Wednesday, June 25, 2008

BLACK LIKE ME, YOU, AND US

I was perusing a post about Michelle Obama over at Gina's blog What About Our Daughters? and came across a comment written by someone name KIT (Keep It Trill). Here is the comment in its entirety:


Darker-complexioned blacks have always had a rougher time in this country. They
were the field hands while their lighter-skinned brothers and sisters got to
work in the shade of the slave-holder's house. This visceral hatred by many
whites of darker blacks contaminated our own community to some degree until this century, when we finally began seeing gorgeous dark women on music videos. Much of white America has not caught up with us.
I often wonder if Michelle Obama was as light as her husband or looked like a Beyonce, they wouldn't be quite as crazy in their hatred.


This is also because she does not fit their Euro standard of beauty.If/when he gets elected, frequent exposure of Michelle will become normal to many of them and gradually these ones will accept her. Others will never accept a black couple in the White House even if they could restore the economy and bring peace to entire world. It's too threatening to their illusion of white supremacy.


Maybe some of their children won't be so ignorant.


The comment has some good merits, but stumbles at the start because of the fundamentally deficient assumption that "Field Negroes" somehow endured or more dehumanizing and harsh form of slavery than the "House Negroes". This irritates me to no end because it smacks of a litmus test for one's authenticity of blackness. For anyone who purports to be an aficionado of African American History or Black Studies, this is assumption understates the inherent wrong of the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade. I'll get back to this later, but I do want discuss the notion that blacks with light skin are treated better than blacks with dark skin, using the FN vs. HN ideal as the basis for that assumption.


In order for the the argument to be true from a philosophical perspective one would have to assume that all FN are dark skinned blacks and that all HN are light-skinned blacks. How would one be able to know this without thoroughly reviewing slave masters records to determine who was purchased, for what jobs, and after arriving at the plantation after "seasoning", assigned to what living quarters?


If it cannot be done, and we don't know this to be true, let's stop using this as a basis for the FN vs. HN argument.


Let's also look at the practice of the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade. According to Dr. Marimba Ani (Dona Richards), she coined the term Maafa or "widespread destruction" to describe the TAST. She made no distinctions among classes or colors of enslaved Africans because anyone stolen from Africa during the Maafa was subjected to equally abusive treatment by their white slave owners. Unless the practice drastically changed as enslaved Africans were delivered to the U.S., which I surmise that it didn't given our current racial climate, then the FN vs. HN argument is further negated.


With this in mind, I think it's historically accurate to say that regardless of one's complexion, if they were enslaved and black (not excluding the native indigenous people whose land was stolen from them, but for this argument they aren't relevant...yet), they were treated with disdain and disgust by the white people who owned them. The Field Negro may have had to work all day in the field, be beaten and abused, and in many cases killed, but does that automatically mean that the House Negro did not have to endure the same level of treatment? How about the rape, sodomy, pedophilia, destruction of family, psychological abuse, and overall ill treatment by the white woman because you're mulatto appearance is a constant reminder of her sexual inadequacy and her husband's wanton lust for black flesh? Does that sound like a less caustic form of forced labor and deprivation of freedom and dignity?


There's also the common misconception that the HN actually LIVED in the "big house" with the "Massa". This could not be further from the truth. Enslaved blacks were not considered people then and they were still some white person's property. They were forced to live in conditions as deplorable as the FN and in most cases they lived together. The HN ONLY worked IN AND cleaned the house. They didn't get to sip lemonade on the Veranda and regale Massa with tales of how they used to wrestle Lions and Tigers in the bush.




When I was about 13 years old I competed in a talent show by reciting a piece I had written called Black Is, Black Was, and Black Will Always Be. I won. However, the runner-up to my oratory was a team of two black girls who both wrote a short skit about what it meant to be black. The title of the play was called "Blackness in Your Soul". The skit was about 15 minutes long, but it was VERY powerful and so relevant to our color obsessesed culture. They were both slaves, one was the HN and the other the FN. When they compared each other's first hand accounts of their experiences as slaves, they cried and hugged each other. They also apologized for thinking one had it better or worse than the other.


