Fifty Shades of Black

mama holding tack
Mama (Eva) holding Tack, that’s me on the right with my mouth wide open!

 

Random Woman:  Hey Brenda!

Brenda:  Hey girl, how are you?  I haven’t seen you in some years!

Random Woman: I know!  It’s been a long time.

Brenda:  Yes it has, by the way, let me introduce you to my friend, Eva.

Random Woman:  (Very dry, cold and nonchalant) Hey Eva.

Random Woman: (Directly addressing Brenda) Ooh Brenda, your little girl is so pretty, how old is she?

Eva: (PISSED) That’s MY child!

Random Woman: (Slightly Embarrassed but still chilly) Oh, I’m sorry, she just looks more like Brenda to me.

Eva walks off with child (ME) in tow.

Yes friends, my mother, Queen Diva Lady Eva, was tee’d off!

Why, you ask?

Because ‘Ms. Random Woman’ assumed that I was Brenda’s daughter based solely on the fact that we shared the same skin complexion.

She never thought for a moment that I could belong to my mother–who was a shade or two darker.

It simply didn’t occur to her to ask.

Sadly, this type of attitude was nothing new to Mama.  As a child, she had received whippings from a lighter skinned uncle for being “too black.”

Colorism 
col·or·ism
ˈkələrˌizəm/

noun

Prejudice or discrimination against individuals with a dark skin tone, typically among people of the same ethnic or racial group–Oxford Dictionaries
What the Oxford folks failed to mention is that this phenomenon is a ‘carry-over’ of Slavery; having been birthed from the actions of slave owners.
In essence, slave masters created division among their chattel by treating them differently based on skin complexion.
The darker slaves were treated far worse than the lighter slaves.  Because of their color, dark skinned men and women were forced to engage in heavy labor while the lighter skinned slaves were treated better–relatively speaking.
Naturally, the lighter skinned slaves were told that they were superior to their melanin rich brothers and sisters and both groups bought into that belief.
And there we have it!
A lifelong mutual animosity between darker slaves and lighter slaves…which sadly continues with their descendants today–albeit to a much lesser degree.
Come now!
Let’s re-evaluate the scenario that I offered at the beginning of this post.
Notice how dismissive Ms. Random Woman was toward my mother.
She all but ignored her darker skinned ‘sister.’
‘Ms. Random’ never imagined that chocolate Ms. Eva could be the mother of a caramel colored daughter with long pony tails.
Of course, at the age of 3, I was too young to notice or understand the larger implications of this woman’s attitude.
I had no clue what was really going on.
Little did I know, I would continue to experience some form of this lunacy throughout my life as my father’s racial identity was, to the average onlooker, perplexing… to say the least 🙂
Lord, I got all kinds of questions like, “Is your Dad Mexican?”

Puerto Rican?

Cuban?

Arab?

West Indian?

East Indian?

Native American?

And everything in between….

Oh, and then there were the really stupid questions like:

How did your Mom get a handsome man like your Dad?

Ok, that’s when I got rowdy!

All bets were off!

Seriously?  What do you mean?

Do you not realize that you’re talking about MY MOTHER?

You better back the hell up!

I’m sorry guys but that mess really got under my skin!

Oh and if you think things got better as years passed…

Think again!

My Mama often recalled a time when an associate of my Dad’s came by to borrow a drill.

Apparently, he peeked past my Mom, who had answered the door, in order to get a better glance at me and whispered, “That must be Jim’s daughter.”

Mama said, “Yes, and she’s my daughter and we have a son too!”

What an idiotic thing to say!

“That must be Jim’s daughter.”

It rolled right off his ignorant ass tongue without a bit of thought attached to it.

The fact that he knew that my parents had been married for 100 years added insult to injury!

Ah…but here’s an even more egregious example.

One day, back in 2012, I had been sitting in the hospital room with Mama for most of the morning.

Well, this black nurse, who had been in and out, and who had seem me sitting there the whole time, asked, “Has any of her family come by yet?”

What the hell do I look like?

