Our Experiences as Caribbean- American Kids and Blackness
"Never wear yellow. Ya too brown--gon' look like rotten bananas." It was this statement, delivered by family member, that officially married Jehan to her blackness during her 8th year. Weekends in St. Louis usually called for her immediate family to go over to different extended family members' homes due to the lack of a prosperous West Indian community in the city at the time. Jehan's paternal family are from Trinidad and Tobago--her family having migrated there from India in the 1800's. As their folks began to mix with African-Americans in The States, others chose partners of lighter skin. It was at the home of one of these light and dark unions that Jehan realized being darker was something that was looked down upon, while lightness was a symbol of pride. Despite the sense of shame and resentment the statement left, the experience led to Jehan's lifelong celebration of her melanin...and it lent us the name of this very blog :)
In the Dominican Republic, "negra", "morena", "India", "trigueña" are nicknames given to girls of darker skin hues as vocal symbols of "love". Lorraine grew up in a family that had obvious signs of blackness, but the lighter the skin the bigger the celebration. Her blackness was celebrated by nicknames or sayings like, "que morena tan linda", "esa niña es una negra buenamosa." In other words, compliments were more often than not be dressed with the fact that her melanin made her stand out within the frame of her most immediate community. Lorraine married her blackness earlier on, but it was learning the ugly duckling story that consummated it. Her sister, a year younger, heard the story at the very same time as her. The black duckling stands out, is mistreated, and made to feel different. As a result, Lorraine's younger sister began connecting the character of the ugly duckling to Lorraine. Although the comments were negatively charged, today they serve to affirm that the message of color within her community were so prominent that a 5 year old was using it to her advantage.