Sunday, January 14, 2007

Skin Color?

While home for the holiday's my Aunt shared a photo with me of my Paternal Great-Grandparents and my Grandmother as a baby taken in 1912 when she was 3 yrs old. My great-grandmother carries the Haitian Creole Heritage who's grand father migrated to Louisiana and she married my great-grandfather who was a the French Creole (frenchmen born in the US). (my father and brothers inherited the ears, thank God I didn't)

I could not help but wonder the age of my great-grandmother because she looks much younger than my great-grandfather. Back then, the girls married young and I would think my great-grandfather robbed the cradle. But, no one knows their exact age here in this photo.

From what my Aunts tell me, C. Cezar-Guillory was no push over. Her father built the first school for Creoles of Color in Soileau, LA which both my Aunts attended.

We also visited the Creole National Park at the Oakland Plantation in Natchitoches, LA and found more history on Creoles. There were Creoles of color which were the descendants of the French Creoles, those from France that were born in the United States. Which leads to the issue of skin color....

Many believe that in order to be officially a Creole you must be of a light complexion...not necessarily true. The documentation from the Creole National Park proves that during intermixing of slaves and owners some were of "high yellow" and some took on the skin color of the darken skinned parent, it all boils down to genetics.

Now, there were regions in Louisiana were some Creoles would marry their cousins in order to keep the skin color of a more "white" completion so that they could enjoy more privileges . The fact of the matter is that being Creole is not about skin color, it's all about heritage.

I remember growing up and hearing about the parties that some could only attend if they could pass the paper bag test. Which means, a brown paper bag would be held up to your face and if you were darker than the paper bag then they would not be admitted into the function. This is all a result of the Big House mentality. We all know the story.

I've always hated the whole skin color thing and today we still struggle with skin color insecurities as a people. I'm sickened by the poison that some still feed their children about being light skinned or should I say "bright skinned, as some call it, as being better!" I'll try to contain myself but that ignorance really sets me off!!

I remember both sides of the spectrum because my sister who was darker received less praise and attention than I did from our maternal family. Let the truth be told, I've always believed she was more beautiful than me anyway. She shared a story with me recently where one of our Aunts offended her a child. We were all playing with our cousins at my aunts (her two grand children were our cousins) house and it was getting late so we asked if we could stay the night and she responded saying " sure ya'll can, but that dark one can't (my sister)! For the life of me I don't remember the comment but I guess it was not directed towards me so I'm not sure how I processed the whole situation.

To add insult to injury, I have friends from many different places and once, one of my Nigerian male friends told me that I should thank him for selling off our people because that was the reason for my skin color. (he was joking of course) But that comment started a nasty debate, needless to say, I was the Matron of Honor in his wedding after I worked him over.

Additionally, my buddies from some of the islands are so proud to not be call Black American that they make it a point to say the are anything but Black American. We've often debated the fact that many of the Africans were dropped off at those islands ports (including Haiti) and hence their heritage? This has always been a debate within my circle if friends and I beat that drum to death because of their arrogance of not being a black from the US. Does it really matter, no because the world sees us all as Black Americans, regardless of our accent or skin color.

Yes, I'm very proud of my Creole heritage but when people ask me where I am from I tell them Louisiana and my last name is the only thing that raises any questions. The bottom line is I am Black and love talking about my Creole heritage. I can tell you I am often not given the chance to show who I really am when introducted for the first time because too many times people tell me "I thought you were "stuck up" or my all time favorite "bougie" until I got to know you." I pride myself on "keeping it real" so I know I'm not either. If you feel otherwise, please share.

As I think back, I remember the prejudices within our own family race and now that I know how to deal with...I have little patience for any of it. When the rubber meets the road, we should be happy with who we are and not feeling as though we are better than anyone for any reason. If we treat each other with respect and dignity regardless of our differences, this world would be a better place!

Ok, I went all over the place with this post, it's out now!


Bygbaby said...

It is truly awesome that you have real tangible information on your past/family history!

I will say that you are lucky that you did not get those ears. They are off the hook! LOL

It is crazy how back then age was not a factor & today it is considered statutory rape. What in the world were they thinking back then?.?

Thx for sharing your history.

