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 

 

 

 

 

 

The Flowering Vine: A Letter to Our White Great-Grandfather

black and white me

Dear Robert,

My name is Gwin and I am one of your great-grandchildren.  Today, I am writing to you in hopes that your soul has ascended to an elevated level of understanding and empathy-having left your dark and dense material world many years ago.

As you can see, I am not exactly what you might have expected.
I am not Caucasian.
I am a strong and beautiful brown-skinned girl.
I am Black.
We are Black.
You see, I am one of many.
We are the grandchildren of your son, Leroy.
From what I have been told, our grandfather spent quite a bit of time at your home with you and your other children.
In fact, he once showed me a knee injury that he sustained while playing on your farm.
So there’s no doubt in my mind that you knew him and he knew you.
But, do you know us?
Did you notice that he married a beautiful and educated black woman?
Did you see their babies?
Did you see their baby’s babies?
Would you have recognized us as YOUR children?
Or would you have been horrified?
Terrified?
Based on historical documents, I know that your family is deeply rooted in the South.
I know that many of them fought and died for the Confederacy-their cold dead fingers still wrapped around that flag.
I also know that they vigorously worked to maintain white supremacy and dominance well after The Civil War.
History tells me that it is very likely that you and some of your kin gathered up the women and children, put on your best suit of clothes, packed a picnic and gleefully watched as one, or more of my black ancestors was beaten to death and hung from a tree.
You and your kin normalized the murder and torture of black folks because, in your Earthly simple mind, we were less than human.
Yet, you wouldn’t have dared watch someone hang a horse.
There is no justifying that.
But, as I write this letter, I have hope that God’s grace has brought you to a higher level of awareness and you now know just how sick you were.  I pray that you have boldly accepted whatever karma came your way and released your hatred.
However, having said that, I must inform you that your inability to repent for your sins while on Earth has led to the creation of a very ugly wound on our current society that never healed.
 In fact, it’s beginning to fester and without an immediate intervention, it will become septic—which is, indeed, fatal.
If you don’t believe what I am saying, I give you this post written by your Great-Grandson, my cousin, Ronald.
Here’s the thing Great-Granddaddy, I want to forgive you and yours for your trespasses, but it is hard as hell when the worst of you continue to uproot any amount of progress that is made.
Therefore, I’d ask that you send prayers of enlightenment and love down to all of those who are working so hard to dominate and oppress people who do not resemble them.
I’ll join you in those prayers.  Maybe, between me and you, we can initiate healing and change.
Peace, love and light to you!
-Gwin.
PS:  You can reach me in my Alternate Universe version of 1982 :).
Also I am enclosing a picture of your son (Leroy) and your Grandson (My Daddy).
IMG_0625