Chopped liver?

Of course I didn’t say THAT but I did say, “Well I’m her daugther.”

Naturally, the nurse apologized.

I thought to myself….Here we go again…after all this time.

Still dealing with issues of color.

Mama caught hell for being too dark and Daddy caught hell for being too racially ambiguous.

Good grief!

 

 

004
Daddy and Mama at about age 15

 

Inspiration for this post came from comments between myself and these great bloggers:

Kelley at Gray Suede

Dr. K. E. Garland

Ron Brown 

 

 

 

 

 

99 thoughts on “Fifty Shades of Black

  1. Great post! It seems as if we were writing about the same topic right around the same time (a couple days apart) – we are always on a similar wavelength =D

    Colorism is absolutely a holdover from slavery. Dictionaries never get the definition correct – partly because these are etymologists and not sociologists. The definition of “racism” is often reduced to mere “prejudice” but it says nothing about it being a structure of POWER. It is insane.

    This makes me think of the Willie Lynch letter. Have you ever read it? Some people doubt its authenticity, but even if it is fake (it probably is!) – it still hammers home an accurate point. A slave trader from the Caribbean came to the states in the 1800s and taught the slave masters how to better control their slaves. He advised them to divide them across color lines, age, sex, etc.

    Black folks are still battling with this today. My mother’s side of the family is from Cape Verde – which is a mixture of Western African and Portuguese. Cape Verdean people tend to have lighter skin, lighter eyes, and finer hair. Whenever a CV person declares they are so, at least in my experience, what they are really saying is “I am black BUT I am not THAT black”. So I do not even bother playing this game. I just identify as black.

    Being closer to white is seen as better, more intelligent, more beautiful, etc – and the opposite is true for being closer to blackness. I think this is a holdover from slavery – but do you think this also feeds off religion a bit? For instance, in the Bible, it talks about the battle between light (good/God) and darkness (evil/devil). So, when Europeans – who were Christians – encountered the darker skinned Africans, it seemed as if the script had already been written. They came to the conclusion that they were manifestations of evil. It made too much sense at the level of practice and symbology, right?

    Even to this day, we tend to associate good with whiteness and bad with blackness (when we look these words up in the thesaurus we find corresponding terms). I hope for a day where we can de-colonize this worldview.

    Nice photos, as well =D

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Exactly! It’s beyond aesthetics! It’s an institutional thing.
      And yes, I ‘ve heard of the Willie Lynch letter and like you, I’ve also heard that its authenticity was questioned but I can see how it can be used as a valuable teaching tool.
      I also agree with you that Christianity, which was read literally when it should not have been, was misused as justification to enslave and mistreat our ‘subhuman’ 3/5ths of a human African ancestors. Light was good and black/darkness was evil.
      And yes, my friend, we are certainly never far from each other’s wavelengths! LOL 🙂
      Thanks for checking this one out!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Truly a moving post G. I cried reading that your Mama got whipped by an uncle because she was darker. Good God! I’m so sorry you’ve had to endure questions and pain like this throughout life. I know you didn’t post this for anyone to feel sorry for you, it just makes me so sad. You are so beautiful, strong, intelligent and just incredible. I know your Mama and Daddy must be so extremely proud of you! XO

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Awww Lennon, thank you so much for taking time to read this. I am touched by how my famiy’s story affected you. And you are right, I didn’t write it to get sympathy, but it is okay if it touches someone..it really is.
      The primary reason for me writing this was to tell my truth. What was the stuff that happened in my life that didn’t properly get talked about? That’s the real reason behind Ron and I telling The Flowering Vine Stories. We wanted to shine a light on the elephant in the room–that being our family’s close biracial family heritage.
      Hopefully, my children will have a broad view of who I was after I am gone.
      I just thank you again for being a sweet and beautiful witness to my/our story 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hey Lady G – I’ll have to come back to complete reading all the comments. Together with your post the discussion here makes for a very interesting package. I think this is a universal challenge. I was reminded by Lisa’s comment of the comments my mother and I had to fend off when I was growing up. My father’s side of the family were all fair skinned with variances of blue and green eyes and different hair textures and hair colours ( some Ginger red) So I was considered to0 dark for them and I recall comments to my mother saying: (“This child is getting to dark”)

