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The Experiment

by Clarence Pedersen
Tao Symbol There were about thirty of them in this smoke-filled room. All males. All white. But aside from these similarities they did not appear to have much in common. A couple of them were obviously well-to-do. Dressed conservatively. Well spoken. Socially dignified. Low echelon business executives would be my guess. One rather low-grade academic looking fellow sat somewhat apart from the assorted conversations taking place. As a whole, the group was, indeed, a rather shoddy looking bunch obviously finding the world and their life in it a rather difficult proposition.

They came from many walks of life--factory workers, farmers, office clerks, store clerks, a couple of experienced welfare recipients. Plus one rather lonely looking lay minister. A couple were unshaven, grimy, with a down at the heel appearance.

They milled about before the meeting started, talking about subjects most men might find interesting--football--women. Stuff like that. But mostly they talked about the things that dominated their thinking--Jews and niggers.

Stuff like that.

This was of course just one of many similar groups that meet from coast to bonny coast and think and talk about these subjects. My interest in them stemmed from my inability to accept the utter silliness and injustice of bigotry. My interest also stemmed from my expertise as a dermatologist. I was planning an experiment in hatred and this looked like the ideal venue for a bit of research. I'll tell you a bit more about this in a moment, but right now I have to turn in my membership application to the Secretary of the group.

He thanks me and says that the Board will meet and decide before next week whether I'll be accepted. They do and I am, and I'm being introduced to the general membership right now. Because I just moved into town, the general membership eyes me a bit warily. Am I a clever interloper? A journalist here to write lies about them? Even publish their names? I try to calm their fears by casually saying a few nasty things about every ethnic minority group I can think of. It works. They begin to talk at me, hands waving, voices emotionally strident. They besiege me with a litany of the terrible things awaiting America if we don't take steps to control the Jews, the Hispanics, the niggers, the other "outsiders." Their vehemence gives them a euphoric if temporary courage.

But the bitterness in their eyes as they tell me these things is alarming. Alarming because such unrelenting hatred makes one psychologically impotent. Which makes for an amoral man. I begin to fear these men as a group. Together, it seems to me, they're dangerous. But, I remind myself, as individuals they are deeply troubled. To be pitied.

I sit through the meeting making mental notes of the peculiar rationalizations they find necessary to maintain their fanaticism. Boring. To me but not to them. For the main purpose of these meetings is to reestablish their hates. They succeed. The speakers see to that, shouting emotionally about the bad things the Jews do to whites and relating apocryphal stories of black atrocities. It works. No proof necessary. A clever hyperbolic orator is all that's needed. Heil Hitler!

The Chairman welcomes me and asks me to say a few words. The audience licks their lips expectantly, or just peer at me, emotionless. Cold eyed. I blurt out a mouthful of invective. Then I go to the bathroom feeling ill.

I attend five or six meetings before I begin to feel their trust. As a matter of fact, two of the members appear to take a personal liking to me. This makes me uncomfortable. I wonder what may be hidden in my own nature than would be attractive to them. I must admit that their friendly reaction made me hesitate to include them in my experiment. As I said before. That's why I'm here--for my experiment in hate--what causes it and what would happen to it if one somehow became the object of one's hatred.

We have light refreshments after each meeting. There's also a small bar. Tonight it's my turn to be the bartender. They all drink, it seems. Courage comes in a variety of packages. I plan to select ten subjects for my experiment. But how to choose! There were certain commonalities among them of course. As a group, they were, to understate the case, depressing. Some were vacant eyed. (Soulless?) It was important to pick ten men with as many variables as possible. I chose one older man, then one who appears to be in his late teens. Then I take one of the lower echelon business executives--married, two children. I select a factory worker who lives alone; one of the welfare recipients who has many relatives; a store clerk, prominent in his church. My curiosity will not permit me to exclude the lay minister although I don't anticipate any spectacular results from this choice.

The balance of my candidates are based on personality traits that have manifested during the meetings: a strong tendency toward violence, or unusual timidity. Things like those.

Now then--what's all the mystery? What's all this about, you may ask. Well, as I mentioned earlier, I'm a dermatologist. But I don't practice, because I'm a research dermatologist. So all I do is try to find new potions that will do new and surprising things to skin.

Now one of the prime requisites in being a good researcher is curiosity. I'm very good at curiosity. And so it was that I practically drooled all over my dermatological laboratory one morning when my superior brought me a pure albino mouse. "This is Morrie. Make him normal," was all he said. I experimented. I gave Morrie a multitude of potions, each one containing different ingredients, or different quantities of the same ingredients, and after a few weeks Morrie was darker. Not much. Just a shade. I gave him a dash more of my concoction. He grew still darker. Eventually he became a normal-looking grey mouse. But I was psychologically unable to stop the treatment at that point. I kept on dosing Morrie with my new formula. Morrie became black. I had created a pure ebony mouse! Morrie couldn't care less, of course, but I gave forth with an immodest, jubilant cry of "Eureka!"

