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Monday, March 19, 2007
Color Me Brown
Brown. Sepia. Mahogany. Raw Umber. Tan. I remember looking in my big box of Crayolas as a little girl, amazed at all the beautiful shades of brown in the box. When I drew pictures of my friends and family, I could use a crayon that was the same color as their skin. I loved that all of us were a slightly different color, but we were all some shade of brown so somehow that made us special together.

I didn’t understand then why my brown hue was different than that of my best friends’ or my cousins’, but neither did it matter. Years later, I learned why, but it still didn’t matter to me. By that time however, it did matter to some of them. The mother of one of my best friends would instruct her every summer to stay out of the sun, because there was nothing good about having extra brown, extra tan skin. God forbid she be mistaken for a real negro.

My mother, and I assumed, the rest of my family was unaffected by the skin color politics of quadroons, octoroons, dark-skinned, and light-skinned. Come as you are, whatever shade of brown (or ivory, or whatever) you may be. When I started dating, I was never pressured by my family to bring home someone of a particular shade. After all, it wasn’t like I could bring a paint swatch with me and if the guy didn’t match one of those shades, he would be disqualified. Some of my friends were told to keep ‘em dark because real men are dark men, some told to only date a “high yella” man because the babies would be pretty. My teenage years saw many conflicted girls, feeling guilty for dating who she wanted to date rather than who she was asked to date. I was lucky to make it to this point in my life without so much as a comment about my dating choices’ brown-ness or lack thereof.

I have a great aunt in Baltimore who just had a birthday, so Hunny and I went to see her over the weekend. While we were there, she kept looking at him with a disgusted face and wouldn’t really direct any conversation toward him even though he was very polite and respectful. Just before we left, she asked me to speak with her in the kitchen.

She was hostile in her questioning:

Auntie: “Why him? He got a lot of white people in his family? He’s redbone. Girl you know he don’t want no girl darker than him. He just gonna hol’ to you till somethin’ better comes along”

Me: “It’s not like that Auntie. He’s really good to me and we don’t have a problem about his being redbone or whatever. He isn’t that much lighter than me anyway”

Auntie: “Chile!! You say what you want. You know how ‘em lightskins be doing. They think they better than us. His babies ain’t gon get no lighter wit’ you. You better look for you a nice dark man who will take care of you.”

Me: “We’re doing just fine thank you. But it’s time for us to go”

Auntie: “Wait. Lemme ask him. I wanna get it from his mouth…(goes back in livingroom)…It was nice meeting you PoliceBoy, but I need to know this before yall leave. What you tryin to do with her? We all know lightskin men like you don’t want no brown girls.”

Me: “We’re leaving. Now. Bye Auntie. Bye Cecilia (her nurse)”

I’m not sure if I should feel bad about how that all went down. Hunny told me not to worry too much about it, because older people can be stuck in their ways and that our babies will be beautiful no matter what color they may be (when we get to that point). My mom and another aunt both told me the same thing about older people. I know they’re right, but it still hurt to hear those questions, especially because she’s never made a big deal about black, brown, or indifferent. Honestly, I believe my great aunt is beginning to develop some Alzheimer’s or dementia—after all she is 95 now, so that may be why she acted like that, but I don’t doubt that those were her true feelings.

I’m not ignorant—obviously I know people still have that mentality, but I really wasn’t ready for that. I’m lucky that Hunny wasn’t offended, because if I were in his shoes I probably would have been. I hear things like that, and wonder how long this attitude will fester in our community and continue to divide our race. It's so hard to unite and succeed as a race when we tear ourselves apart like that.

I could go on right now, but there’s no need. I'm frustrated with my thoughts.



Blogger T.C. said...

Hey Tasha! First time here, and WOW...I must say that I think its hard on both ends, and about 4 months ago me and two of my close gurls got into this really DEEP conversation about this whole thing...I am extremely high yella if you want to call it that, my whole family is...(immediate) but my FAMILY is so many shades its crazy...I remember the frist time it was brought to my attention my cousin said to my grandmother: "Is TC white?" that was crazy to me because I never knew I was anything other than what I called myself which was peach, and I did that for the VERY reason you stated...that was the color in the box that looked like me...my Madea was black, my granddaddy yellow, my momma and daddy peach, my otehr grandmother brown...I mean I can go on and on...you get the point...

I know how you feel though...when me and my sweetie go out...we get looks...WHY? who knows...I know he is VERY dark and beautiful and I am very light...a "red bone" if you will, mind you I HATE that

I think that part of it is breaking the steretypes, not pasing this stuff on to our kids...we are so many different shades and colors...we just need to focus on that...

i always say breaking down stuff like that...starts with OUR generation and how WE raise OUR kids...society has done some damage...and now its time for us to help heal it...there is all kinds of racism and disscremination out here in this world...and we have to be part of the solution & that starts with being "educated" on real life and real life situations

that's just my take...I could definitely go on and on about this one myself...

Don't get discouraged...older folks ARE set in their ways...and you just have to take from it the positive and keep moving

Blogger Ladynay said...

BBL, just wanted you to know I came by...will actually READ the post lata :-D

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Growing up, skin color was never an issue in my family. I guess b/c we have family members who look almost white to some that are blue black. I still amazed when people talked about how their families didn't want them to date whoever b/c of their skin color. I never had to go through anything like that.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's worth pointing out from a male perspective, that the most important body parts have the same color, irrespective of skin tone.

The primary one being the brain, and, well, so Tasha don't bitch-slap me, I won't say the other.

Blogger Ladynay said...

Wow, I am glad he took it in stride. You have to remember the era your aunt grew up in. Maybe that will help explain why she thinks what she does. It's rooted in her.

Blogger Miz JJ said...

Your hunny is a definite keeper. He was calm and rational about a situation that could have gotten him heated. It is sad that black people still do not love each other the way we should, but it comes from a long history of being taught to hate ourselves. We just need to teach our children to love themselves and to be proud of all those different colours in that crayola box.

Anonymous Sugar said...

Girl, give your old aunt a break! She's probably about senile and though that may be what she thought back in the day, I'll bet, based upon what you said, she got past it before she got to where she is now. Hell, a woman that age is liable to ask you whether his penis is big or small. Surely, you wouldn't get mad at that would you?!

I think she's just old and had a flashback. Think about it, she was BORN in 1902 or 1903!!!! Can you imagine what must be bouncing around in that old brain????? The horrible memories!!!!!?

Give her a pass on this one. Hold tight to your man and don't even sweat this.

Anonymous Sugar said...

Okay, maybe my math is a little off, but hey! I'm an English major, not a Calculus major, or whatever those math geeks (kidding) major in.

Blogger Honey-Libra said...

Aww Hunny is a keeper cause anyone else would have went off on Auntie..sike nah I'm jokin but for real he's right older people tend to believe that the world hasn't changed and we must continue to use the paper bag syndrome.

As my mommie says if he loves God, you and treats you right then he's alright with me :)

Blogger Golden Silence said...

"Hunny" did do a good job in taking it in stride.

Regardless of age, it's so sad and wrong. It's one thing to think that we no longer have the mindset of our predecessors, but when I hear kids echoing the same sentiments it's sickening. When I hear girls calling lighter-skinned people "stuck up" or darker-skinned people "ugly," it's so disturbing.

Our race comes in all shades and colors, and instead of abusing each other because of that, we should celebrate our diversity.

Blogger Gunfighter said...

How sad.

You know, I can ALMOST forgive this in the old folks, but the problem in our community is that too many of our own young people subscribe to this kind of garbage.

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