Redefining 'Black'

By King, Joyce | The Christian Science Monitor, August 31, 2004 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Redefining 'Black'


King, Joyce, The Christian Science Monitor


From my physical features and peanut-butter color, people are comfortable categorizing me as black. That label does not begin to define what produced me, and so I have decided to redefine what America cannot.

I'm black, but I'm also more than black.

My maternal grandmother was part native American and one of the strongest, most amazing women I ever met. She mothered 13 children, 45 grandchildren, 63 great-grandchildren, and three great-great little ones before her death a few years ago. Her stories pertaining to my "Indian" heritage and that side of the family went with her to the grave well before I was interested enough to ask. As for the other side, I am now getting information on a paternal grandfather who was half black, the spitting image of his handsome white daddy.

That would make me an African-native American-European without a descriptive box to check. Colored rules of engagement state that if you look black, you are black. In Louisiana, where I grew up, there is still an ancient law on the books that any citizen, no matter how white he or she appears, with "a single drop of black blood," be classified asblack. Were he alive today, W.E.B. DuBois might agree that the "color line" in America keeps shifting.

Last year, when Essie Mae Washington-Williams acknowledged the late Sen. Strom Thurmond as her father, her embarrassed kinfolk were mostly mum. Today her name has been added to a South Carolina monument that lists Senator Thurmond's children. She certainly belongs there, not for validation, but for something I often lecture about: hope, healing, and racial reconciliation. Now Ms. Washington- Williams is determined to take her open parentage to the next level and pursue membership in the United Daughters of the Confederacy, an organization of descendants of those who fought for the South in the Civil War. Like her "legitimate" white sisters, the 78-year-old retired schoolteacher is eligible to participate, as are her children.

Some people brave enough to redefine themselves and heal wounds born of hatred and hypocrisy find it necessary to defend why they seek to connect all the cultural dots. I have certainly had heated debates with black friends who think I crave authenticity to prove the existence of white blood in the family tree, as if being black alone isn't good enough. But this story belongs to thousands of African-Americans who have long claimed only the African part of the skin they are in. Ugly discussions with people who don't condone what I'm doing are becoming fewer - as are my real friends, those who know the pride in my heart of being a woman of color.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Redefining 'Black'
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?