Only little black girl at school and her white friends admired her ‘tan’
–“I'm brown all over” she told them, proudly motioning to all her body.
But skin color can be an issue
I remember the back of the bus-
although we rarely rode it because of that.
I remember for colored only water fountains
segregated schools and lunch counters for whites only.
I remember the caste system at my high school- black step back, brown stick
around, white you all right.
I think Langston Hughes captured the cadence of it.
Bright skin girls were queens and princesses, beautiful and fair.
Black girls were well, BLACK and that was supposed to be a negative.
And then a funny thing happened on the way through the sixties-
BLACK was beautiful and the skin color dynamics began to change.
It came out of the closet and was addressed by white, black, brown, red and
Now skin color is celebrated in all shades and hues although
I still hear teenagers at my high school (I'm a teacher now) say things like,
"I'm not sitting out here in no sun, I don't want to get any blacker than I am."
And of course prejudice has not disappeared it has mutated and we do have
stronger defenses against it in some cases.
Interestingly even skin color defines some of my "brown" students.
They react to the "darkness" of each other and their parents, relatives and
"My mom is real dark, Miss, she don't look nothing like me."
"Miss, do you think I look like a Mexican? I don't look nothing like a Mexican."
"I'm a Latina."
"There's no such thing as a Chicano, it's something people made up, either
you're a Mexican or you're not."
"What does that mean-Hispanic?"
"I'm Cuban, Puerto Rican, and El Salvadorian, from Belize; Honduran (We got
black Hondurans, Miss)” That’s the color of skin thing.