    We called it “hair and complexion around here” your pedigree was determined by lighter shades and straighter threads. Funny how it was brainwashed into all of us to think we were lesser beings dependant on hair and complexion. Just the other day, I was laughing at my cousin – well educated and intelligent woman, talking about her sister and saying that her sister was the one who had “bad hair or the worst hair in her family”

    I’m not sure that this view is likely to change any time soon. I see it around me that there is still the struggle for Black women to want lighter skin, straighter weaves etc. In terms of our history, there were advantages meted out in terms of colour and even surnames. There are many who anglicised their names for political advantage. Interestlngly, the typical African man used to like his woman (big in all the right places) these days there are plenty of skinny women walking around so those who still want bigger girls will not find them too soon. I reckon that if it’s not one thing,it will be another that we continue to use to segregate ourselves. – the law of the jungle.

    I could go on for hours about the torments I suffered as a child over hair and complexion. But, I accept that I am who I am and everyone must just suck it up while I walk tall Mam! Thanks for a great post!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Awww, thanks for that very intimate and insightful response Chevvy.

      Girl, it was about hair here too but I just couldn’t go there with both things in this one post. Daddy had ‘the good hair’ and Mama did not. My brother and I met them halfway on the hair texture thing—although many would say that my brother has a ‘better texture than I do.’ LOL!
      The whole things sounds so ridiculous that I feel crazy just saying it.

      Black people here had just as many nuanced descriptions of what kind of hair somebody had– it was ridiculous. Not to mention all of the variations that we notice in skin color. I am considered somewhere between Butter Pecan and Pecan Tan…LOL!!! I am about to fall off the bed laughing just typing that! ROTFLMAO!!!!! For purposes of this blog I used caramel to describe myself.

      But here is a crazy story….

      I shared with one of my best friends that I was going to post something about this issue. My friend, who is a very deep and rich brown complexion, said that one of her male friends had introduced her to a guy. She said, that she ended up talking to this guy on the phone–and they had a great conversation. Well her friend told her that after this guy saw her picture he said, “Wow…I thought she was lightskinned….SHE SOUNDED LIGHTSKINNED!”

      What the hell?

      That whole color/ hair thing is something else.

      But you know what? I can’t imagine being given or denied access to certain places and things based on my complexion—sounds like you all had a devil of a time in SA.

      Hell, by the end of Slavery, white folks treated all Blacks the same…regardless to color or hair…all of us were negros and that was it! One drop of Black blood meant you were black…no matter how light you were or how straight your hair was.

      But Sis, As I look at your pictures, I’m amazed that someone actually thought you were too dark.
      Can’t wait to hear your thoughts based on comments.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Ah that story about someone sounding light-skinned because of the way they talked is so funny 😂😂😂.. I suppose the point we were making is that even among ourselves, we have ways of discriminating. Remember that in our case there are at least 4 classifications, there are still forms where we have to record our race for the sake of recording trends and transformation statistics. So those 4 include White, Indian, African (Black) and Coloured. I fall in the last category for purposes of classification regardless of how fair skinned or dark skinned I might be. Then we have cases of people being called (Black African) who might be lighter skinned than me. This of course still excludes all the ethnicities, nationalities and languages we have.
        In my day, family might have frowned on my going out of the “group” as in the case of my father’s sisters who all married Indian men. On the other hand, I might have had challenges being accepted into a “Black African” group because of culture.
        To crown it all, Racism has become a burning issue again despite our laws now regulating against it.
        As for me – I walk with my head held high like Maya Angelou’s Phenomenal woman 😀 I love the fact that we come in all shades – it makes life so colourful and interesting 😉

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Cool! Let’s do this thing, wave our hands in the air and wave them like we don’t care! 😀 I’m doing fine – it’s a public holiday here so we’ve just been chillin’. I’m still betwixt and between Vienna, Georgia and Vienna, Austria but have enough to keep me busy for now. Drop me a line when you have time.

