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 Family Story

 

clematis-385257_1280

Have you guys seen this commercial by a large cosmetics company that purports to tell the ‘story’ behind a given celebrity’s skin color?

Seriously!

In one spot they have a celebrity like J-Lo saying, “There’s a story behind my skin.”  And there, near the bottom of the screen, flashes the phrase “100% Puerto Rican.”

Or another celebrity’s “behind the skin” story is “100% Mexican-American.”

Better yet, there is a well known singer/performer who is identified as “African-American, Native-American and French.”

Now, in the words of Oprah Winfrey- circa 1987, “Caller you say what?”

Um…yeeaaahhh…

I think part of the problem is the confusion that so often accompanies terms like race, ethnicity, nationality and God knows what else.

Granted, these are all human constructs but that’s a conversation for a different day.

Anyway, I decided to touch on subjects of ethnicity and race in order to introduce a new series that will explore the experiences of a Southern family with an extensive biracial heritage.

Just so we’re clear, it is my family’s story.

Guys, believe me when I tell you that I am so excited about this endeavor because it is a collaborative effort among several family members including me and my cousin Ron as well as our parents(his Mom, my Dad) –whom most of you know are full siblings.

There may also be guest posts or pictures from others in our family who might like to contribute.

By the way, the new series will be called “The Flowering Vine” and it will replace Ron’s Time Tunnel on Fridays.

Now, before you decide to gather the villagers and attempt to burn me at the stake for replacing Ron’s Time Tunnel, I’d ask you to note that “The Flowering Vine” is Ron’s brainchild and it was his decision to end the Ron’s Time Tunnel series.

Whew!

But, that said, he will continue to share his amazing writings on his own blog, The Time Tunnel.

And so…

You know they say you should never mix metaphors.

Now watch me mix the aforementioned floral imagery with talk of food.

Here goes…

Like most African-Americans, the story behind our family’s skin color can best be described as a tasty gumbo or stew–No doubt a complex preparation that took years to perfect–albeit often involuntarily.

That said, for those of you who would like to know more about the recipe, I am including the following list of countries/ regions/groups that have contributed ingredients to our particular stew:

Cameroon, Ghana, Senegal, Mali, Nigeria, Benin/Togo, Belgium, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, Denmark, Italy, Slovenia, Czech Republic, England, Ireland, Scotland, Spain, Portugal, Norway, Sweden and Asia.

Don’t forget a dash of Native-American.

Oh yeah, before I go, let me advise you that with this new series comes a caveat.

In the words of my dear cousin Ron, “All the lies we tell are true!”

LOL!!!

No seriously, The Flowering Vine will include writings based on historical records,  DNA ancestry reports and events involving real people and places. However, we reserve the right to include a little hyperbole, exaggeration, imagination and poetic license.

That’s how we do it in the South 😉

Also, when reading these posts, please bear in mind, that one person’s perspectives and version of reality are his own and they may or may not resemble or align with those of another person–even when referencing the same set of events.

—–End of Caveat!

I hope you guys are open to explore this new project with us.

Any thoughts?

Hit me up in comments 🙂

Lady G 😘💋