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Monday
Mar222010

I'm Black Irish and I'm Proud

Yesterday I came into contact with a racist.

A table full of them to be exact. My contact with them could have gone much better on my part. But I'm cynical about this sort of stuff having grown up light-skinned enough to "pass". I come by that honestly. Now, my father, on the other hand, is much darker than I and his sister, one of my favorite aunts, is a lovely caramel color and if you were to see the whole family lined up you'd find every conceivable shade available. To me, this is a beautiful sight.

I could have politely interrupted their loud (no, really, this was ridiculously loud) conversation about all the "Pakistanis" and "Blacks" and "foreigners" that are taking over and how they're everywhere. There were plenty of hateful things that came out of their mouths and each time they said something I responded back. Loudly. But not directly. Only the woman heard me and she obviously got them to pay attention to the fact that they were bothering other patrons around them. Eventually, they left.

It is a terrible thing, this being able to pass. There is the strange position I've found myself in that shocks me, it always shocks me with a jolt, when someone starts speaking this code that they are sure you understand. They lean in, pull you into their circle of trust, and then betray it. They assume you agree with them. You must! You look white! So you probably totally understand their racism!

Mind you, these older people probably felt justified in being able to have their conversation in public because they've always talked like that. Before you go defending their bad behavior let me say this: It's 2010. TWO THOUSAND TEN. In the year of 2010 my President is Black and so is theirs. THE PRESIDENT. IS BLACK. (Or MIXED. MULATTO. Whatever.) The Civil Rights Movement happened in their lifetime. I sincerely hate it when people excuse them with, "But that's their generation. That's what they grew up with! They don't know any better!" Instead of doling out pardons for their racism let me suggest that they ought to be embarrassed that they've lived through all of that and still haven't learned anything from it. Let me propose that they've have multiple opportunities to learn from their lives in America and have managed to have their racism forgiven time and time again. Let's just all take responsibility for that.

One time when I was dating a guy in college he took me home to meet his parents. I was nervous because I was a 19-year old girl/woman who had a daughter by then and he was a single, college-aged boy so it concerned me that his family would be upset by that. Unfortunately, I was focused on the wrong thing. What they were upset about in regards to me was that I was Black. That is what bothered them about me when they first met me. From hearing this boy tell me about his family I was shocked because it didn't seem like they would be like that. I had to ask him, "Let me get this straight. Your brother is married to a Korean woman and your sister is a lesbian and your parents have a problem with ME?"

Before I digress too far let me just say I ended up marrying (and divorcing) him and that I gave his family the whitest damn grandchildren ever produced. Seriously. They're nearly transparent.

My father, also of the generation of people in question, is getting older. He's reached his 70s and doesn't like to live in the racism of his past. Rarely does he talk about it. But there are things about him that are so progressive and innovative and he's always, in my mind, been that way. His sister once recounted a story that made my sisters and I see him in an entirely new light and, in some ways, sort of explained him to us. He was young, maybe 10 or so, and he was going to get a new pair of shoes. Back in the day (it's kinder to use that then to tell you just what decade in which this occurred) that was a big deal. New shoes? That was luxurious! Normally, my dad wore shoes until the soles wore off and then put cardboard in them repeatedly until it was finally time for a new pair. His father was supposed to take him shopping and he went downtown to where he, my grandfather, was working at the time to meet him and be taken to the shoe store.

I never met my grandfather on my dad's side. He died before I was born, but I know enough about him to know that he "passed" for white in the early part of the century. He got jobs as a "white man" and was hired because he looked white enough. When my dad went downtown to get my grandfather that day he waited and waited for him to come out. He never did. Finally, he asked for someone to get his dad in the shop and another worker (a manager? an owner? I don't know.) brings my grandfather to the front of the store because this kid is claiming to be his son and he's been out there waiting.

This kid. My father. Who is dark. Who is Black.

"This nigger kid waiting out here says he's your son." That word, and you know which one, always jars me when I hear it told in this story.

Until, of course, I hear the part where my grandfather shakes his head back and forth and replies: "I've never seen him before."

