The issue of color
(to the critics)
Despite the current news, the issue of color (and hair) has divided and frustrated many Black families forever. African-Americans share these cultural issues with people around the world. (Dominican Republic)
Many of us can discover a few generations but hit a roadblock at either the African (“Kunte Kente) or a slave-holding family. Freedom meant gaining a foothold on economic security through education, labor expertise, and, yes, passing.
Our families, by having children, open up an unknown identification as stressful as wending our way through changing cultural patterns. Do we condemn the Blacks who change their race for bettering themselves or for love? No. We have understood the history of passing . Members of our own families experience mistaken identity. Thought to be too white or too Black. The old laws attempted to define and restrict people of color on parentage, behavior, and shades of color. We who are African-American have always had to adapt to the laws, the descriptions of us, and our own self-identifty.
Our children follow Mendel’s Law. Often the whitest baby becomes the darkest child. Later, complexions change to lighter or darker. None may resemble their parents causing questions of fidelity. The girls may not have naturally straight hair like their brother. My aunt when stopped in the street with six children avoided further noseyness by saying, “I have three sets of twins”. The three who were her children could not have been selected by a stranger. In an effort to get tickets for the ferry to Mt.Vernon, she bought tickets but her daughter was denied..She also stopped the children’s sense of competition by saying that it is a miracle we are not checkerboard.
When my first child was born in an army hospital, no one asked my race. An embarrassed clerk came back in my room checking to see if I was the same race as my husband. This is an example of misidentity. We got to the place where I could not ask for a hotel room or an apartment. The terms changed when my husband appeared.
I learned how hard it is for children in seeing and accepting their own color. This is even more dangerous when your partner has a more difficult time from feelings of powerlessness.. There is a level of anger and hurt that has to be tiptoed around.
A relative was told to move to the whites line when volunteering during World War II. After years of service, he married and lived as white.They were afraid to have children. They lived in fear of being found out. Others who could pass opted to remain Black. These people often have to use vernacular to be accepted by Blacks! This is a choice. None of this is easy.
There are so many scenarios for why someone lives a “lie.” The hidden lover, the surrogate mother or egg, the out of wedlock relative who is raised as someone’s own child. For reasons to get a privilege after Black-is-Beautiful changed perceptions and laws,
whites have changed their race to get education spots.To get access to African-American set asides, Whites have passed as Black or found a surrogate to represent their interests. It has worked both ways. To buy a house in all-White Chicago suburb, a white family bought the property. Crosses were burned when the professor moved his family in.
After the Depression as jobs became available, many Black women changed their age and obscured their race (when possible), to be more competive in the job-market. Another aunt was mis-identified as Jewish and she did not correct the interviewer. Would this be a lie worth dragging across the media?
There have been cases where DNA and genealogy records prove that people are another race. And do not forget the confusion caused by filling out official forms. If you do not identify as white,what categories adequately describe you and your experience? It is difficult to deal with this issue. It is hard to be “too white” or “too Black”. To have a friend ask if your children have nappy hair. To understand a child who has been misidentified. To explain why a grandparent “looks” white. Even among Blacks, the pattern of privilege when looking white has caused jealousy and ugly comments because we have taken on so much of the culture.
By changing your race to Black, you leave the impression your parents are Black. And there are family secrets. Our new families will be challenged to decided who they are, who they want to be, and who they will love. And our tasks are to love their decisions and to love them.
This situation requires Blacks to embrace all shades of people as we demand the same for ourselves.