The Invisible Skin India ink and paper 11.5 X 16"
Famed African American poet Etheridge Dunbar, helped a world mired in class and racial strife with his collected works entitled, “In the Invisible skin an observable heart”, while heading the department of literature at a Johns Hopkins University.
It was at the university that Dunbar befriended famous bio-engineer and entrepreneur William Campbell. The two became friends, and their nightly discussions at the Beaumont Club on the subject of race and power, became the stuff of school legend.
William Campbell claimed these talks were the catalyst for the famous bio-engineer to try and make human skin, “as literally invisible as Dunbar’s prose made it figuratively invisible.”
He succeeded and at a TED conference announced his breakthrough to great acclaim. His friend and inspiration, the poet Etheridge Dunbar, became the first “human guinea pig.”
For a while invisible skin was touted as the solution to our social problems , enjoying a brief window of success reminiscent of the clear soda popularity of the late 20th century.
It did not take long though, to realize how disgusting it was, to view the internal workings of the human body. The veins pulsating away, the bloody stringy muscle movement, and the congealed patches of yellow-orange gelatinated fat jiggling away without the cover of skin to hide it.
Most turned a cold and disgusted shoulder to people with invisible skin. Restaurants refused to seat them due to customers becoming sick by the sight of them. Businesses soon followed suit, firing invisible skinned people from their jobs due to the “distraction” they caused.
A lawsuit brought against this discrimination went all the way to the Supreme Court, and was roundly defeated (9-0). With the Chief Justice writing in the court’s opinion, “They are not being judged by the color of their skin, but by the utter lack of any observable skin.”
Politicians picking up the banner of popular opinion, ran with it to their citizen’s delight and praise. The President himself stating “Democracy is, thankfully in this case, a tyranny of the majority.”
As for the poet Etheridge Dunbar, he eventually lost his friends, family, and finally his job after the new school president threw up at a luncheon welcoming her. He further marginalized himself when giving an interview stated “If it was a man president he would have been able to hold his lunch down upon seeing me.”
Cast out by the academic community who found him gruesome, and macabre. Cast out of the black community who saw the changing of his skin color as a betrayal (and also because they thought he looked disgusting). Etheridge Dunbar was unable to find work or help, and became a homeless broken vagrant.
Bio-engineer William Campbell was to become one of the most prominent and wealthy entrepreneurs of the 21st century.