When my aunt told this story my dad was quiet and my hand flew up to my mouth and I searched my sister's faces and we all sat still and cried. And we've never really spoken of it and he might not like that I've shared that story in writing but it has to say something about our family and our place in this country that it's even an experience worth recounting. I think this is true especially since people's feelings on race are still not at a place where we can talk comfortably about it. Granted, the fact that my grandfather denied my father as his son so he wouldn't lose his job happened a long time ago and these old, white racists sitting at their table in a public restaurant next to me are from the same era. All parties lived through the same decades even though they lived vastly different lives.

Last week, my dad called me on St. Patrick's day to wish me luck and a good day. Come on. This Black man had a daughter with an Irish-German woman and named her Kelly and my sisters are named Tracy and Erin. We kind of have to celebrate, you know?

I'd like to think that there are more like me and my family. I'd like to think that I'm normal. Maybe even that people like me are taking over.

Whatever the hell that means.
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Reader Comments (150)

This really hit me, and I have to admit that I cried for your father as a little boy denied. I wonder how his father must have felt to do that. It must have been heartbreaking.

March 22, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterschmutzie

My heart broke for your dad having to experience that, and for your family living with it.

But girl, we ARE taking over and the world is gooing to be better for it. My blended family and I see other families like us everywhere we go. I know those racists are still out there but they are becoming outnumbered by US.

I wrote a post similar to yours a while ago on my blog ig you want to read it. The title is "Drive-By Racism". Keep on keepin' on, great post.

March 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKat1124

Awesome post. I walk this line--not in any way like you do--I want to say that upfront. But my kids are black and I am white. I get the "those are your kids?!?" all the time from white folks who can't imagine inviting children of color into their house, neighborhood, world. It is sad and frustrating, but then there are those who don't care about our differences--I almost wrote don't notice--but that is not true everyone notices skin color. EVERYONE.

It is sad that while we have come far--we haven't. Thank you for this--it puts so much in perspective for me as the mother of black children. You rock.

March 22, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterdawn

Holy awesome post Batman. I could go on for days as I am a black girl with "good hair" married to, a Mexican. Yes, they are currently the bane of the American society, right?! Funny thing is, he's the kind people like to pretend don't really exist. The kind that have been here pretty much since before all that Alamo business? Not the kind depicted on the road signs in the San Diego area (you know the ones, about border runners?!). It's amazing the things we endure just because we happened to fall in love with each other on some college campus in California a whole butt load of years ago. Anyway, thanks for sharing your story, I won't bore you with mine.

March 22, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterparenting BY dummies

Jesus. I had to read that part about five times to make sure I got it right. Jesus.

The assumptions. I've challenged people's assumptions - that I'm racist, that I'm homophobic, that I'm a Bible-beating Christian. That I'm just like them.

Stories like yours make me want to challenge them even more loudly and vehemently. Thank you for inspiring me to be as courageous as you are.

March 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJulie @ The Mom Slant

Ironically I am sitting here at home sick today with Lets Make a Deal on and when Wayne Brady states that he is Irish, the crowd laughs. He says "What?"

I'd like to think I am not racist in the least, but as a white girl, I am constantly trying to identify where maybe I go wrong, don't speak up. Thanks for the thoughtful post.

March 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNora@White Hot Magik

All I can say is keep telling the story. Keep saying what you're saying. the more it's said and talked about and discussed, the better because it is still an issue. I do think the tide is changing and I think it's less acceptable at least publicly to behave that way. I hope that my child will grow up and not know what it is to judge someone by their skin color. Period.

March 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKaty

There have been days (make that years) that I've been ashamed of my whiteness - hopefully I realised early enough what a pointless exercise THAT is, and to do more productive things about fighting the evils of racism (in particular) and othering (in general). There's always more to do.

But there's always something that can be done - even by one person, with one person, if that's all the opportunity that presents itself will allow. Your tweets yesterday, and this post today, were / are powerful and eloquent explanations of that.

