Multicolor family: pink face feels darker

Paul Berry
Palo Alto, CA

In my 80 years, I’ve been married twice, have three children, five grand children– and among all of them, I’m the only one that Americans call “white.” My first spouse was described on our marriage license as “color: ed”; the second, on her US immigration papers, as “color: yellow.”

So when I’m asked to name my “color” (now more elaborately termed my “ethnic identity”) I may reluctantly check “white” because I know that that’s what makes sense to the asker. But more usually I say “mixed” because that’s where my heart is.

If asked to spell out the ingredients of my mixture, I check almost everything. When I took the Implicit Association Test (a clever hard-to-fake measure of gender or ethnic bias; see https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit) my scores showed that my gut thinks “black is beautiful.”

It’s important to remember why we have the convention that “any shade but plain vanilla is some sort of black”: SLAVERY.

Slaves don’t like slavery. They seize every opportunity to escape. So it’s important to slaveowners to have a visible, indelible way of marking their slaves as slaves. Slave-owners hit on the convenient rule that “even the least detectable trace of African appearance makes you BLACK and thus a slave.”

(This meant that, as an owner, you could rape your female property, and then sell your own children. Think about it.)

Race isn’t what you “really” are, it’s what other people THINK you are. And if other people (of any color) agree with the slaveowners that “any trace of black is BLACK”– then that’s what you’re stuck with.

 

Tweets by Michele Norris