Comment 2 of 153, added on December 15th, 2004 at 2:40 PM.
It is important to note that Hughes' pronouns are not collective as many
people have assumed. "I am the darker brother" may be an allegorical
reference to blacks in America but it is not "We are the darker brothers"
and so it deserves a second look.
The circumstances that surround the poem play on individual
circumstances, which is important because it doesn't feed into racist
taxonomy. While many racists attempted to divide up racial group (eg
black, white) they strove to use language that would reflect this. Hughes,
by using individualized pronouns such as "I" rejects this notion.
Furthermore, he uses rhetorical tricks by combining how people will
eventually see him with "beautiful". Beautiful, here, isn't open to
conjecture, but rather is an insight that can only be seen in the future
when one is less ignorant. During the Harlem Rennaissance, and before that
even, it was common for white "anthropologists" (if one can get passed the
bias in their work) to label other racial groups as ugly. Then, even if
someone were to defend oneself they would have to say "I am not ugly" which
automatically implies a good percentage of people think you are. Let me
illuminate this with a modern day example, if you constantly say, "I DO NOT
have big ears" then people are going to be comparing your ears to other
people's a lot. Langston Hughes says "I AM beautiful" drawing the relation
between beautiful and himself. Anyone who denies it has simply not come to
see the truth, yet (they won't see it until some distant "tomorrow"
according to Hughes) which implies their ignorance. Therefore his diction
likens racist writers with ignorance and him with beauty. By sticking to
individualized pronouns he casts down racist taxonomists and makes people
consider him on an individual rather than stereotypical level.