You rock, Kelly. You're my people. The ignorant racists with whom I share skin colour and racial mix (but nothing else)? They're NOT my people. They disgust me.

March 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCatherine

When our daughters were little the Mrs and I used to talk hypothetically from time to time about the future and their future and "what if" stuff. We decided when they were in grade school that if either one dated a black guy it didn't matter. Native American, Chinese, I don't know, Inuit, we said we'd practice what we preached - since we grew up in the Civil Rights era and saw real time what people went through just to be able to VOTE for cry eye - and that's the name of that tune. Even though I'd say 95% of my family are truly just this side of white supremacists (and they wonder why we leave early on Thanksgiving), we brought our girls up to treat everyone one by one and to know that racism is not only bad, but also evil.

Here we were all ready to be the best parents the world has ever known and what do they bring home? White guys. Dammit.

March 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRW

What a story. What a sad story but what a mind-boggling story. Someone should make a short story with that scene it it because both sides are tragic. Your grandpa needed his job, your dad needed his father right then.

Racism has so many layers, and facets and dimensions and whatnot. Oh, how do we even get to the bottom of it. It's hard even to say who is racist, who is not. We live in such a crazy racist stew. Every once in a while, I'm like IT'S ALL RACISM. EVERYTHING IS EXPLAINED BY RACISM. AND SLAVERY! All the American insanity and division. Our whole social world. I go overboard, I know. Are we all a little bit racist. It feels like a sickness and a virus that every American is exposed to. And if we don't have the sickness, we have the antibodies.

Hah. The whitest damn grandchildren...they're nearly transparent.

My daughter is nearly transparent but then man, does she tan, not burn. (She has no black ancestors to my knowledge...but seriously, there is such a thing as stealth swarthiness when it comes to transparent children.) Not like I'm trying to tan my child, it was an accident. Oh, nevermind.

March 22, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterozma

I am so glad you wrote this out. So grateful.

March 22, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermaggie, dammit

An audible gasp, a tug in the belly over the anguish/despair/anger your grandfather felt at having to feel the absolute need to deny his son, sadness for the wounded boy, your father. Anger and irresistible hatred for your grandfathers co-worker. A deep sigh for the world at large and my own learned prejudice that I fight, daily.

March 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTricia

Your father's story was heartbreaking. I just... don't know how else to put it.

I've said many times that I'm lucky to live in Canada, where racism seems non-existent, where kids might separate into cliques but that it seems more due to language barriers than an intentional segregation. I've said that I've overheard (or been spoken to about) other mom's worrying their kids would be in a 'too-Asian' classroom and would suffer for it - or worse, that moms wanted their kids to be kept in a Japanese-populated classroom, because 'those Japanese raise smart kids and maybe mine could learn a thing or two about self-discipline and that fun paper folding'. But the thing that this post reminds me of most is the thing I shrug off the most.

I'm the whitest person you'll ever meet. Seriously, photos of me in Chicago beside Maria made me look dead and her look dark-skinned. And our neighbourhood has a certain population who is known for sitting on the streets, near the liquor store, collecting change and bottles to return. Some of these Native people have been stomped on all of their lives, and they can't walk down a mouthwash aisle without a security guard tailing them because apparently, everyone knows that Native people are drinkers, who will go through Listerine, cough syrup and paint thinner, as long as it means they get buzzed.

The frequency that I've been questioned or gawked at about my daughter and I talking to some of these neighbourhood residents astounds me. And the amount of times that someone's assumed that I was 'part of the club' that thought hushed presumptions about Native alcoholism or pedophilia were okay has turned my stomach. And all I can say, literally, because these ideas are so ingrained in *some* Vancouver citizen's minds, is "I'm nearly 50% native. I suggest that you shut the fuck up, thank you."

March 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterZoeyjane

Powerful. If you are going to say anything, this is how you do it. You do it so well. I like that you bring this kind of thing up, because I am tired of this mess.

March 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLu

Well put and very powerful. I wonder if we will ever be in "post-racial" America. Sigh.

