Essay

Chiaroscuro

When I was teaching freshman composition, and issues of identity were raised or brought up as topics for papers, there were no light skinned African Americans who did not discuss how their lighter skin was a source of exclusion or aversion from some darker skinned African Americans in their community, or how questions of authenticity would arise, as if the light skinned African-American had to prove some pedigree of blackness for his darker skinned neighbors.

I had very few mixed race students who did not discuss in their papers that being both “white” and “black” was a problem for both “white” and “black,” and that not being white enough or black enough always seemed to be behind any awkward interactions, or suspicions (no mater how sensitive or hyper sensitive the perception might have been) about how people acted or responded or did not respond–there was frequently a reference to how each had a problem with the perceived “otherness” of the mixed race student.

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