This is a perfect example of the insanity expereinced on the Myfamily.com websites where I once shared ancestral information. There were at least 5-6 people, if not more, that I was aware of, who had this horrible way of thinking, which is still widely common today in black or mixed culture. These people, some distant cousins, knew that I was a white identified person for very obvious reasons, yet it was not to be mentioned. My white ancestors along with theirs were evil. They where negro, colored, black... even if they really weren't, or were only declared so by some one drop myth that some still believe to be law. This tragic woman, Alice Dunbar-Nelson (1875-1935) makes it so painfully clear. *As noted by "Passing" For Who You Really Are author, A.D. Powell, BRASS ANKLES SPEAKS, in which Alice-Dunbar-Nelson (who accepts the "one drop" myth) speaks with great honesty about the constant harassment of mulattoes and mixed-whites by blacks. There is a myth that the person who "passes for white" lives in terror. That's projection. It is those who "pass for black" who live in terror.
BRASS ANKLES SPEAKS
The "Race" question is paramount. A cloud of books, articles and pronunciamentos on the subject of the white man or girl who "passes" over to the other side of the racial fence, and either entirely forsakes his or her own race, to live in terror or misery all their days, or else come crawling back to do uplift work among their own people, hovers on the literary horizon. On the other hand, there is an increasing interest and sentimentality concerning the poor, pitiful black girl, whose life is a torment among her own people, because of their "blue vein" proclivities. It seems but fair and just now for some of the neglected light-skinned colored people, who have not "passed" to rise and speak a word in self-defense.
I am of the latter class, what E. C. Adams in "Nigger to Nigger" immortalizes in the poem, "Brass Ankles." White enough to pass for white, but with a darker family background, a real love for the mother race, and no desire to be numbered among the white race.
My earliest recollections are miserable ones. I was born in a far Southern city , where complexion did, in a manner of speaking, determine one's social status. However, the family being poor, I was sent to the public school. It was a heterogeneous mass of children which greeted my frightened eyes on that fateful morning in September, when I timidly took my place in the first grade. There were not enough seats for all the squirming mass of little ones, so the harassed young, teacher—I have reason to believe now that this was her first school—put me on the platform at her feet. I was so little and scared and homesick that it made no impression on me at the time. But at the luncheon hour I was assailed with shouts of derision—"Yah! Teacher's pet! Yah! Just cause she’s yaller!" Thus at once was I initiated into the class of the disgraced, which has haunted and tormented my whole life— "Light nigger, with straight hair!"
This was the beginning of what was for nearly six years a life of terror, horror and torment. For in this monster public school, which daily disgorged about 2500 children, there were all shades and tints and degrees of complexions from velvet black to blonde white. And the line of demarcation was rigidly drawn—not by the fairer children, but by the darker ones. I had no color sense. In my family we never spoke of it. Indian browns and cafe au laits, were mingled with pale bronze and blonde yellows all in one group of cousins and uncles and aunts and brothers and sisters. For so peculiarly does the Mendelian law work in mixed bloods, that four children of two parents may show four different degrees of mixture, brown, yellow, tan, blonde.
In the school, therefore, I felt at first the same freedom concerning color. So I essayed friendship with Esther. Esther was velvet dark, with great liquid eyes. She could sing, knew lots of forbidden lore, and brought lovely cakes for luncheon. Therefore I loved Esther, and would have been an intimate friend of hers. But she repulsed me with ribald laughter—"Half white nigger! Go on wid ya kind!", and drew up a solid phalanx of little dark girls, who thumbed noses at me and chased me away from their ring game on the school playground.
Bitter recollections of hair ribbons jerked off and trampled in the mud. Painful memories of curls yanked back into the ink bottle of the desk behind me, and dripping ink down my carefully washed print frocks. That alone was a tragedy, for clothes came hard, and a dress ruined by ink-dripping curls meant privation for the mother at home. How I hated those curls! Charlie, the neighbor-boy and I were of an age, a complexion and the same taffy-colored curls. So bitter were his experiences that his mother had his curls cut off. But I was a girl and must wear curls. I wept in envy of Charles, the shorn one. However, long before it was the natural time for curls to be discarded, my mother, for sheer pity, braided my hair in a long heavy plait down my back. Alas! It, too, was ink-soaked, pulled, yanked and twisted.
I was a timid, scared, rabbit sort of a child, but out of desperation I learned to fight. My sister, a few years older, was in an upper grade, through those six, fearsome years. She had learned early to defend herself with well-aimed rocks, ink bottles and a scientific use of sharp finger-nails. She taught me some valuable lessons, and came to my rescue when my nerve had given out. She had something of the spirit of an organizer, too, and had a gang of "yellow niggers" that could do valiant service in the organized warfare between the dark ones and the light ones.
I used to watch the principal of the school, and her fellow teachers with considerable interest as I grew older and the situation unfolded itself to me. As far as I can remember now, they were all mulattoes or very light brown. If their sympathies were with the little fair children, who were so bitterly persecuted, they never gave any evidence. The principal punished the belligerents with an impartiality that was heart-breaking. Years afterward, I learned that she had told my mother and the mothers of other girls of our class and complexion that she understood and appreciated our sorrows and troubles, but if she gave any evidence of sympathy, or in any way placed the punishment where she knew it rightfully belonged, the parents of the darker children would march in a body to the Board of Education, and protest against her as being unfit for the job.
Time went on, and a long spell of illness took me out of the school. That too, was due to color prejudice. There wasn’t a small-pox scare, and the Board of Health ordered one of those wholesale vaccinations that are sometimes worse than the disease. My mother sent a note to the principal asking her not to have me vaccinate. on the day selected, but that she would take me to the family physician that night, and send the certificate to school in the morning. The principal read the note, shook her head, looked at me sorrowfully, "You should have stayed at home today, " was her terse comment. So I was dragged, screaming and protesting to have my arm scratched with a scalpel instead of a vaccine point. Terror and rage helped the infection which followed, and for a long while my life was despaired of. It seemed certain that I would lose my arm. Somehow, I did not, and when I was well enough, about eighteen months later, to think of education, my mother sent me to a private school.
The bitterness that had been ingrained in me through those six fateful years, from six to twelve years of age, stayed. The new school was one of those American Missionary Schools founded shortly after the war, as an experiment in Negro education. Later, these same schools became the aristocratic educational institutions of the race. Though the fee was only a nominal one, it was successful in keeping out many a proletariat. Thus gradually, all over the South these very schools which were founded in a missionary spirit by the descendents of abolitionists for the hordes of knowledge-seeking freedmen, became in the second and third generations, the exclusive stamping grounds of the descendents of those who were never slaves, or of the aristocrats among freedmen.
And because here I found boys and girls like myself, fair, light brown, with educated parents, descendents of office holders under the reconstruction regime or of free antebellum Negroes, with traditions—therefore was I happy until the end of my high and normal school career.
Except for Eddie. I loved Eddie. He represented to me the unattainable, for he was in the college department, and he won prizes in oratory and debate and one day smiled at me understandingly when I was only a high school freshman. I walked on air for days. But Eddie was of a deep darkness, and refused to allow me to love him. With stern dignity he checked my fluttering advances. He would not demean himself by walking with a mere golden butterfly; far rather would he walk alone, he told me. It broke my heart for nearly a month. >> page 2