On Obsessions or When Being Black
Is Not Enough
When I was growing up our obsession
was skin color. You were a good skin color if you were "paper sack brown"
or lighter. My foster mother made a comment to me that my sister, brother
and I were close enough to being "paper sack brown" that we would be okay.
She said "you are lucky that you aren't very dark skin".
When I was nineteen (and working
at her bar) I met a young man in service whom I like a lot. He was very
dark skin - "blue black". He had a friend who was "so light he could be
white". My mother was beside herself. "Why", she ask "do you have to like
the dark one?" "If you have children with him" she shouted "they will be
too dark!" I remember saying to her: "The Blacker the berry the sweeter
the juice." And she retorted - "Yeah, but who wants diabetes"
. . . The black obsession of
the 40's, 50's, 60's - skin color.
Yet, being too light was also
a problem. . . black people would accuse light skin people of "thinking
you were white." My birth mother's family could claim multi-racial status
if they were of this generation. My mother died when I was really young.
But I recently comment to an aunt that all of them except one married very
dark men. . . . . "how did that happen?" . . . I asked. . My aunt said,
"I don't think it was deliberate. . . but it was hard growing up light
skin in the 20's and the 30's. Being light skin can mean being too dark
for whites- too light for blacks.
. . . . The Black obsession
of the 20's and 30's - skin color.
. . I first notice the resurgent
of the obsession over skin color on television (about 10 years ago). "Have
you noticed" I commented to my son Tshaka " that on MTV all the black women
are very light skin and all the black men are very dark. What's with that?
Have you notice that except for comics and singers black actors are pretty
much limited to light skin women, dark skin men?" Then I notice the personal
ads. . "Wanted professional black men (honey tone). ."
honey tone (hmmm now ain't that
. . So, being "black and proud"
is fading to "if you are black step back". . . And we disguise our obsession
in the the trap of ancestry. . "I am African, Native, Italian" , we announce
proudly. . . Who isn't I think? Black people by definition are mongrels.
. . . .The obsession of the
80's and 90's skin color - disguised in ancestry .
African American - a made up
name - for a made up people. True Africans have tribal connections. . We
were snatched, sold, stolen from different tribes. We were forced to develop
kinship relationship with people whom we had nothing in common but the
color of our skin. We were force to give up language, religion, customs
and all apparent sign of our former culture. Over the years into our rank
came any person who had "one drop" of black blood. Our collective ancestry
includes every ethnic, national and racial group on the face of the earth.
Our defining factor is our black ancestry and our culture born out of American
racism and slavery.
But slavery and racism have
made us obsess with color. Where the benefits of society is distribute
by skin color. . . then we want more. . .
Where jobs and resources in
a society are distribute based on color? Not just black and white but shades
of black? The we want more. . .
What we are, is not good enough.
Like the hungry orphans in David
- we want more
"Can I have more please?"
French, Spanish, Japanese?
Italian, Chinese, Thai.?
Irish, Swedish, Navajo?
Cherokee, Russian, British?
"MORE, MORE, MORE PLEASE!!!!!"
Obsessed with skin color, ancestry,
full of self hate and self doubt.
So we let our children, divert
us into obssessive conversation about who or what is Black. Children, who
may be grown, but "who wouldn't know how to pour piss out of their boots
if the direction says turn straight down", not because they aren't intelligent,
smart and capable (they are) but because they haven't had life experiences
to temper their ramblings.
Our children, many of whom have
been sheltered and protected. . Our middle-class, over educated, over protected
children. . foolished children. Who tend to forget that they are just one
white person's breath away from being "just another nigger". . . from one
paycheck away from being poor.
Don't get me wrong. I respect
the intellectual capabilities of our children. . . but intellectual musings
have to be tempered by the cold hard realities of experience. I have two
children (26 and 20). I know that they are legally grown, intelligent and
capable. . . I also know that they sometimes say foolish thingst.
. that comes from the lack of experience.
"Wait", I say "Comeback to me
when you are 35, 45, 55. Let me see what you think then when you are tired,
in trouble and the world is biting you in the ass."
Everyone come backs eventually.
. . even if it is for a short period.
OJ came running back to his
Clarence Thomas. . brought
out the image of lynching a black man when . . .
Everyone eventually comes back.
. . even if it is merely a self-serving moment.
When I hear individuals talk
about their lack of identification with African Americans.
I think - - Wait.
But what's our excused.
We aren't young.
Why are we obsessed with what
he calls or does not call himself. . .
My niece. . decided when she
was eight that she didn't want to be called Kuya. . she wanted a name like
the other kids. . so she started calling herself "Mary" We did not obsess
over her comment. . . we saw it for what it was. . a child not wanting
to be different. . We laugh. . teased her little bit. .. and continued
to call her "Kuya" all her friends called her Mary. Now Kuya is 23. She
is proud of her name and has named her daughter RuKiya. . . I laugh ..
asked her. "I thought you would have named her Mary." She laughed. . .
and said. . "Oh that was just a phase"
Why are we obsessed what
a child calls himself? is it because it is our obsession too. As a
culture, we are still young. African Americans are the youngest culture
on the face of the earth. We were only born into being in the last 300
years. We are still growing and developing and defining. Perhaps its not
obsession but normal growing pains?
Of course a person can call
himself (or herself) whatever she (or he) wants?
It doesn't change who she or
We can call ourselves whatever
"nigger, Negro, colored, black,
it doesn't change who we are.
. . a proud strong culture
. . a survival culture
. . a culture of acceptance
When white people kicked their
children out because they had a drop of black blood
. . . we accepted them
When Natives kicked their children
out because they had a drop of black blood
. . we accepted them.
When Asians kicked their children
out because they had a drop of black blood
. . we accepted them.
We are wonderful
. . .courageous
Whatever our ancestry.
. . we should be proud to claim being black.
. . .generous
. . .strong
. . .survivors
There are no others like
us on the face of the earth!!