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Saturday, January 12, 2008

LEGAL TO HAVE SKIN COLOR AND HAIR


We have never made laws about plant color. But we have about human skin color. Why are "we" so bothered by skin color and the texture of human hair? I love color. Imagine a world without color.

The thing is I look white. Well, not white. But you know that skin color that is referred to as white.

As far as I know, I am part French, Irish, Swiss, and German. My mom’s side has had an official research done and published in a hard copy book (cover page) that informs that the name Mickley was originally Michelet. My father’s side has had no formal search, but while in Switzerland, I was informed by the nuns where I was staying that a man across the street had my last name, Hammel. And there is a Hammelburg in Switzerland, however there is also a Hammelburg, Germany. My red hair and fair skin is shared by no one in my family. Since my father’s mother had the red hair gene, and I assumed she was Irish, I thought that is where I got the red hair. But when I was in Innsbruch, Austria, I met a young lady who had the exact color of red that I have now and the same complexion color. Red hair has many shades. Even my color has not remained the same. It was once darker. My mother’s mother told me once that there was someone black in my ancestry. No one else has ever mentioned this. I did have one black hair once. Who knows? And some wonderful Hopi told me I looked Cherokee while visiting in Priscilla Namingha
Nampeyo’s home in Arizona.

And although my mother “told” me as a child that all people were “equal”, it only played out as painful for me when I was attracted to one of two black boys while 11 years old at my
Yellow Creek Lake Church of God summer camp in northeastern Indiana . I never had met a black person before in my life, but didn’t think anything of it, as... well ... you know, something ~ WRONG to do. His name is Eddie Griffith and was from Gary, Indiana. His minister, Brother Cherry, was a camp counselor. He sang at one of the nightly church services, “No Not One”. A clear and sweet voice. I was “in love”. He was adorable. The only thing we ever did was hold hands, have two pictures taken together and exchange letters. But when those pictures and two letters mysteriously came up missing from my bedroom desk drawer without ever an explanation ~ I was crushed. I cried myself to sleep while smothering my sound into silence. It was only the second emotional pain of my life. And this was my first time of being hurt this way. I didn’t understand. My mother never explained. My father only made a passing comment that I didn’t want striped or polka dotted children, while waiting for the school bus one morning. (The first hurt had to do with a "just-hatched" bird ~ no feathers yet ~ I found on my mile walk home from school, that had been run over ~ when I was in third grade. I was going to nurse it back health, but my mother made me throw it away in the woods across the street from our house. That hurt.)

So when I once again had a black person in my life in my thirties, I knew what to expect. Disapproval. I was not wrong about that. When Mark and I decided not to get married, but to live together, we planned a “Commitment Ceremony” which we invited his parents, one friend each and my family. But when my family couldn’t condone our decision not to marry, it was better not to have that “aura” present. They have never approved of me in general. Just never fit the mold.

I have been thinking of race lately. White people can do that. Think about race only when it is convenient or when it suits us. If you are not white or don't look white, you don’t have that choice. It is thrown in your face daily. One of the people I met in New Hampshire while volunteering for the Obama campaign, said that the lady at the door she was canvassing wouldn’t touch her flyer about Barack, but was instructed to lay it down at the door. This young girl, looked fine to me. I didn’t ask her what her race was, but it struck me as puzzling because I didn’t see why someone would think she wasn’t white. I’m aware of racism, but even this was a mystery to me.

The host of where I was staying asked me if Richard Wolffe was black immediately when I showed him who he was. I didn’t get the reason for the question. What would it matter first of all unless it was an issue? And anyway, Richard doesn’t look black to me. So.

After Eddie, my 11 year old beau friend ~ my dad always would think I was some expert on whether someone was black or not. He would ask me if Leslie Uggams was black, etc.

These questions to me are telling. When my cousin pointed out that the people of Lousiana were black and his reason for explaining ~ in his mind~ their behavior during hurricane Katrina was because they were black, I found that a bigoted statement on a couple of levels. When I heard a family member, say that hurricane Katrina happened because all of the people in the area were evil, I thought this had bigoted undertones to the statement.

And when a couple people thought they were being open-minded and showing their acceptance of Mark, they said, that they didn’t think of Mark as black. My comment was to a family member, that Mark thinks of himself as black.

After 15 years, I am no longer living with Mark. But I miss his extended family. They opened my world. They welcomed me. I felt accepted by them. They have had to deal with white people their whole lives.

At our “Commitment Ceremony” we wrote our own “vows”. I included a small excerpt from SPORT OF NATURE By Nadine Gordimer. Below I have included this excerpt between the *….* but I have also included what follows this portion. I enjoy the differences. And I acknowledged the difference by using this passage. Why pretend? I see no reasons. Part of the enjoyment of life is to see the beauty and differences can be beautiful. I love skin. There is nothing like touching skin. Body to body. It’s quite a gift given to us to enjoy. I know it makes some people cringe to think of white skin and not-white skin touching, but I’m not one of those people.