I'll paraphrase one quote that I can remember (this was 20 years ago). It went like this, "Blackness is in your soul because don't you know that the darkest brother can sell you out when you fairest sister will give her life for you?"


My point is that the authenticity of one's blackness cannot be measured by one's phenotype. We are not a monolith. What makes us black is our collective, systematic oppression by white people. I am no less threatening to a white person as a light-skinned black man. They simply see me as part of a monolith. This thinking is dangerous and KIT talks about this in the rest of their comment and they do make some salient points. Conversely though, I am left to wonder if they truly believe that because my skin may be slightly lighter than theirs that it makes me less likely to experience the hell that all black people have gone through.


Light, Dark, Brown, Pecan, Caramel, Burnt Sienna, Red... we are ALL black and for that, I am proud, unapologetic, and most important of all, unashamed.

18 comments:

Torrance Stephens bka All-Mi-T said...

kit need to read nella larsen

Anonymiss said...

Hey BlkSeaGoat,
I agree completely.

Back in the day, I too believed in the HN/FN theory of color preference. I found out like 2 years ago that HN/FN theory holds no weight.

Although there was a study done by Tufts Univ. a while back that claims that there are believed stereotypes regarding assigned behaviors to light- and dark-skinned Blacks, in the grand scheme of things, our race is normally seen as a monolith.

With regards to film and music, color assignments exist. In the modeling industry, that's not the case though. Or maybe it is considering that dark-skinned (African) Blacks are seen as pure.

Black people embrace that caste system anyway. We don't need to worry about White people when we do a lot of our own damage. At times WE are more anti-Black than any bigot.


@ Torrance,
I loved Passing. Great stuff though it did perpetrate the "tragic mulatta" belief.

Ensayn1 said...

BlkSeagoat, your post is so important. It is a shame many of us destroy ourselves with the sad theory of the HN vs the FN. What they are really doing is perpetuating the beliefs of Euro-peons.

Miriam said...

Hi

For a brief time I also learned about HN & FN, but shortly after i had to reject that idea.

Great post.

I also think there is nothing to be ashamed at black... but there is even what to be proud about! *blush* lol

Miriam said...

(I know you did mention you are proud)

DJ Black Adam said...

I see your point, however; historically the whole “House Slave”, “Field Slave” dynamic was initiated by the slave masters children with slave women being allowed in the big house (as servants), this is documented fact. Inside the big house these slaves were awarded some privileges field hands were not. House slaves usually had better living quarters than field slaves. In many cases, house slaves were also given better food and hand-me-down clothing from the family; Biggest dividing point, despite its illegal nature, the white mistress of the household would sometimes educate the house slaves.

So half white and educated, thus the strife and division began. Field slaves despising and envying the house slave’s slightly higher status.

I’m just saying…

Ref: “Intro to Afro-American Studies” http://eblackstudies.org/intro/chapter9.htm

DJ Black Adam said...

Let me finish that contrast, as I said Field slaves began despising and envying the house slave’s slightly higher status, and House slaves began to act and believe their lighter skin (by way of having some of master’s blood) and higher status was warranted.

Now, till this day we have our caste system, sure we perpetuate it, but it was made by a design outside of our making.

Ensayn1 said...

Unfortunately we have educators that perpuetuate the myth of the HN and FN! Not all house slaves were the master's children by African or Indigenous American women. Who determines better treatment? Are we to believe the male master of the house didn't rape male and female house slaves at anytime they felt the urge? Are we to believe, to be at the beck and call of another human being 24/7 for anything the master or mistress desires is better treatment? At this point we need to move beyond an "Intorduction to Afro American Studies." Why are we to assume that all house slaves were the master's offspring? Then on this basis Boukman, (Bookman because he could read & probably wrote books) one of the father's of the Haitian revolution should have avoided the revolution due to his house Negro status. Maybe, Cecilia Fatiman a mulatto, should not have been the inspiration to Boukman in forging the revolution. Toussaint L'Overture, a House Negro continued the revolution once Boukman was killed. We need to move past the perpetuation of Jim Crow by believing in and distributing the false belief behind the HN vs the FN!