Woo! What a kick in the gut. I didn't expect that. Thank you for telling us. It's a heartbreaking story. These are the conversations that need to keep happening.

My family is racist. 99% of my huge family is racist and this is one of the biggest reasons I don't talk to them much. We are all as white as it gets - "at least 6 generations of pure white" my cousin says... The last dinner I had with them was pre-election when they said "America is not stupid there is no way they are going to let a black guy win!"... It makes me sad, it makes me angry, I feel incredibly helpless and guilty because I purposely isolate my daughter from them. She will grow up not knowing her cousins or even her grandparents... at least not very well.
I married a Russian guy... which is pretty bad too, but after 8 years of not talking to us finally my father gave us his blessing "at least he is not black!" he said and my heart broke into million peaces.

March 22, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermrs.notouching

I adore this post. I'd never been here before, but followed a link in my reader. ADORE this post.

I am the whitest Polish chick you could ever meet. But I come from a very mixed race family. I'm also from Los Angeles and grew up not really understanding that race was still an issue (I may also be a moron) until I went to college and met people from other states, who were hugely racist. I kept thinking, seriously in 1999? In 1999? For reals? Just because it's quieter now, doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Which just sucks.

I'm forgetting if I had a point now. Sorry. Anyway, loved your post and I'm glad you said something loud enough for them to notice and leave.

March 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterIssa

I. AM. FLOORED! My heart just broke to pieces hearing that. Thanks sooo much for sharing that. Loved it!

March 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLuvvie

What a powerful post. Thank you so much for sharing your story. It breaks my heart that racism exists. Nothing other than a person's character should matter. Ever. I HATE the "that's how they were raised" excuse. For anything. That's why God gave us a brain. We're supposed to be capable of independent thought. Embarrassment and shame SHOULD replace such pardons.

I know you want to be considered "normal", but based on the eloquence of this post, I think I'd have to go with "extraordinary." :) There's more floating around in my head somewhere, but I think Catherine (above) said it better than I could. Rock on.

March 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNo Princesses Here

"I sincerely hate it when people excuse them with, “But that’s their generation. That’s what they grew up with! They don’t know any better!” Instead of doling out pardons for their racism let me suggest that they ought to be embarrassed that they’ve lived through all of that and still haven’t learned anything from it."

Exactly, exactly, exactly. My grandmother was constantly 'excused' for her racist attitudes (and she claimed not to be, to boot!) with these explanations. My response was similar to yours: she's old enough to have learned a little something about it and know better.

As for your dad, wow. Just wow. Heartbreaking

(Came over from Slouching Mom.)

March 22, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterewe_are_here

Hey Kelly, I remember when we took you guys camping with us when we were little, you and I were in line to ride a water slide and some kid called us Niggers. That was the first time I was ever called that. I remember it like yesterday though. I dated a guy in HS that had to break up with me because his parents said he couldn't date me. Yeah, of course he could date ANYTHING else.

March 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMeeghan

Wow. That is right out of this tragic movie--Imitation of Life. I almost forgot the name of that one.

The funny thing is, if you lived in South America, and were Latina, every shade of the rainbow would be normal, natural, acceptable. Here, even though it's just life, there's still such a stigma. I am so sad your father had to live through that. I am also sorry you have to put up with ignorant confidentialities.

I know what you mean about 'taking over, whatever that means.' Indeed.

btw, I have a little Irish in me too. The story has never been clear; either a great grandfather or a great great grandfather. In any case, it was a hit and run. . .

March 22, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterangie

This post makes Bossy all warm and fuzzy at the same time she is clutching her stomach in disgust at other people's ignorance. You, the perfect combination, in race, skin tone, and writing. XOXO

March 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBOSSY

This "passing" thing? It doesn't just affect people of color. Jews deal with it. Lesbians deal with it. Anyone who is "other" but doesn't look it has been privy to these horribly uncomfortable moments of ugh, when we're let in on someone's hate inadvertently.

I'm so glad you did share this Kelly. To tell your story. To bear witness. To remind us that we still have so very far to come. I would hope your grandfather would be proud that you could share it, and that maybe, it will do someone somewhere some good.

