertisements for Myself. It has been reprinted scores of times since then, and with James Baldwin’s 1955 essay, “Notes of a Native Son,” is one of the two most debated and reprinted postwar essays by an American writer.