It was about this time that I started my daydreaming, which is another valuable quality for a researcher to have. During my daydream, I started to chuckle at a thought that came to mind: "What if," I asked myself, "it were possible to alter the pigmentation of a person so he would change to orange? Or blue? Or green? Or, perhaps black?

I let my imagination run wild, smiling quite a wicked smile as I thought about the ramifications of such a change. I turned to Morrie. "Morrie," I said to him confidentially, "you are now a despised minority! You're a little nigger mouse. All the other American mice hate you. Just watch your back."

The next day I scurried around town and located a few more albinos. A rabbit, a chicken, a robin, even an albino flower. I continued experimenting, adding a mite less of this ingredient, a dash more of that until I became confident in the end product. Now, at will, I could attain a broad spectrum of skin shadings from light tan to one bordering on ebony. The shade I wish to achieve will depend completely upon the quantity of the dosage.

So here I am in this rather small ordinary town standing behind the bar serving drinks to thirty strange men. Strange because they have adopted a tribal personality featuring a deep paranoia. The individual is overwhelmed by the group. He is nonexistent until he goes off into the night to his home. For outside of these meetings there is little social contact among these sad people. Understandable. For there appears to be an undercurrent of embarrassment among the group. Perhaps a tinge of shame? Not much, but sufficient for them to never become good friends.

And so my experiment begins. It's a simple matter for me to prepare my dermatological cocktail. A small vial attached to my wrist serves the purpose. I inject the appropriate portion into the drinks of my subjects. The amount of the dose depends on how dark I want each one to get. It's all over within a half hour. I continue to tend bar keeping up my end of the conversation as I dart furtive glances at my unsuspecting subjects. All is normal. The talk remains the same. Hateful, frightened talk. Then one by one they leave for their respective homes.

I stayed in town for a couple of weeks after conducting my experiment. Then I left the town to its hate. That was two years ago. I haven't been back since. It's not that I'm not curious. I'm tremendously so. It's just that I'm scared. I've meddled in people's lives just as science does genetically. I've caused irreparable change and I'm concerned about the results. What has happened, do you think, to the lives of my newly created "black" men? What has happened to their relations with their fellow club members? To their position in the community? To their jobs? Their families? Their psyches? To their hatred of blackness? Were they able to accept this change? "No way," declares my mind. "Don't be too sure," responds my spirit.

Let's speculate for a moment. We'll single out one of the business executives and let our imagination run wild. Let's say it's a month after my experiment. Our executive is humming a little tune while showering when he glances a little more closely at his body. He's sort of puzzled. Not alarmed. Curious. Rather liking the effect. A few days later his wife kisses him good night and remarks how healthy he's looking these days. "I like your skin tone," she compliments him. He says that he has noticed it too. They say no more about it until the following week when his two children look across the dinner table and snicker. "Daddy, you're dark," says one. He doesn't reply. His wife looks at him bewildered.

A few weeks later there is no denying that he is turning black. Of course his features remain the same but the blackness is out in the open--plain to see. He is no longer comfortable around his friends. They glance at him secretively and are increasingly disturbed. He becomes a little hesitant about using the word "nigger" in his speech, although he is not conscious of this change. His associates at work tend to avoid him. He eats alone at lunchtime. The teller of his bank will not look him in the eye. A day comes when he passes a black man on the street who greets him in a friendly way, calling him "brother." Later, while waiting in line at a supermart, a young black lady smiles at him with interest in her eyes. On his way home he is stopped for speeding, treated roughly by the officers.

I can go no further! I don't know about you, but I am temperamentally unable to speculate further. I am not a psychiatrist. I am a dermatological researcher and I am too close to my subject to be objective about what may have become of my "black" man. What do you think?

Maybe one day I'll get up enough courage to go back and actually see the results of my experiment. I don't know though. To do this the courage dynamic must equal or surpass the curiosity dynamic. Maybe someday it will, because, after all, what's the point of experimenting unless one can observe the results of the experiment? It should be safe enough to return, although among my chosen subjects there was this one white--now black scientist. I couldn't resist including him. But, he's the most likely one to look back and start to wonder. Is it possible he may have become suspicious? But I've just got to take that chance. Don't I?

I did of course prepare a research paper on my experiment. But it would be meaningless to submit it to the dermatological community unless I could verify the results. I guess I'll just shred the paper and flush it down the toilet. It's better, I think, to just let nature take its course. Let black be black. White white. As fate decrees. I can be reasonably content just glancing over at my inky looking Morrie now and then and smiling a little bit about what is and what might have been. And of course, as you and a few others know, my experiment wasn't exclusively for dermatological reasons. In truth, it was just a convenient way to try to answer the question: What happens to hatred when one becomes the object of one's hate?

I still don't know. Maybe one day we can get together, pay a visit to my little town and see how things evolved.

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Copyright © 1996 by Clarence Pedersen. All rights reserved.