DJ Black Adam said...

@Ensyan:

I have to disagree with your overall presupposition, that being that the whiole "House Slave" and "Field Slave" dynamic and was a "myth". BTW, my reference to the one internet source was just a starting point, not one of my central or ovearall authoritative sources regarding the actualities of slave life during the 1700's and 1800"s.

You wrote:
"Unfortunately we have educators that perpetuate the myth of the HN and FN! Not all house slaves were the master's children by African or Indigenous American women."

I am no positing that "all" house slaves were Master's children, SOME were, and pitting light against dark was a very real control tactic that White slave owners employed. The Caste system was founded in the original Aryan mindset of the religious and social order of the Indus valley. This mindset was replicated in many cultures subsequently, as it was and is an effective means of controlling a population that one wishes to subjugate.

You continue with: “Who determines better treatment?”

That’s not hard to ascertain. Even in penal systems there is a system where the ‘trustees” though prisoners themselves, have “privileges” that compel them to comply with good behavior, this is also a divisionary tactic to promote control.

You continue with:
“Are we to believe the male master of the house didn't rape male and female house slaves at anytime they felt the urge? Are we to believe, to be at the beck and call of another human being 24/7 for anything the master or mistress desires is better treatment?””

Who is saying that they didn’t? By no means am I suggesting that House Slaves were immune to the inhumanity of their slave masters, that was not the point.

You wrote:
“ We need to move past the perpetuation of Jim Crow by believing in and distributing the false belief behind the HN vs the FN!”

No, what we need to do is move beyond the ACTUALITY (both Historical and current social actualities) of the Light vs. the Dark. It is very REAL throughout the world of the descendents of the victims of the African Diaspora. It is real in The Americas, the Caribbean, and Europe and in Africa. To deny the actuality of skin tone being a real problem that needs to be overcome is to perpetuate the problem.

My understanding of “History” goes far beyond one source, I welcome ANYONE who wishes to discuss the particulars.

New Black Woman said...

Wow, that was great. I completely agree with this. Even today, I can tell you that white people don't care how light or dark we are. Some will still have contempt for us, no matter what shade of brown we are.

focusedpurpose said...

hi all-

so...

...i have long been fascinated by the whole house vs. field conversation. i know with certainty i would have been neither. i would have claimed my spot among the maroons---off the plantation. the house and field slaves were still on the plantation as slaves! and fighting about who had better "slave" status---uh, stupid!

does no one consider that when integration first got underway that it was usually the group that we now call biracials that used to be mulattos that were used for this purpose? there is some truth to the whole white folks like black folks, a little better, (emphasis on little) where there is minimal contrasting differences in their hues---or that they can see white on with ease. i have heard with my own ears that these are the "best" black folks, from black and other folks alike.

also there are black folks that think light is better. there are black folks that think dark skin is bad. let's be real. please. otherwise, we don't make progress. for those that like to use Rwandan analogies, insert one here---it is in effect in our nation of black folks---i have not yet seen this parallel drawn despite it being quite fitting in these types of discussions. as in Rwanda white folks have said that one group is better, given them greater access to pieces of first class citizenship than the other. those that were "favored" acted accordingly there and here. the only thing that would happen now; that has not praise God, is the transferring of power to the blacker persecuted downtrodden over the "favored" and the hasty european split prior to the outbreak of violence. ok?

at the end of the day, we are all we got and must focus with purpose on getting it together as a people.

p.s. i think that being a house slave would have been insufferable! i have always been baffled by my lighter complexioned brothers and sisters that have behaved and talked as though it were some kind of privilege, as well as by my darker complexioned brothers and sisters that seem miffed or envious that they somehow missed out. the enslaved mind is a bizarre thing. for those that don't believe the distinctions were made by color, there is not much different today---just look.

blessings all,
focusedpurpose

SheCodes said...

