"That was when I realised that a nigger is not a person so much as a form of behaviour; a sort of obverse reflection of the white people he lives among"
Racist Democrat campaign poster from the 19th century
Public DomainRacist Democrat campaign poster from the 19th century - Credit: Library of Congress

Racist propaganda was fond of asserting that African Americans were, by virtue of their racial heritage, incapable of ascending to the intellectual, cultural and moral heights on which whites loftily perched. This idea, of course, hinged upon rigorously policed ideas of what constituted black and white ways of being. Quentin’s belated questioning of these stereotypes — and the fact that his insight doesn't extend to seeing that 'blackness' has been constructed by whites to preserve their own power — reveals how deeply embedded they were culturally.