Thursday, September 08, 2011

White-Looking Black New Englanders

When I lived in New England, first to attend Harvard, and then to work, I experienced my introduction to white-looking blacks, who were NOT passing for white. While they would certainly be mistaken for white by most blacks and whites, they made identification as black easy by their conspicuous attendance at all-black events, before you ever knew their history or heard them speak of it.

Unlike passing blacks, these white-skinned blacks, for lack of a better description, are very proud of their black history, some of which dates back even prior to the Mayflower. These ‘white-blacks’ clearly have predominantly Caucasian genetic background, but due to the laws of the day and circumstances, were classified as black and lived their lives as such. They worked as blacks, attended church and school as blacks, and were often (but not always) segregated from opportunities afforded whites. As you would expect, some white-blacks used their white-features to elevate themselves above pigmented blacks, but this author suspects that this elevation is a more common occurrence with traditional light-skinned blacks.

On one occasion, a dear Bostonian friend from a prominent Washington DC family invited me to accompany her on a visit with the grown daughters of a childhood friend. The home of one of the girls resembled typical collegial-Cambridge, white Cambridge that is. Blonde hair and blue eyes were everywhere, especially the children. But something did not seem ‘right’. Everyone was so at ease with my friend’s black-related activities, including the black stranger - me. In the car after we had departed my friend abruptly says, “I know what you are thinking, and the answer is yes, those people are black.” Wow! Did not see that one coming! (I secretly think this smart woman was purposely padding my worldly education, an activity she graciously has repeated to this day.)

James C. Collier

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6 comments:

nevamind said...

I need a bit of clarification. Were these white-skinned black people cape verdean?

James C. Collier said...

I do not believe they were CV. If they are like others I have met in NE they come from all parts of the eastern seaboard.

nevamind said...

I grew up in NE from birth until I was 30 years old. I have seen the great lengths families would go through to keep their families from becoming any darker. Some of my classmates married and had children with their cousins. Some married white men or women. None of them ever denounced their CV heritage, but always reminded me that there weren't "black-black".

Jim-Jim said...

Dominicans don't consider themselves black either.

Erik said...

I bizzare mix... I've met a handful of people like this too.

Whitey's Conspiracy said...

I served in the Marine Corps with a white black guy from Kentucky. He was sooooooooo physically white that no one really believed he was black until we met the rest of his family who had at least some arguably African features.