          Like

  4. I just don’t understand this mentality, so hard to grasp. Sometimes I just want to slap the sh*t out of people for being so stupid. They should be removed from the gene pool, seriously. And even in 2012, OMG. So sorry you have to deal with this crap, especially as you’re such a beautiful soul.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Colorism has always been a problem here and all over the world. It hurts my feelings to see that it still exist. It even goes on in places where the majority are of African descent.

    I am Caramel colored and my daughter looks like me, but she is chocolate colored. When she was about 4yrs old she asked me when was she going to “turn” my color. I was shocked that at this age she noticed something like color. I had a conversation with her to find out where this came from. Well, she got it from school! From that day forward I did everything I needed to do to make sure she knew how beautiful she is. Instead of calling her by her name I called her “pretty baby” and did things intentionally to celebrate her color. Today, I still call her “pretty girl” and her confidence is through the rough!

    It’s sad that I had to do this, but if we intentionally teach our kids to think differently things will gradually change. The answer to change lies with the next generation.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hate the fact that your child was exposed to that kind of crazy thinking so early but I am not at all surprised.
      I also think that it is awesome that you have made it your business to tell her how beautiful she is–you are right…she needs to hear that from you.
      I am so happy that you stopped by to share you and your daughter’s story.
      My best to you Sis 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Unfortunately, colorism is very real. Sad but true. I have seen it in action. That woman was definitely rude to you and your mother. You had every right to be angry. But your parents were wonderful people. I don’t know them but I can tell because you are pretty wonderful yourself, Lady G!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Susan, as the old folks say in the South…you sure are good for what ails you! LOL!! Meaning you know how to make people feel good 🙂
      Thank you girl 🙂
      It’s amazing how we come so far in some areas and nowhere near far enough in other areas.
      Thanks for popping in!
      I think you’re pretty wonderful yourself! 🌹

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Thank you so much Susan 🙂
          BTW, have you done the My first post revisited challenge? I’m sure you’ve already been tagged to do it, but, if not check out my post today and participate, it will broaden your reach 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  7. Rude and ignorant people keep behaving shamefully… Only education could solve the problem , I think…
    Hope colourism will be dealt with the same difference there is between blondes and brunettes …..
    Ciao , a big hug from MILAN!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. This is so true my friend.
      I was just commenting that blondes and brunettes are judged the same way; with blondes seen as more superior!
      All of that is crazy whether it’s complexion or hair or eye color.
      Thanks for pointing that out!
      Ciao my lovely friend and a big hug right back to you from Georgia! 💋

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I took some time to think about this post. I remember when my niece was mistakenly identified as mine at her baptism in Central America. I tan easily, had black hair at the time, brown eyes, and because of my Grandfather’s Native American background, look naturally more Hispanic. My sister-in-law is blond, fair skinned, blue eyed, gorgeous, and Brazilian. Only now do I get what my sister-in-law must have felt.

    Everyone assumed that day that I was my goddaughter’s mother. I think if people spend five minutes with us, they’d quickly realize my niece’s mannerisms, accent, and smile was identical to her mother’s. Ignorance lies within not looking beyond the color of our skin. Every day my niece looks more and more like her beautiful mother.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks for offering such a thoughtful response. I can certainly see how this applies in all races.
      I remember going to school with white girls who lamented over NOT being the perfect blonde–meaning they didn’t have blue eyes!
      I’m serious!
      But your example is very much like what happened with me and my mother.
      But you know what? To me, your features are gorgeous! I find olive skin and dark features to be very attractive.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Thanks 🙂 I know what happened to you and your mother rings a deeper injustice, but I can relate to always looking different from my family. My brothers have blond hair and hazel eyes, and I don’t look like my parents. It taught me to be proud of uniqueness. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Sigh… luckily I didn’t experience it in my family but I have heard countless HORROR stories. It’s skin, people! SKIN!