* Lying beside him, looking at pale hands, thighs, belly: seeing herself as unfinished, left off, somewhere. She examines his body minutely and without shame, and he wakes to see her at it, and smiles without telling her why: she is the first not to pretend the different colours and textures of their being is not an awesome fascination. How can it be otherwise? * The laws that have determined the course of life for them are made of skin and hair, the relative thickness and thinness of lips and the relative height of the bridge of nose. That is all; that is everything. The Lilliesleaf houseparty is in prison for life because of it. Those with whom she ate pap and cabbage are in Algeria and the Soviet Union learning how to man guns and make bombs because of it. He is outlawed and plotting because of it. Christianity against other gods, the indigenous against the foreign invader, the masses against the ruling class ~ where he and she come from all these become interpretative meanings of the differences seen, touched and felt, of skin and hair. The laws made of skin and hair fill the statute books in Pretoria; their gaudy savagery paints the bodies of Afrikaner diplomats under three-piece American suits and Italian silk ties. The stinking fetish made of contrasting bits of skin and hair, the scalping of millions of lives, dangles on the cross of Christ. Skin and hair. It has mattered more than anything else in the world. Page 177

More text in the comment section...

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Emily faced racism in her family. But her family has come around.

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9 Comments:

At January 13, 2008 at 1:05:00 AM EST , Blogger ilovemylife said...

I am adding the next portion of the text of Sport of Nature here. I would like to advise you that some may think this is graphic writing.

When you touched me at the beginning (she takes his black hand and spreads it on her hip) this was a glove. Really. The blackness was a glove. And everywhere, all over you, the black was a cover. Something God gave you to wear. Underneath, you must be white like me. ~Or pale brownish, it’s my Portuguese blood.~ White like me; because that’s what I was told, when I was being taught not to be prejudiced: underneath, that are all just like us. Nobody said we are just like you.~

The smile deepens. ~That wouldn’t be true either. Then you’d have a skin missing.~

~If you are white, there, there’s always a skin missing. They never say it.

She says everything now. ~When we are together, when you’re inside me, nothing is missing.~ ……everything broken off, unanswered, abandoned, is made whole. She never tires of looking at his hands. ~ Not wearing anything. They’re you. And they’re not black, they’re all the flesh colours. D’you know, in shops~and in books!~‘flesh colour’ is European’ colour! Not the colour of any other flesh. Nothing else! Look at your nails, they’re pinkish-mauve because under them the skin’s pink. And (turning the palms) here the colour’s like the inside of one of those big shells they sell an Tamarisk. And this~the lovely, silky black skin I can slide up and down (his penis in her hand), when the tip comes out, it’s also a sort of amber-pink. There’s always a lot of sniggering about the size of a black man’s thing, but no-one’s ever said they weren’t entirely black……. P 178

 
At January 13, 2008 at 6:24:00 PM EST , Blogger Mimi Lenox said...

Oh my word. What beautiful prose.

 
At January 13, 2008 at 6:31:00 PM EST , Blogger D-Man said...

That was beautiful and very tenderly rendered.

Troy and I are an inter-racial couple. I'm white, and he's EVERYTHING else.

It's funny, but my family wasn't concerned with the racial part, but rather with our perceived differing socio-economic status. They could care less about color, as long as they have money. Hmmm...

 
At January 13, 2008 at 8:59:00 PM EST , Blogger ilovemylife said...

Mimi Lenox,

I was afraid to share because it is so public in the blogosphere and this is so intimate.

I am happy you received it so well.

 
At January 13, 2008 at 8:59:00 PM EST , Blogger ilovemylife said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At January 13, 2008 at 9:08:00 PM EST , Blogger ilovemylife said...

d-man,

The author is from South Africa, I forgot to mention. I love the honesty, the openness, the vulnerability.

It is glorious to share our differences I believe. Skin tone is a fascination not something to shy from.

Money...another thing allowed to separate us.

It comes down to character, love of life, a nice dose of humor and shared values for me. Something in the way he "moves" too goes a long way : )

 
At January 14, 2008 at 10:11:00 PM EST , Blogger Judd Corizan said...

Hi UloveURlife-

Congratulations! Your post from January 12, 2008 titled “Legal to Skin Color and Hair” has been selected as our Post of the Day on “The Rising Blogger”. It is a site that awards posts, not blogs. We will email your winning badge to post in your sidebar and all our info, if you contact us with your email address. To encourage your readers to comment on your award, it helps if you make the first comment on our post about your blog, yourself. We ask winners to nominate a post favorite of a fellow blogger. Call it “paying it forward”. Neither is a requirement. You have won this award because we truly feel you deserve it. To reach “The Rising Blogger” site:

http://therisingblogger.blogspot.com

Have a great week!
Judd Corizan
The Rising Blogger

 
At January 15, 2008 at 10:12:00 AM EST , Blogger Charles Gramlich said...

Congrats on your Rising Blogger award. Obvioiusly a strongly felt post. Well worded.

 
At September 27, 2008 at 9:39:00 AM EDT , Anonymous Angry African said...

Just beautiful. You know my history. And the older I get the less I see it. I see colour when I see the discrimination, the stares and hear the talking. It is so useless. The sadest thing is that people are missing a big part of their life because they are stuck on colour.

 

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