1. First, there were numerous 'light skinned' slaves in the field.

2. Children of slave holders sometimes received better treatment and elevated status.

3. There is no documentary evidence that proves that house slaves were always or even usually light skinned.

4. Slavery in the house made you perennially subject to rape, and worse -- having to use your own breasts to feed your slave master's babies while your own child went hungry. I can not imagine psychological damage worse than that. I would want to kill that baby before it sucked on my breast.

5. You can safely bet that there weren't many male slaves in the house, regardless of skin tone.

Ensayn1 said...

@ DJ, truely my point is the fact that not all things that we have been taught about slavery are fully the truth, I mean to argue not, but to attempt present a different other the the common view that the majority of Black people hold, a consensus of belief does not make it the truth, no matter where we find our "facts."
I believe FP said it best right here....

"p.s. i think that being a house slave would have been insufferable! i have always been baffled by my lighter complexioned brothers and sisters that have behaved and talked as though it were some kind of privilege, as well as by my darker complexioned brothers and sisters that seem miffed or envious that they somehow missed out. the enslaved mind is a bizarre thing. for those that don't believe the distinctions were made by color, there is not much different today---just look

The Ensayn1

DJ Black Adam said...

@Ensayn:

You wrote: “@ DJ, truely my point is the fact that not all things that we have been taught about slavery are fully the truth, I mean to argue not, but to attempt present a different other the the common view that the majority of Black people hold, a consensus of belief does not make it the truth, no matter where we find our "facts."

Don’t get me wrong Ensayn, I am not arguing with you, just disagreeing civilly. I simply ask, what facts support the supposition that there was not a division between House slaves and field slaves?

@Shecodes:

Now you know I am Not trying to argue with on eof my esteemed sisters, :-)

Two of your points:

1. First, there were numerous 'light skinned' slaves in the field.

This is true, light skin did not necessarily mean one would be in the “house”, but you can bet your bottom dollar that this difference in skin tone was played upon as a divisionary control devise even in the fields.

3. There is no documentary evidence that proves that house slaves were always or even usually light skinned.

I would not posit that they were “always” light; however, I would surmise predicated on what we do know about Western European ethnocentric attitudes that we do know existed during colonial and post colonial American history that we can make a fairly decent educated guess that the likely hood of the slaves in the homes being female and lighter (as they felt more at ease with people who looked more like them).

I admit, I could be wrong, I wasn’t there, and I am relying on the Wisdom of Zehuti, as we bearers of the power of SHAZAM often do…

Lola Gets said...

I loved this post! I think that folks get too concerned with the roles that were assigned to us during slavery, and aren't as concerned as they should be when it comes to the many many years that has followed slavery.

Colorism has plagued mankind for centuries, and isn't just relegated to the Black community. You can see issues of colorism and phenotype in medieval Europe, in 16th century China, and even some tribes of Native Americans prior to European contact! Those lighter in color and finer in feature are often associated with prosperity and beauty.

When Europeans came into contact with African people, they thought that those peoples that looked more like them (lighter skin, narrower features) were better, and they treated them thusly. This can also be seen in America during the days of slavery.

Were they right? No. And neither are we when we internalize the same prejudices and use them to treat each other unfairly.

(I might not have made much sense, as Im really tired right now, lol).

L

BLKSeaGoat said...

There's been much discussion here since I posted this and that's a good thing.

DJBA,

When you say documented facts, what do you mean? Documented by whom? Documented how? How do YOU know this to be factual at all? Most of the information we know about the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade has come from white people. Unfortunately, white folks have the ucanny knack for engaging in revisionist histrorical accounts that often celebrate their evil deeds and sanitizes their past.

I find it particularly incredulous, hell, even fantastical that white slave masters even acknowledged the legitimacy of the children they produced as the result of raping their house slaves. Somebody had to be dark, in the house, and female, to produce those mulatto features that KIT says afforded lighter blacks better treatment.