C. Thomas said...

Interesting post. I too have experienced blacks from the Caribbean who make it a point that they are not Black. I've always understood this to mean that they were not Black American (which technically they are not). However this attitude comes from a feeling of superiority. I'm originally from South Florida and we have a large Caribbean population there. Many blacks from Jamiaca, Trinidad, Haiti and the Bahamas have this misconception that Black Americans are lazy and uneducated, so they do not want to be associated with us. Actually upon meeting me, many Caribbean blacks found it hard to believe that I was from S. Florida. They would tell me I don't act like or speak like the local blacks. I just don't fit into their stereotypes. I know that Blacks in America still have a mountain of issues; but without the freedoms/rights that we fought for, our foreign born brothers and sisters would not have the opportunity to come to the U.S. and take advantage of the educational system, jobs, housing market, etc. So the disrespect needs to stop and the same goes for Black Americans who don't want to accept foreign born Blacks. If someone is racist they don't separate us...they don't care where you're from they just see a (insert 'N' word here). Your place of origin does not matter if they are judging you based on your black skin/tan skin/brown skin or whatever! As far as the skin color issue within the black community goes, I don't think it's going away anytime soon. Unfortunately, it's too ingrained into a lot of people's psyches. I've received the "you're pretty to be dark skinned" compliment too many times, and I've seen light skinned blacks judged unfairly because people assumed they were stuck up because of their complexion. I'll just continue to pray for us because the ignorance just keeps moving from generation to generation. This was a good post and you are so fortunate to know so much about your family history and even more fortunate to have photos! Love your blog.

BlaqKofi said...

Great post, C. I love reading about your Creole history. I know all too well about the skin thing, having two very fair skinned sisters. I'm going to post about that soon. Thanks for sharing more of your history with us. And you are indeed, one of the most down to earth sisters I know. It's what I liked about you right away. Stay just as you are and keep spreading the truth.

Chosen Vessel said...


This is great post. Thank you for sharing your history with us. You are blessed to know about your history and have photos. The very thought of you having family members to share the stories of your history is awesome. When I was growing up I used to hate my dark skin because most of my family members are very fair skinned with fine/naturally curly hair, I remember purchasing the product "Ambi" to bleach my skin. Eventhough my mother told me how beautiful I was, when I saw the television, magazines etc. I did not see any "beautiful women" with dark skin. The first time I truly began to feel beautiful is when I really started seeing what I can achieve with my brains and athleticism. It wasn't until then that I started to realize not only am I talented but I love being black. I was at a predominately white highschool at the time and they began treating me like a celebrity, "because of the sports." I then transferred to a predominately black highschool and that was the first time since I was in Elementary that I felt like I was at home. Part of the reason I got Sisterlocks was another way to embrace my African beauty and I continue to do that each day. Thank you again for this post.

locizm said...

thanks once again for giving us some insight to your Creole heritage. its very rich.peace

Mrs Dee Locked and Lovin It said...

totally awesome sis.
Well done, well said.


brunsli said...

As a Trinidadian, I can vouch for the fact that there are West Indians that distinguish themselves from African Americans because they think they're better. Indeed, my dad raised me that way. But, he seemed to ignore that the Caribbean immigrants here tend to be a select group -- people with enough money, education, and/or motivation to emigrate, at least in my dad's generation. So, comparing the top 10% of WI-ians with 100% of AAs isn't a fair comparison. And, I was taught that we Trinis don't like Bajans, Jamaicans, and the list goes on and on. We can be a bit uppity indeed.

As for me, now that I'm a "grownup," I think in many ways it's pointless to distinguish since we all stand or fall together in the United States. But, the AA population is not homogeneous. The path I take is to combine my West Indian culture, American culture, and African American experience, and roll it into one. I can't give up my upbringing because it might make some people think this or that.

Besides, being Creole is one African American experience, being an immigrant is another African American experience, being mixed is another, being from the South is another, being from the North is yet another -- and being from Texas is surely different still! IMHO, people who believe AA culture is one thing are unnecessarily limiting. We are a diverse group of people, with many different cultures.

Great post! I enjoy reading about your family and culture!

Brenda said...