March 22, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermom101

As I sit here nodding my head off in deep understanding and cosigning of everything you've written, I'll simply say thank you for such amazing beauty and a piece of writing that gives lie to any excuse for ignorance or generational lack of understanding of the fact that racism is a choice.

March 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMaria Niles

Also @Deana Birks you might be thinking of "How The Irish Became White" Here is a link to a review that mentions some of what you discussed in your comment.

http://academic.udayton.edu/Race/01race/white13.htm

March 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMaria Niles

Beautiful, honey. Beautiful. xoxo

March 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterVDog

Hey Kelly,
As you know, I was reading your tweets while this was happening. And it just sucked. Seems some of our progressive elected officials weren't the only ones subjected to racism this weekend. Another shameful opportunity for people to learn about what it feels like to be subjected to utter hatred because of ignorance.

I have few regrets as a (single, like you) mom as my last 2 children prepare to go to college in 18 months. However, I am sorry that I did not choose to live in a diverse neighborhood. I truly believe that the only "cure" for bigotry is to live together and play together and work together. That is how our country will finally learn that we really do have more in common with each other as humans than we have between us as different races, religions, abilities, sexual preferences, etc. It breaks my heart that people had to make the choice between their jobs and acknowledging their own children. I can't even imagine how many people have equally heartbreaking stories to tell. I can't fix those stories. Hell, I can't even begin to fix the awful people who caused those stories. But I can tell you that I have done my best to raise 3 of the next generation to be open to difference, to appreciate the richness of other people's culture and to embrace diversity. They obviously can't undo what you heard people say. But perhaps they can usher us closer to a time where those words are no longer said by anyone.

March 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHeidi

oh my goodness, but you've made me cry with the story about your dad. :( and i know *exactly* what you mean about people assuming their prejudices are your's. it's offensive.

thank you so much for sharing this...

March 22, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterarin721

If you were here I would tongue kiss you right now.

This is probably not an appropriate comment but you know what I mean.

March 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJenny, Bloggess

Kelly, there's nothing I can say that can approach what you've said and how you've said it (and the bonus stories of the commenters) so I'll simply thank you. Thank you for sharing this story and writing it so well. We live in the same town and I hope to meet you someday soon to thank you and encourage you to do even more with your writing.
Deb

March 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDoobee

I get this. People start talking about Mexicans and those "Spanish," about how they should just go back to their countries and why are they here taking our jobs? They're so dirty, living off the system, drunk all the time, and will they PLEASE learn English?

And then I open my mouth in my perfectly white face that I inherited from my American father, brush off the dark hair I inherited from my immigrant Spanish mother, and tell them to go to Hell.

March 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAzucar

Here's a snapshot that's seared into my brain: I'm very young, we're in Paris on vacation, something's not right, I think mother is panicking, she's maybe trying to find someone's number in the phonebooth, or is looking for a name/number in the phone directory, or is trying to place a call but it's not getting through, I don't know, but she's panicking. A young black man comes up to us and asks politely if she needed some help, could he help us with something. She snaps at him "Go back where you came from!".

Did she mean go back across the street? Africa? ??!

Ugh.

I have no idea what happened after that tho. Just thought I'd share that scene with you. It shocked me at 6 y.o. (or whatever age I was) so much so that I still have it in my head as a close-to-forty-year-old.

You know, I can understand not wanting to be approached by anyone you don't know when in a foreign city and things are going wrong, but I'm *pretty* sure if a "regular" white Frenchman had done the approaching, my mother's response wouldn't have been the same.

... but she's the white gal who married my brown Malay Malaysian father!?!

On another note: being a Malaysian/Swiss Malay(brown)/white mutt I've actually gone thru life the *opposite* of "passing for the majority race": In Switzerland I was this dark brown child who stood out like a sore thumb in the tiny village my mother was from. In Malaysia I was this white girl who everyone gravitated towards when all I wanted to was to be judged for who I was, not how I looked. Perhaps that's why I grew up and ended up being someone who judges (not the right word but I'm drawing a blank) others on their character, not how they look -- after all, I hate it when people do that to me, so why should I tread others in a way I myself dislike?!