Was there a cut off? How light did one have to be to maintain one's House nigga status? How dark did one have to be to be assigned to the field?

You are right, colorism is still pervasive in the black community, but to compare the severity of one type of bondage to another under the same awful system is a waste of time.

Slavery was awful regardless of the specific nuances that each group had undergone and suffered through.

DJ Black Adam said...

Hello Blkseagoat:

You had asked:

"When you say documented facts, what do you mean? Documented by whom? Documented how? How do YOU know this to be factual at all?"

Well then, this is the central problem that presents itself when historical events are being discussed, that being:the legitimacy of sources, especially when there are no eyewitnesses to an event. However, if the objectivity of "White Historians" is the question, then in that vein are we to ignore or reject any documented US or for that matter Western European history that was recorded by White historians?

No, it seems we all believe that Slavery did in fact happen, so how can we in one place accept the "White Historians' account of the actuality that slavery of black Africans happened yet in the other place reject when those same historians write about the dichotomy between the realities faced by house and field slaves?

This is the conundrum we face when we attack sources in one case, yet accept them in another. It creates an endless loop of validating and invalidating ones arguments and presupposition concurrently; thereby leaving no sound foundation for the discussion.

However; there are sources that perhaps we can mutually agree upon? I do know that there are audio records in the Library of Congress (http://www.loc.gov/loc/lcib/9811/slavery.html) of people who were slaves. Barring that, we have to go by what we do see evidently, even today the White American population shows they have a greater tolerance for lighter African Americans, specifically female, we see this trend reflected in media, and in government. Knowing what we do know about the apartheid system in South Africa, we see the pattern of divide and conquer utilized there in the very separate categorization and treatment of mulattos to that of black Africans, that pattern was also utilized in the United States.

You continued with:

"I find it particularly incredulous, hell, even fantastical that white slave masters even acknowledged the legitimacy of the children they produced as the result of raping their house slaves. Somebody had to be dark, in the house, and female, to produce those mulatto features that KIT says afforded lighter blacks better treatment."

In some cases, I am sure that whites treated their off springs from their tryst with slaves with contempt, however; with the example of West Ford, it is rumored that this was in fact the son of George Washington, however records indicate that this was George Washington's nephew, in either account he was afforded much better treatment than other slaves, given his freedom and was taken care of at Mount Vernon. There is accounts of "fancy girls", mulatto women that were kept mistresses of white slave owners whose children were afforded inheritances (in fact some of the "well to do" African American families claim these facts and this ancestry).

So I posit that the realities of house slave and field slave divisions were quite real. However, just as I stated earlier for comparison, just because prison trustees are afforded some privileges regular prisoner aren't, doesn't mean they are not prisoners just the same.

You continue with:

"You are right, colorism is still pervasive in the black community, but to compare the severity of one type of bondage to another under the same awful system is a waste of time."

It's not about comparison. it is about understanding how we got to the point we are in our community in regard to self hate and what WE assign value to and why we do it. Our elevation of and worship of all things that are closer to our former slave masters is a sickness of the worst kind. We call straight hair "the good hair", we uplift many entertainers because they are light (i.e. Dorothy Dandridge, Lena Horne, Dianne Carrol, Jane Kennedy, Halle Berry, Beyonce, etc., etc.) vote for politicians because they are light, etc., etc.

So in understanding OUR preoccupation with color and worship of the European image of beauty, we have to look at the agitating factors for this.

You conclude with:

"Slavery was awful regardless of the specific nuances that each group had undergone and suffered through."

I don't think anyone denied that. I believe that what is being asserted is that the dichotomy between house slave and field slaves has shaped both Black and White America's collective sociological conscious.

Ensayn1 said...

Read these for an example;

http://multiracial.com/site/content/view/460/27/

http://www.whiteslavesandindians.com/read_excerpt/book_excerpt/chapter2_part_01.htm