Very interesting indeed! I have some southern roots from my father's side, although I'm not well acquainted with it. Mostly, it's been my black american upbringing mixed with my maternal grandmother's Virgin Islands and Puerto Rican background. I've lived in a number of places in my life, but I have few memories of any overt racism or discrimination, even during my high school years in Hawaii while attending a private catholic school in which my sister and I were the only ones. After those years though, I chose to attend an HBCU. And for the record, after reading your posts, but before I ever talked to or met you, I had the impression that you were really down-to-earth and not uppity at all! You were very warm and a pleasure to meet!

Maryee said...

All I have to say is when you are ready to publish your memoir, the book is already written. Beautiful!

Andrea said...

i always love your stories and your blogs. once i read cane river it was a wrap...understanding the creole heritage is interesting.
thanks for the memories.

karla from OK said...

How cool to have so much knowledge about your past and pics to boot. I've been doing genealogy for years even though i'm an Oklahoman my American heritage started in Louisana. Doing this research is tedious work but sooo satisfying. My great,great grandmother and her children came to Oklahoma only a few years after OK became a state in abt 1913(previously was Indian Territory). They came from Ville Platte and her maiden name was Marcelite Ardoin. I actually have a document from abt 1842 that lists the sale of slaves and my g,g,g grandfather was listed. He was 17 and being sold for $150. It was staggering to see such a sight. I also have heard stories about how family memebers tried to keep the family light skinned. Well my great grandfather broke the mold and married the blackest women he could find. ha,ha. Thanks for sharing your heritage with us as you can tell from this lengthy post i'm excited about mine also.

LaChanda said...

Karla from OK, I can certainly appreciate your tenacity in your genealogy searching. It is so empowering to know not only where we are going but more importantly where we come from.

Ville Platt! I most certainly know where that is and your obviously can relate to my postings about food and people!

Thanks for stopping by and keepin touch!

Anonymous said...

I love your blog, and agree with your comments the world does not care where a black person comes from USA, WI, Europe, Africa of the moon - to them we are still black and we should be proud of that and burn the paper bag!

Anonymous said...

Wonderful wonderful discussion Creyole! What you have said has proved a theory I have had for years which is that no one in the world respects us as Black Americans. I really can't blame them. The only image of us that they have is what is portrayed on the television and let's be honest, that does not exactly paint a rosy picture of our community. We even question ourselves why things are in the state that they are.

We know that stereotypes are not right but they do say a little bit about a group. For example, Asians are smart, all Indians (from India) own 7-11s, and then what is our stereotype. You see it every day. We are all poor coming from neighborhoods filled with crackheads and the only way to make it was to catch a ball, dribble a ball, rap, or act. It says nothing about our intelligence. And then when you hear some of our more verbose and famous speak, what do we get? Most cannot even form a complete and correct sentence. And then those that can are filled with the ranks of Jamie Foxx who proudly proclaims his niggerdom. It is shameful!

My husband is asked all the time where he is from. He says Chicago and people say, " No, I mean what country." Why do they ask him that? Because as usual, he is the only Black male or female, but especially male, who is in his department in his division. Those questions basically say that for hubby to be in the position that he is in, he cannot be black and american. He has to be from somewhere else. Once again, very shameful.

We can all argue why we are in this situation but to me it boils down to a few things. Values and work ethic. As Americans we are innately selfish. And as more generations come, they become more and more selfish. Parents put their wants and needs over their children and sacrifice their lives and futures for instant self gratification.

I digress.....

But I also wanted to say that you are very fortunate, Creyole, because you have records filled with such rich history and have insight to a perspective that many of us don't. I am sorry that your sister had to go through what she did from her own family because of her color. That attitude perpetuates that self hatred that has led Lil' Kim, Gabriel Union, and others to lighten their skin when they were beautiful as they were.

I read the book "Cane River" and it was a wonder accounting of the past and how people had to make a decision as to if they were black or white. There is no telling how many "black" white people are in France.

Anyway, thanks for providing the forum for this discussion. I just love it, lol.

Bianca said...

BTW, that post above was from me, Bianca. I had a hard time posting all day.

funmi said...

Wonderful history and heritage. PBS did a feature on the Creole culture a couple of weeks ago and I thought about you.