I warned ya I'd return to comment once I could form coherent thoughts. Hmm. Perhaps I should have waited a little longer? :p Hope all this makes sense to ya!

and finally: thanks for writing this post, and for sharing your father's heartbreaking story. I had to reread that sentence because I couldn't believe my eyes the first time. Ouch.

March 23, 2010 | Unregistered Commenter*lynne*

Oooh darlin. xoxo

March 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAimee Greeblemonkey

I initially clicked on this post out of curiosity because my husband is Black Irish, too. What I found here is like a punch in the gut. Really brilliant writing on a deeply personal, loaded topic. Bravo.

March 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDiana Lee

A wonderful and chilling post. Sorry, but there is no one in any corner who doesn't know this behavior is wrong--no excuses.

March 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLinda Jones

Wonderful post. Thought provoking, and disarmingly candid. You're a very talented writer, you know...

March 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

This was AMAZING, hon. I can, in many ways, identify, and I think I'll write a post of my own about it.

And, what? The Pakistanis are taking over? I really wish someone had told me that. Apparently, I missed the internal Pakistanis only memo. ;-)

March 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFaiqa

What a brilliant post. I am white as the day is long and grew up in a very racist, close-minded small town in the middle of a cornfield. People in my family regularly used the N-word, among other racial slurs, throughout my life. And there are some people who would think that's enough to excuse racist behaviors and attitudes. I grew up around it, so obviously I would mirror it. But see, not only am I 37 years old -- "young enough to know better" -- I have a god damn mind of my own and chose to use it! Racism and bigotry are mindless, cowardly and pathetic. Inexcusable at any age.

p.s. If you look up small-minded in the thesaurus, bigoted is your second option.

March 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJill

Here's what always gets me -

if you talk to anyone for more then ten minutes - okay, that's hyperbole, but stick with me - eventually you will hear about some situation in which Who They Are is stereotyped, abused according to stereotype, out right hated, or denied. Yes, some atrocities stand out more than others for very good reasons, but on the other hand, all pain is personal as well as having a social component. We *should* understand if not the specifics, then at least recognize behavior which is inhumane. Maybe that's a clumsy way to say things....anyway....

So here's what I don't get:

Why, when almost every human being carries some sort of pain that comes with being associated with some sort of perceived outsider group (for lack of a better term) - disabled family member, divorced, physically or sexually abused, race, gender identity, education, culture, the solitude and separation from society when a loved one dies, disease - why is that pain not bent toward empathizing with others in their pain instead of what seems to be stepping on top of them to make their pain seem less? It's what schoolyard bullies do - children in pain, living in fear (the bullies, I'm talking about) who try to make others feel as bad or worse so that the bully can exorcise their own pains, weaknesses, fears.

It never works, of course. But why do people keep doing it?

Thank you for sharing this story. I can't begin to imagine how difficult it was to tell. You did so beautifully.

March 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJozet at Halushki

My Grandmother, my maternal grandmother, who is dead now but could definitely pass. Anyway when my mother's siblings, who are all far lighter than she is (my grandfather was about a shade darker than I am), and my mother used to go shopping my grandmother would sometimes make my mother stand outside of the store because she was "too dark".

The sad part isn't the story itself its that so many of us - and most African Americans (whereby I'm differentiating between 'black' and 'African American') have something else in them - can tell this story. That's what makes me sigh.

March 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHeather B.

My heart hurts reading this.... I almost think that racism was easier "back in the day" because it was so "in your face" - today - it is so better hidden, so much more subtle, very scary. (Obviously, it isn't always hidden or subtle, as what happened to you. What I mean is in society as a whole).

