How Black is Black?: An Introduction

How Black is Black?: An Introduction
Cut by: Davita Cuttita

“The world has a perception of itself and of you, and by you I mean YOU white women.”—Grandpa Dinosaur.

One day while I was waiting for my bus home at the terminal a brown guy and his friend came up to me making sweet talk (I was double-teamed!). I declined his rendition of “Can I have your number?” and politely made half-hearted conversation out of my utter exhaustion from travelling non-stop for the past two hours during the evening rush traffic.

“So, where are you from?” he asked
“Oh, I wasn’t born here. I’m Jamaican,”
“What? Really?”
“Yeah”
“OK, so are you pure Jamaican or mixed?”
“I don’t understand what that means”

Now, let me give you a quick run-down of Jamaican history and why I didn’t understand his query.

Firstly, THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A PURE JAMAICAN, BECAUSE THEY ARE ALL EXTINCT.

I say this because the first inhabitants of the island; the Arawak Indians of about 500 years ago; were all slaughtered by that fucker Christopher Columbus and his crew for gold, then replaced by the Maroon Blacks of Africa which was a big mistake on his part because despite how he tortured and murdered them, they wouldn’t work and just killed his men or ran off into the mountains (and thrived!) whenever they got the chance.

Fast forward some years of trying to get these people to work unsuccessfully until the British come and take over the island. During the ensuing war between the Brits and Spaniards, the Maroons run off into the mountains and are never caught again. Still around in present day Jamaica, though.

Anyway, the British bring with them the Ashante and Taino African tribes (who kinda worked but were still “unruly”), and after a few hundred more years they bring in some Chinese and East Indians. In the 19th century for some reason that has something to do with trains; the Scottish make their way down to the island as well quickly followed a few decades later by American or Syrian Jews. Oh, and then some Germans during WWII. Now, the ENTIRE time this has been happening from the Maroons till now; everybody has been hating working their asses off/ hiding for their lives from something so there’s nothing better for blowing off some steam than having hot interracial sex on a sweltering tropical day!

JUNGLE FEVER, YELLOW FEVER, CABIN FEVER, WHATEVER!!

Voila: now you have yourself some Jamaicans! Go start a reggae band.

The above conversation is not an uncommon thing for me to hear; strangely. Many Jamaican people doubt I’m from there and for some reason, most other people seem to think I’m either Ethiopian (even other Ethiopians I’ve met!), Spanish, have a Chinese/Cambodian father or a White father.

This is my bloodline to my knowledge:
(Father’s side)
Great-great grandfather: White, Scottish
Great-great grandmother: Black, Maroon
Great-grandfather; Mixed, ID: Black (he was dark as the Night, dear child)
Great-grandmother: Jewish
Grandfather: Mixed (light skin)
Grandmother: Mixed (light skin)
Father: WTF? LOL, Double mixed? (light skin)
Mother: Mixture of Black, East Indian and Chinese (dark skin)

This is a current photo of me (sans my intergalactic prostitute party-time phase in Ze Auteurs) :

One of my older brothers came over to visit a while ago and upon seeing me said “Why do you look so Asian? You look like a Chinadoll.”

When I was younger, my complexion was a bit fairer. To this day, my mother recalls stories of White people whispering to eachother; staring—whenever we’d ride the train together or walk home. If I played outside long enough I would darken and TO THIS DAY if I get a summer job working outdoors and come home “Black” my mother scolds me.

When I was seventeen and prom season was approaching, the Black girls were the most apprehensive.
They were afraid they wouldn’t be able to find dresses that would suit their skin complexions; especially those of darker tones. One friend of mine in particular with a dark complexion was really choked up she wouldn’t find a dress in time and I did my best to assure her she’d find something wonderful (which she did).

“Oh, you don’t have to worry about anything! Look at you! Your skin is a golden brown complexion…like toast. Your skin is just right.

“Just right”? How are varying degrees of blackness “wrong” or “right” and where and how did this notion that is just ONE STEP AWAY from morality come into play with fucking melatonin levels?

I love food and being compared to something as delicious as toast is quite the compliment but think about it: we all know that if you took a knife and started scraping that golden brown off your toast, chances are; it would be White underneath.

So in a way, my dear friend was saying that I was almost White. I’m sure my friend wasn’t consciously implying this but she was unconsciously, and that is the scary part.

I’ve noticed that a lot of the time, I don’t see any Black people darker than my complexion in the media; and when I do they’re usually men. As if to say, Black women shouldn’t be “dark”, they should be as “White” as possible. What’s your take on the following images?:

I never gave the issue much thought as I figured more visibly mixed people like my father (who is mistaken for White so “well” that occasionally White people will go up to HIM and complain about Black people) probably had more problems.

So…am I Black “enough”?
How Black is Black, exactly?

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~ by davitacuttita on April 24, 2008.

11 Responses to “How Black is Black?: An Introduction”

  1. same thing happened to me when some random chick in my english class responded to a question the professor asked with “Oh, thats because i have Good hair!”

    wtf is good hair?
    my hair doesn’t have an evil lair, nor is it conspiring against the american government… at lest from what i can tell.
    my hair is just as good if not better than that silly bitches Yaki, JET BLACK #12.
    or maybe i overreact? 🙂

  2. I don’t see an overreaction going on here.

    What the fuck is good hair INDEED!

  3. hehe heh, Golden brown toast is great but hwo doesn’t like chocolate? 🙂 or even vanilla ice cream for that matter! All skin tones are beautiful. Great post, it’s good to inform others about this and that the caribbean is made up of all types of people.

    I also think it’s cool that we have almost the same mix.

    Paternal side:

    great grandfather: raised scottish/English but of Scandinavian descent
    great grandmother: native american mostly, with some Irish and black

    my fathers mother: predominantly black we can’t tell if she was mixed with anything else.

    My mother: Mostly black, Chinese and east Indian but also has a lot of native american and a very small bit of irish. (she’s very dark aswell.)

    Anyway enjoyed reading this post. greetings from Bermuda!

  4. Hi Zayna! Welcome to PDDP and greetings to you from this Jamaican in Canadada-land (it snowed LIKE 2 inches yesterday, noooo!! >_<).

    Yeah, all skin tones are beautiful indeed! I have relatives who are, utmost definitely, White and then I have the other side who are very, very Black. The beauty and complexity of skin never ceases to amaze me.

    Also, I do find that racial mixtures have been fairly common in the Caribbean region for hundreds of years. Go figure, there was a lot of traffic/people-trafficking in the area so it was pretty much inevitable, no? I think so.

    I’m glad you liked the post! Somebody has to stand up and tell the world the caribbean is not a monolith, lol. We’re not all the same but we are all beautiful!

  5. Thank you, very much enjoyed your writing, “all are beatiful”

  6. Thanks for reading, Geof! Glad you enjoyed it. ^_^

  7. […] No comment, really; I’ve addressed this before. […]

  8. Perfect wordings. Damn, I couldn’t have said it better. I think I’m obsessed with your page 😐

  9. Davita, you are beautiful and relevent.

    Geof Schmitz

  10. Oh, wow! Thanks Geof!

  11. Is there anyone here anymore?

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