Scorned and Descriminated by both Blacks and Whites

From the Diary of Giselle aka Peppersauce - Too Light or Too Dark?
I actually thought that I was a fairly good writer, but I’ve realized that there are many things that I have overlooked in the process of my writings. The first couple of essays we had to write, my paper always came back with the comment that my essay yearned for more examples and I thought if I put any more examples my paper would be too long. It was only after an in-class workshop I realized that instead of using the space to write about what I felt I would use an example to portray my feelings. This way my paper would be more interesting to the reader and would also get me a better grade.

I chose essay #3 despite the fact that I didn’t know if I had gotten and check plus or check minus on it. I felt strongly about what I had written in that essay not only because of the issue of racial discrimination it covered but because to write the essay and use such examples, I had to relive and drag up a lot of old embarrassing and even painful experiences. It made writing this essay more personal to me and something that I really wanted to do.

It’s a difficult task trying to find a safe place between the American way, and the way in which I was brought up. My native West Indian heritage is an important part of who I am despite the fact that I now live in American society and the values and traditions are as different as night and day. I’ve realized that to assimilate into mainstream America it’s important that I don’t forget from whence I came.

When I moved to New York, it was a culture shock, to begin with, I had never in all my life seen so many white, black, Hispanic, and many other cultures in one place, at one time, and not in one accord. Where I come from we are all Trinidadians black, white, yellow, brown, red, a multi-racial, multicultural island in the Sun that is one way we describe our country. A “Trini” is a “Trini”, no matter what your skin color was or your economic background. I had never in all my life had to deal with the concept of racial discrimination or the fact that I was too light or too dark.

For the first time in my life, I was discriminated against by whites because I was black period and discriminated by blacks because I was too light and the question of “what are you?” always came up. Never before did I ever wish to be darker so that I could fit in somewhere. After all, if I was not accepted by my fellow black brothers and sisters what was my place if I had one. I hated winter because during this time everyone looks pale and colorless and I was no exception, during the winter months I look even lighter than I usually do and this didn’t make the struggle to fit in any easier.

St. Peters, which was the school I attended in Staten Island, was predominantly white. Everyone got along quite well with each other but underneath all the fun and laughter the distinct racial barriers divided us accordingly. Beyond the classroom, we were different people with different backgrounds and opinions. We talked about our differences and racism openly but our relationship never went beyond that. I remember during one discussion, a white classmate openly said that even though she was not racist, she would never date a black boy. No one was shocked and made her feel terrible about what she had said. We understood each other and respected the fact that because we were of different races there was that imaginary line drawn between us that we weren’t allowed to cross.

I’ve lived in Brooklyn ever since relocating to New York City so every day I would take the ferry back and forth and after doing this for some time and meeting the same people every day we developed a friendship. One morning while on our way to Staten Island we were all sitting together talking. Harold, a dark-skinned boy, held onto my hand and entwined his fingers through mine. After comparing the difference in complexions he said to me and everyone else that was sitting there “Don’t we look like a jungle-fever couple?”Everyone thought it was funny but I was offended by his statement. I personally don’t have anything against interracial dating, in fact, I view it as something positive and beautiful. What I had a problem with was that he didn’t consider me for the person I was. A black girl. He viewed me as someone, something in-between.

Five years ago, if someone had made the same comment I would have laughed also. I was lighter than someone else, what was the big deal? Here I find myself struggling to hold onto “we are one family” and “you are white, I am black, we are different” A struggle to hold onto what I grew up with and my newfound obligation to be politically correct. There is a line I draw for myself and I try not to get too caught up in what was and what was not an act of discrimination. I try not to but then I’m viewed as not being politically aware.
There is a distinct difference between the way we live and the American way and now that I live here I have to find a balance that is comfortable for me. I have to live in that space between the American way and the values, morals, and traditions that I grew up with. It doesn’t matter how many of the American traditions I would have adapted to after years of living here, my West Indian roots are deep within me and they are a part of who I am, a West Indian woman in America.
Giselle (PepperSauce)

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