    Thank you for sharing and thanks for the love!! xoxo

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Wow, G, this was a real education for me. I’d had an inkling of this but didn’t realize how deep and pervasive such prejudice went – and *still* goes. 😦 It reminds me of the same bias in India and other countries in southeast Asia. I had a thought – could part of the prejudice re black/brown colouring be traced back to: Well, there must’ve been a white person somewhere in your heritage (i.e., how about: a slaveowner *raped* your great-great-great grandmother?!) Ugh. I think if I’d been black, I would’ve been mad, like, all the time!! Why, in my day I might’ve palled around with Angela Davis!
    BTW I think your mom was SO pretty. You, my dear, look like a baby bird wanting lunch…and supper. 😀

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Hey there Ellie! Always good to see you my friend!
      Your theory is quite valid and we do know, for a fact, that there was a concerted effort by Slave owners in the US to create division among slaves by grading them based on complexion.
      You are so funny! My Jewish Angela Davis! LOL!!!
      Thanks for the compliment about Mama:)
      And yes I do look like I’m waiting for my feeding! LOL!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. 😀
        But what is the most insidious, awful thing, is that the “grading based on complexion” is predicated on the fact that “lighter is better” which in turn is based on: “white is best.” Which IN TURN is the most ironic and crazy notion of all, because we (we, minus the idiots) now know that the cradle of civilization was in Africa!!! Plus, the experts have known for some time now, Jesus was dark-skinned. Also, I guess we know from seeing the orange moron in the White (!) House how cuckoo and convoluted and manipulative and evil and twisted some people can be. Whew. Ok, rant over…for now. 😉

        Liked by 3 people

  11. Lady G, even though I wrote about this from my own experience, I still found myself getting all wound up again! I can’t believe the nerve of people. I wish that we (black people) could take one long hard look at ourselves and learn about the social and emotional affects and effects of slavery and then move on in a healthier way.

    On a separate note, Dwight always says that light skinned people look (subconsciously) for dark skinned mates, and vice versa. He thinks it has something to do with wanting to feel more/less black, depending on which one they are smh. I’m sure this is probably true and I can’t wait to read Cousin Ron’s explanation.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. I’m sorry this thing got you hyped up again. But as you said, we got to start paying attention to ourselves as black people. We have to solve our own problems and issues; we can’t feasibly believe that anybody else will.
      I think Dwight is on to something. Ron hasn’t chimed in yet but I am very interested to see what he has to say too 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  12. This seems to have been going on for as long as there were different skin tones. I always remember how it was presented in the Spike Lee movie School Daze with the Jiggaboos and the Wannabees. Same type of thing much like you’ve described.

    Liked by 5 people

      1. I know, I’ve been scarce the last couple weeks… But I haven’t forgotten my Twin’s spot outchea! It is one of my favorite WP places to visit, current lack of visibility notwithstanding…

        Liked by 2 people

        1. LOL!! I understand. Remember our code…”There are no expiration dates on these posts.” LOL!!
          But when you get time, you gotta go listen to Mother and me at Wendy’s (If you haven’t already 🙂

          Liked by 2 people

  13. Beautiful post. I can relate and the ways are too numerous for me to count. Let us say I have Native American and a whole host of other ethnic mixers going on so hair and skin was interesting then I inherited freckles from my grandfather. The question and the comments were wild.

    Liked by 3 people

        1. I started to comment on how lovely you must be…you truly must have been reading my mind.
          I decided not to say that because I didn’t want to be too forward 🙂
          I’ll bet the freckles are AWESOME! LOL! 🌷

