Toni Morrison is my all-time favourite author. I know if I pick up anything from the author I am going to love it. (Read: Beloved)There is no two way about it. I came across this story on The New Yorker. In this story a woman is talking about the childhood she gave to her only child. A white mother speaking to her black daughter about parenthood.
The narrator begins with the day her daughter was born.
It didn’t take more than an hour after they pulled her out from between my legs for me to realize something was wrong. Really wrong. She was so black she scared me. Midnight black, Sudanese black. I’m light-skinned, with good hair, what we call high yellow, and so is Lula Ann’s father. Ain’t nobody in my family anywhere near that color.
She realises how big of a curse it is, to be born black.
When she and my father went to the courthouse to get married, there were two Bibles, and they had to put their hands on the one reserved for Negroes. The other one was for white people’s hands. The Bible! Can you beat it?
The narrator and her husband keep having fights over it when one fine day he gets up and leaves both of them.
She hates the child but only because she is black. The narrator understands how the world is going to be for her only child and prepares her for it.
I had to protect her. She didn’t know the world. With that skin, there was no point in being tough or sassy, even when you were right. Not in a world where you could be sent to a juvenile lockup for talking back or fighting in school, a world where you’d be the last one hired and the first one fired. She didn’t know any of that or how her black skin would scare white people or make them laugh and try to trick her.
She raises an independent woman who has her own career and an enviable life. Howver, she thought all along she was raising a tough child all along but it taught her another lesson in her old age.
Taught me a lesson I should have known all along. What you do to children matters.
This is a rather sad story in the signature Morrison style. She talks extensively about the life as a colored person. Read ‘Sweetness’ for free on The New Yorker.
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