Ups and Downs, Ins and Outs

Human societies are so complex we cannot make final judgments in most cases about what is good and what is bad. There is usually a trade off. My wife and I listened to Lupita Nyong’o’s speech at the Essence Magazine Black Hollywood event a week before she won the Oscar. It still shocks me to realize that Black girls often carry a stigma with them that is totally irrational but heavily reinforced by societies around the world their skin. It shocks me because I have always found that skin to be most attractive. I married a chocolate-colored woman, dark chocolate. Yet in her family were found all the strains of self-loathing so often voiced by dark-skinned people…… not just women but men, too. Somehow my wife escaped it even though some very close to her dealt with this ugly image of themselves as less than others because they are dark.
Some Black men have figured out that racism on the part of White women can work in their favor, because how better to get back at your parents, your boy friend or husband than to sleep with a very dark Black man. Disgusting, yes, but hard for a young man to resist. Such racism has no doubt led some White women to interact intimately with Black people and that has changed their views. I recall one story of a violent racist, one who led White Power prison gangs, all the while hiding the fact of his Black father. On getting out, he took up with a girl friend who participated enthusiastically in his racist activities. Eventually he returned to prison but only after his girl friend had found out he was part Black (in American cultural terms there is no such thing if you are “part Black” you are Black, a heritage of the One Drop rule). She wrote to him in prison and told him he had completely changed her view of Black people because she had found him to be a good person and to find out he was Black forced her to change those view.
On our way to the clinic where my wife is receiving treatment for cancer, I mentioned to her how ironic I found it that because of segregation she got a good education. How? Despite the fewer resources that the segregated schools had (here we have to keep in mind that everyone was segregated Whites along with Blacks; we sometimes forget that and think of Blacks as the only targets of segregation), educated Black people had few places to go where they could exercise a professional career and teaching was one (nursing was the other). I had the pleasure of meeting many of my wife’s teachers since the Black community was so tight in the 60s that an educated person like my wife constantly ran into her old teachers and I got to know some. Whereas I could count maybe five teachers that I thought were outstanding, most of hers were. Determined, dynamic, dedicated, and forceful people, most of them women, who insisted on the behavior and drive that they knew were the only protections those kids had against a hostile society. That’s all gone now.

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