Flavors

Tariq Nelson reminded us that colorism still exists in his blog entry, And you Still Deny it. His short entry directs us to Umm Adam’s blog entry Racism and Colorism in Saudi. Time and time again, we read about negative perceptions of African Americans. Dozens of African American authors, like Toni Morrison in her book The Bluest Eye, have explored racial self hatred. Recently more people are recounting stories of colorism and racial self-hatred among Afro-Arab communities. When I went to Southern Morocco, I saw the most beautiful Moroccans in all shades and colors. It reminded me of home.After reading the entry, I didn’t feel angry instead I felt kind of sad for the people who are not allowed to see their beauty.

I went to New Jersey to visit my grandmother in 2005. One day she brought me to her work in order to introduce me to her co-workers. My grandmother, a seventy year old chocolate woman who beamed as she introduced her grandchildren, told her co-workers,”My babies are the colors of the rainbow.” Last June my family took me out to lunch at in celebration of my graduation. A white American couple stopped by our table and told my mother, “You have a beautiful family!” My mom smiled, “Yes, they are all my babies.” My mom noted, “Whenever we go somewhere people stare and are drawn to us. It’s like they’re suprised to see attractive Black people.” My mother gave birth to striking children of distinct hues: dark chocolate, peachy cream, and me somewhere in between. I enjoy the skin that I’m in. I look at my family pictures and all the shades, I think of that poem:

Harlem Sweeties
by Langston Hughes

Have you dug the spill
Of Sugar Hill?
Cast your gims
On this sepia thrill:
Brown sugar lassie,
Caramel treat,
Honey-gold baby
Sweet enough to eat.
Peach-skinned girlie,
Coffee and cream,
Chocolate darling
Out of a dream.
Walnut tinted
Or cocoa brown,
Pomegranate-lipped
Pride of the town.
Rich cream-colored
To plum-tinted black,
Feminine sweetness
In Harlem’s no lack.
Glow of the quince
To blush of the rose.
Persimmon bronze
To cinnamon toes.
Blackberry cordial,
Virginia Dare wine—
All those sweet colors
Flavor Harlem of mine!
Walnut or cocoa,
Let me repeat:
Caramel, brown sugar,
A chocolate treat.
Molasses taffy,
Coffee and cream,
Licorice, clove, cinnamon
To a honey-brown dream.
Ginger, wine-gold,
Persimmon, blackberry,
All through the spectrum
Harlem girls vary—
So if you want to know beauty’s
Rainbow-sweet thrill,
Stroll down luscious,
Delicious, fine Sugar Hill.

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7 thoughts on “Flavors

  1. As Salaamu Alaikum:

    It is a sad state of affairs. But from what I know, Moroccans are more open between themselves in regards to color and outside of themselves as well. You will find the light and dark skinned Moroccan together. However, watch out when you go to Egypt. They are very color struck. Be on guard. Expect the “You are from America? Well where are you REALLY from?” Type of questions.

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  2. As salaamu alaikum,

    I’m not so certain about that statement regarding Moroccans. I know several fair skinned Moroccan men who have told me time and time again (as have other Middle Eastern and SE Asian men), they prefer black and dark skin women BUT their RELIGIOUS families want them to marry white (regardless of religion, morals).

    The only sadness I find is seeing Islam no longer exists according to MY UNDERSTANDING of the Quran and Sunnah… Muslims are so full of hatred, nationalism, anger, etc… nothing like the stories of old or words I read in the Quran.

    My thing is self esteem, we cannot stress it enough. When we, as women have it, we will not settle for crumbs.

    The amusing thing as many continue to mix, the black never fades. I still have the photo fo the black and white twins and I assume we’ll see more of this happening in future generations.

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  3. This entry was not about being accepted by another ethnicity, especially others which have little appreciation for African aesthetics. Maybe I should have not included to the Southern Moroccan reference. I wrote about it because of my own oberservations about the beauty standards of that country. I noticed in Morocco that they thought the people in the North were the most beautiful. One Moroccan man told me because the women look like Spanish girls. In contrast, I found the South to have the most striking people. It was clear that many people had sub-Saharan African heritage mixed in there. Some were clearly Black.

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  4. Wounded Soul, don’t you think PREFERING DARK SKIN is just as bad as their parents PREFERING WHITE SKIN? Is having a preference regarding skin color morally wrong?( And here I mean sexual preference, the origins of which are hard to pinpoint)

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  5. Margari, why does you mother assume that white people are surprised to see an attractive black family when the reason they stare could be simply because your an attractive family. Do you find yourself staring at attractive people when your out?

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  6. As Salaamu Alaikum:

    Langston Hughes is so eloquent in this poem. What a tribute to the Harlem sweeties! I was born in Harlem but I am white. I was Jewish prior to reverting to Islam. Harlem had a large Jewish population at one time.

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  7. Walaikum salaam Safiyyah,
    This poem was not just a tribute to women in Harlem, but to Black women in general and celebrating our diversity. It represents so much of what the Harlem Renaissance was about, the celebration of being Black and our rich cultural heritage. Have you read much about the Harlem Renaissance? I think every American should read more about what used to be the Black Mecca. Have you read much on the history of Black and Jewish relations? If not, I’d recommend reading “Jazz Age Jews” which is about the ways Jewish artists and musicians identified with Black culture (through Jazz and Minstrel shows) in the first half of the 20th century and the gradual assimilation process by which they became accepted as white. I’d like to know what you think of the book.

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