          Liked by 1 person

  14. Sigh…. West Indians go through this as well…. My grandmother and her sister both look like white women. I believe the Irish, the Jews, the Spaniards, the Portuguese, the Native Indians and the slaves all had too much Gin and Coconut water one week and hence…the people of Jamaica 🙂 I always say grandma looks just like Queen Elizabeth. But their husbands? DARK skinned. They obviously loved the chocolate men. But let one of the girls -daughters/granddaughters- bring home a dark-skinned dude. You’d get comments like “yuh couldn’t fine nuttin lighta?…” “why him haffi suh dawk” (why must he be so dark?) smh. And please don’t let one of their sons bring home a dark-skinned woman! Sweet Lord. We heard comments like “nuttin too black can’t be good” WHAT?! have you seen the array of colors in your family?! your offspring range from the colors of the Big-House owners to Kunta! Fast forward years later when the descendants of the the slavery-brainwashed mindset conclude that it’s ‘better to be lighter’ and you have a generation of bleachers. Yes ma’am: bleaching skin-cream this and pills that. Suddenly the beautiful dark-skinned people you grew up are now walking proudly with an alien-colored skin tone. My first daughter is very light-skinned with a head-full of thick dark curly beautiful hair. Her peers refused to believe her parents were “just Jamaicans”. My youngest has beautiful soft curly hair with darker beautiful skin. When I was pregnant I said she’d probably come out darker just to piss off a couple people in the family LOL!!! and let me tell you, I am WAITING for the first person to come out their mouth wrong about my baby’s skin-tone.
    Ma’am…your post always get me going!
    signing off. Good Day! 🙂

    Liked by 8 people

    1. You are killing me with that Jamaican Patois!!! LOL!!! I love it.
      One of my good friends is from Jamaica and I love listening to her speak.
      There is another dear blogger here by the name of Marie Williams who is also of Jamaican descent. She has been giving me ‘Patois’ lessons! LOL!!! She’s an awesome poetess.
      Anyway, that aside, I love, love, love your comment. I can hear my own relatives in the US saying very similar things.
      What’s ironic is that my father’s family is biracial—based on DNA results they have roots in nearly every European country -much like your family does.
      Now, here’s the kicker, ALL of my Dad’s siblings married darker people… I’m talking 3 or more shades darker.
      My cousin Ron, who is on my Dad’s side and who blogs with me on this site, has a couple of theories about this. He might reveal those in our “Flowering Vine Series.”
      Anyway, I hollered when you said, people are amazed that your children come from ‘just Jamaicans.’ LOL!!! They sound beautiful by the way.
      I am so glad you enjoy what I’m doing here! That does my heart good. You have a good day too, love 💞

      Liked by 5 people

      1. They are absolutely beautiful and I make sure they both know it 🙂 🙂 🙂 so does everyone else. But I make sure they know and hear it from me. And then drop the “I ain’t raising no pretty dummies!…education is key!” 🙂 yep, the little one gonna hear the same thing when she starts school. Be the Full Package! Pretty face and Intelligence!

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Well Laaadee G – all me a go say is a gud ting me kyan read. It no tek me no time at arl fi fine wha ya say bout me! hahahhahah Hey haaay!

        Lovin’ ya for the shout out! As far as I’m concerned: the darker the cherry, de sweeta de juice!
        Hear whaddam saayin’? LOL!!!! YAAASSSS!!!!!

        Liked by 1 person

  15. A great read, thanks for sharing. Often time we (Black People/ African -Americans) have to take a hard look in the mirror. Color-ism, racial indignation and complexion superiority is hurtful, it digs deep and one of the most unfair, archaic scars to experience and heal. Big hugs for standing up for Mom< Dad and Self. 🙂

    Liked by 6 people

    1. Hey Lady!
      Thanks for stopping by to check me out! And you are so right, we do have to take a good hard look at ourselves. My mom has since passed away but I think that the color thing deeply affected her.
      Big hugs back to you love and I pray that you’ll help some of us after you complete your studies.

      Liked by 3 people

  16. Hispanics go through this too. I remember older adults saying don’t stay out in the sun too much or you’ll get dark. They were also treated differently depending on their color.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Isn’t this ironic? Back in the 60s, we whites sit on beaches to ‘tan’ and used to – in the 60s – sit in the hot sun with ‘sun reflectors’ to hasten the job and get even darker! We humans are all nuts, honestly!

      Liked by 4 people

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