|Pennsylvania State University Press, 1955|
Where race is important, there must be a way to sort by race. Thus, to the extent that we talk about race in America, we are basing our talk on notions of racial purity. The concept of race cannot exist without the concept of racial purity.
The need for racial purity laws arose in America as soon as an African and a European had sexual relations here and produced a child. Was the child African? European? Something else? It is not surprising, then that the question was raised early....By 1662 the state of Virginia, troubled by these relationships, passes its first law banning miscegenation. (p.3)
Just as the forced migration of millions of Yoruba and Ibo wrought destruction on those cultures in Africa as well as in America, so has this newly created African American community been devastated by a vision of the world in which light skin and dark skin are seen as meditations on good and evil, civilization and savagery, intelligence and ignorance. This cruel lesson has not only affected how we see ourselves in comparisons with white Americans; it has also informed how we look at each other within our own community.
Like my parents, I am a black American with white skin, an African American with both African and European ancestors. Thus, I live a life that is often disjointed, troubling. I also see the world in a different way...For my position does not allow me the luxury of thinking that the notion of race makes any sense. If you are black and white at the same time, once you finally realize that it is not you that is strange, you realize something very strange is going on in this society. Perhaps more directly and more starkly than other Americans, I understand "race" as a socially created metaphor, for my very existence unsettles expectations of "race." (p. 4)
|photo © Rob McElroy, 2015|
November, 1978. Cast out, cast out, always cast out from the only home, the only safe place, the only refuge in a terrifying, vicious land. Cast out, and alone.
No home. No home.
No place to belong.
No place to rest a frightened and lonely heart.
No place to hide.
White people would let me in, of course. They think that I belong with them. They smile at me. They welcome me. They think I'm their sister........
Missing the safe warmth of my childhood, a colored girl growing up in the protection of a strong family in the segregated South, surrounded by their love and their strength and their definition of me and of themselves.......
But I lost something more when I grew up and moved out of the segregated South, out of the safety of my childhood home, because the Jim Crow laws gave me an identity and a protection I couldn't give myself......
What do you do if you're rejected by one world,...and are constantly rejecting the other? I am perceived by some as white, by some as black, by yet others as a black person but "really white," so (a) you can trust her and (b) you can't trust her.
And yet I'm me all the time. (p. 13-14)