March 23, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterlagata

Man I don't even know where to begin. I follow you on twitter for your amusing often randomness which I enjoy, and also follow you here cause I enjoy your still open, and always honest thoughts and views. What I've come to realize is we can't put to much stock in people which to me is sad. I've found myself in situations where it I'm at a true lost being brown skin Latino and some consider me black other Latino. That being said I (used to work in retail management) was helping a customer with a problem and told her to get what she wanted and I'd take care of her whenever she was ready, a few minutes later she showed up, and I excused her to where I was helping others and said that the she the lady was here early and I had to assist her. Everyone was fine except for one lady who in spanish went on with her friend about how I only helped the lady because she was black, she continued about how I some black people treat latinos like shit and other crap. When she got to me with attitude I casually ask her (in english) why she looked upset, for her to tell me in her best broken english that she was fine. I then switched to spanish for her to look at me with amazement, as I told her that no the lady was not my sister and I'm more related to her than anyone else in the place. She apologized which I told her, no need, cause I could care less for her and felt bad for her to not only judging me because the color or my skin but for spewing the hateful shit she had said to her friend, and then smiling in my face.

Will this ever change, many say yeah since OUR president is black, but honestly that just a pipe dream. We really need to open the lines of communication with each other, and though its sad, talk about it in school, not just a quick over view of slavery. We should not sugar coat race relations in the US. A Black President doesn't mean it's behind us.

March 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMateo

Thanks for the great post Kelley! I'm colorblind, and have always wanted someone to explain to me what awful side effects of this skin color can be witnessed. What is the reason that people discriminate against people with a darker skin? This secret is well kept, nobody has ever been able to tell me, all I get are far fetched ideas that seem to be attempts to sidetrack my quest for knowledge. I have learned one difference though: some scientists think that a dark skin is better protected against dangerous ultraviolet (sun-)rays. A lighter skin, however, is better able to synthesize vitamin D from sun light (http://www.theroot.com/views/why-black-people-need-more-vitamin-d). I'm still clueless as to who to discriminate against and why
;-).

March 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDaniel

I am struggling with what to say. Mainly because I feel this post from so many sides. I am a black woman married to a white man. My child’s skin is so light that even when she is tanned, you cannot tell that there is “coffee in her cream.” I think long and hard about her identity. How she will see herself. How others will perceive her.

I know what it is like being a milk-chocolate colored woman whose academic success often landed her as the only dark face in a classroom filled with white children. I know all the games that I play to make white people “comfortable.” I don’t say it with pride, but I like being liked. I play similar games when in rooms of black folk. Always terrified of one group or the other calling me a fraud, telling me I don’t belong. People from both groups have said it before. At least when I speak spanish, people just assume I am Columbian or Panamanian.

I think about my father’s mother, whose skin is pale and whose hair has always been bleached blond, and who has always given preference to her light-skinned children, over the dark ones. Yet she can’t stand to be called white or mistaken for being white. She identifies as black, but hates dark skin. My father has dark skin and she has little contact with our family.

And yes, I felt a deep ache when I read your story about your father. And as much as my heart ached for the little boy he was, it broke thinking about what it must have felt like to be your grandfather. The crushing weight of other’s expectations and the very real risk to his livelihood (perhaps even his life) if anyone found out his "secret.” And to save it all he has hurt his child’s heart.

March 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterYolanda

@ Maria Niles, Thank you, that does sound like the same book

March 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDeana Birks

oh, wow. thank you. I'm seriously out of words after reading this, but can't *not* comment...

March 24, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjenn

there are so many comments here and what i have to say may have been said a million times before, but this resonates with me, my family, my experience.

i am not black, but rather the daughter of a dark skinned mexican woman and a white man. i am so light, in fact, that someone once asked my dad if my mother was the mexican nannie. there was no way, of course, that anyone could have conceived of the fact that she was his WIFE.

i've also sat there and listed to people condemn the "wetbacks" or the "dirty bean eaters" while they thought nothing of it. they thought that because of my light skin I "got it" some how.

i'll never get it. never.

March 24, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterchristine

Kelly --

Found this in my Care2 email this morning. Great and heartfelt story. Thanks for sharing it with everyone. I've forwarded to my friends.

March 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLeah

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