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.”
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.
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?”
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…
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?
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.
Inspiration for this post came from comments between myself and these great bloggers:
“No matter where you go in the room, Mona Lisa will be looking right at you.”
I remember wondering how that could be possible as I listened to my Godfather talk about a picture that was on display in his living room.
Believe me when I tell you that I was NOT convinced that the lady pictured could do that. So, I tested his assertion. I mean I went to every corner of that room to try that thing out and, sure enough, Mona Lisa continued to look at me- no matter where I went.
I should’ve known he was right.
By the way, my Godmother, who looked like a beautiful Black Betty White, loved laughing at my Godfather as he carried on this sort of ‘grown up’ conversation with three year old me. Best believe that there was nothing that he could ask me or tell me about that I didn’t have a quick response or answer for; well except for the Mona Lisa thing. And to be honest, when all else failed, I’d just dip into my vivid imagination and make something up!
Making stuff up is a child’s prerogative isn’t it?
Who knew that my Godfather was teaching me to become a creative communicator 😉
At any rate, during visits with my Godparents, I loved watching and listening to my Godfather play jazz tunes ‘by ear.’ From what I understand, he and his sister were raised in a household that placed a high value on education. In fact, his sister, who was highly intelligent, went on to become a professor at a prestigious American University. One of the things that I remember most about her was the love that she had for her dear poodle, Zora.
By the way, you are correct if you guessed that her dog was named for Zora Neale Hurston, the Black novelist, folklorist and anthropologist.
Well to me, at that time, “Zora” meant nothing more than small, yappy, white poodle-period.
Anyway, while my Godfather challenged my intellect, my Godmother, who was a nurse, but had the skills and knowledge of today’s Nurse Practitioner or Physician’s Assistant, kept close watch on my physical wellbeing. To be frank, she had been doing so prior to my Earthly debut. In essence, she handpicked my mother’s OB/Gyn and my Pediatrician; both of whom were top-flight. All in all, she took my parents under her wing the minute they arrived in Augusta. So it was only natural that she and her husband would become my Godparents.
By now you are probably wondering why I have coerced you into accompanying me on a promenade down the streets of my memories. In other words, what is the point of this post?
Well I am glad that you asked! So here we go!
The purpose of this post is to encourage you to pour into the lives of young children -much like my Godparents did for me. Realize that this does NOT have to cost you anything but a little bit of time.
Here are a couple of suggestions as to how you might do this:
Take a child to the public library and show them the process of finding and checking out a book. Then, read to them. You might also take them to free events that introduce them to different cultures. Look for museum specials so that you can also introduce them to the arts.
Teach a child how to prepare your favorite simple dishes like salads and sandwiches. If they are older, you might show them how to use the stove to prepare a cooked meal.
Allow a child to accompany you to the bank, store or any other place where you take care of business. While there, explain to them what a checking/ savings account is and allow them to watch you conduct a transaction like making a deposit or cashing a check. If you are fully automated in the banking realm, show them how online transactions work. Likewise, take them to a grocery store and show them how to select food items and how to pay for them.
Talk to them about money; specifically, about how it is earned, invested, spent, donated and saved.
Allow a child to watch you as you engage in a favorite pastime or routine activity. Help them to research activities that they may be interested in learning how to do.
To be honest, you can apply all of the suggestions above to any person that would benefit from that knowledge. Get creative about sharing your skills, abilities and knowledge with others. Remember, you can adjust any of my suggestions in order to make them age appropriate.
Now, before I go, I’d like to have a word with anyone who has been named the Godparent of a child:
Godparents, take your job seriously! Feel free to use my suggestions. Please don’t think that you are functioning as a proper Godparent if your only involvement in your Godchild’s life is taking them to get a hamburger and a T-Shirt once a year. And for those of you who simply flaunt the title “Godparent” while adding NO value to the child’s life, I would like to challenge you to step up your game in a major way!
Lady G, is now stepping down from the soapbox!
Honestly, I thank God everyday for my Godparents; especially my Godmother who continued to watch over me through my high school years. I also thank God for my daughter’s Godparents who have always been so very loving, kind and generous to her and my family. They remind me so much of my own Godparents.
May God always bless and keep these four souls for all the days of their lives; even until the end of time.
Friends, I also urge you to take time to think about and remember the adults who poured into you when you were a child. Challenge yourselves to pay it back and forward.