***Please be mindful and considerate of this post. It’s from personal experience and is a sensitive subject for me. I think it’s important to acknowledge racial tampering and distancing within a community, but I’m not here to receive pity from my experience with colorism (that’s a different conversation for another time). Thank you.
A few weeks ago, I asked for Professor McCoy to send the link to the article about Toni Morrison and Race Relations in today’s society. The story was about racism and how it’s still prominent in this day and age, regardless of what ignorant people think of times changing for the better. It wasn’t the overall gist of the article being about racism that struck a nerve with me. It was one sentence in particular that reminded me of my youth and what I grew up with in my family. The author said, ” She [Morrison] opens with a memory, from the early 1930s, of her introduction to notions of racial impurity by a formidable visiting great-grandmother, who frowned and pointed her cane at the relatively light-skinned Morrison and her sister, saying: “These children have been tampered with.”
The idea of someone being “tampered with” and not fitting the status quo of what a person of a certain ethnicity should look like was the mentality half of my family members grew up with. It was considered to be the norm to categorize people based off of their appearance. There was even a time in American history that certain segregation laws revolving around “racial mixing” (i.e. Plessy v. Ferguson’s separate but equal precedent). My grandmother, whom I love with all my heart, would always say “we’re just babysitting” when referring to me when I was a toddler and up to my pretween years. I’ve always been confused by that as a child because she’d say that every time when went out in public as if people were questioning if they kidnapped me. It was like that one scene in Clay’s Ark when Eli asked Blake what cradles he has been robbing. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned not to blame the older relatives in my family because, sadly, that was what they were taught growing up. Even though I know they don’t mean to be ignorant, it still hurts when your own family somewhat “disowns/distances” themselves from you because of what you look like.
Nowadays, I’ve just learned to accept the joking and laugh along with them. As bad as that sounds, I’m more tolerable with people’s reactions. I’ve even learned to make fun out of strangers who would ask “What are you?” (when they ask, it’s sounds like they’re comparing me an exotic bird or something). instead of roll my eyes a million times over. I just smiled and carried on with my day because I knew that their (once again I keep going back to this word) ignorance wasn’t coming from a place of hatred, but from an place of being uneducated around the subject. Yes, I know that racism has elements of ignorance, but some of the people who questioned my appearance were genuinely confused and overtime I had to find humor (and sympathy) in that to keep my sanity.
Picture of baby Analiese with parents, only a few foundation shades lighter that justified my grandmother’s belief.