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Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc

Azizi 25 May 08 - 12:51 AM
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Subject: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: Azizi
Date: 25 May 08 - 12:51 AM

I just wrote a rather longish post about certain historical African American group referents on this Mudcat thread thread.cfm?threadid=18902&messages=53 Lyr Req: My Pretty Quadroon.

After writing that post, I thought that this topic might be of interest to other Mudcat members and guests.

As a means of sharing information and as a way that I and other people can learn more about this topic, I intend to not only repost my comment from that other thread, but will also post hyperlinks and excerpts from online sources [and perhaps other print sources] on the topic of African American group referents.

As always, I encourage Mudcat members and guests to join in this presentation of information, and hopefully join in a discussion of this subject.

Thanks, in advance, for your participation in this thread.

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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: Azizi
Date: 25 May 08 - 01:07 AM

I've decided to divide my long post from that thread into two posts on this thread. That original post is presented with minor corrections and minor changes for clarity's sake:

Subject: RE: Lyr Req: My Pretty Quadroon
From: Azizi - PM
Date: 25 May 08 - 12:23 AM

Somewhat off-topic:

Perhaps readers of this thread may be interested in information [based on my experiences as an African American, and also based on my readings]regarding the contemporary use or non-use of group referents such as "negro" spelled with a small 'n', and "quadroon", "octoroon", and "mulatto". I'm writing this as a means of sharing information, and not to post any criticism.

We African Americans have used a number of different group names as referents for ourselves. Prior to the change in the formal referent for Black Americans to "African American" in the mid to late 1960s, in the twentieth century, the formal referent which was most often used was "Negro".

Prior to the mid to late 1950s, the referent "Negro" was commonly printed with a small 'n' by White persons in the mainsteam media and other White people. A number of Black people also followed this practice. However, in the mid to late 1950s, a number of efforts were mounted by "Negroes" to have that group referent spelled in a standard manner with a capitol 'N'. This would have meant that Negro would be spelled in accordance with the practice that was used for the spelling of other formal group names of racial, ethnic, national, and religiousd populations [for instance-English, Irish, Polish, Indian, German, Jews, Russian, Chinese, Japanese]. The reasoning behind these efforts was that because all the other populations had their formal group referents spelled with a capitol letter* to spell Negro with a small 'n' suggested that Negroes were "less than", not equal to other groups of human beings, and therefore not worthy of the respect shown them by the act of capitolizing their formal group name.

Those efforts were largely successful. At least by the mid 1960s, [that is to say, prior to the change over to the formal referent "African American", the 'n' in the word Negro was almost always capitolized [unless people were quoting 19th century songs or historical text that had that racial name written with a small 'n']. Note that the first letters of the words "African" and "American" are always capitolized.

Among African American writers [and perhaps non-African American writers], and "regular folks" who are Black or who are non-Black, might still use the referent 'Negro' to refer to a contemporary Black person. However, when "Negro" is used nowadays, it is usually a contemptuous name for a Black man or a Black woman who is abjectly servile and deferential to White people, or who does things or says things that are not in the best interest of other Black people. Uncle Tom {or "Tom"} is another referent for a contemporary Black man who acts this way. "Aunt Jemima" is the comparable term for a Black woman who acts this way {unlike "Tom", "Jemima is not used without the title 'Aunt'}.

In other words, it is a grave insult for an African American to call another African American a "Negro". That insult is heightened [deepened] when the word "Negro" is spelled with a small 'n'.

* In the United States, it's also acceptable to use "Black" as an informal referent for "African Americans". In addition, in the United States, "Black" is an accepable informal referent for other people who have some Black African ancestry.

Some African Americans and non-African Americans capitolize the word 'Black' [such as I do] when it is used as a group referent. For consistency's sake, those that capitolize the referent "Black" usually also capitolize the group referent "White". However, it's also acceptable to use a small "b" for "black" when that word is used as a group referent. Indeed, spelling 'black' with a small 'b' appears to be the norm-especially in the mainstream media, and elsewhere, and particularly among White people. Spelling the group referent 'black' with a small 'b' is probably so common because the group referent 'white' is usually spelled with a small 'w'. That said, I believe that more Black people than White people capitolize the group referent "Black". This may be for the same reasons that I indicated for capitolizing the word Negro.

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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: Azizi
Date: 25 May 08 - 01:11 AM

It might also be of interest to persons reading this thread to know that the term "quadroon", and "octoroon" has not been formally or informally used in the USA since at least the early 1950s, and maybe earlier than that.

The term "mulatto" lasted in formal use longer than those other terms. But mulatto has also given way to the imprecise "formal" terms "mixed", "multiracial", and "biracial". Informally, you will still hear African Americans and other people [including those with this ancestry] refer to people with a Black birth parent and a non-Black birth parent as 'half and half'. I personally don't like that term. Also, I've read examples of more White people than Black people using the term "zebra" as a referent for people who have one Black and one White birth parent. I really don't like that term.

As I noted in my earlier comments, I believe that racism and the desire to maintain a fictional pure White race is the reason for the tradition of categorizing people of mixed racial ancestry as Black when one of the birth parents is Black. Theoretically, my view is that those people with that ancestry should be able to choose to belong to either and both of the races that their birth parents belong to. However, we live in the real world. And in today's real world of the USA, and in most other nations, regardless of their physical appearances, persons of mixed Black/non-Black ancestry are usually considered to be Black, even if they call themselves 'biracial.'

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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: Azizi
Date: 25 May 08 - 01:20 AM

Here's a link to a Wikipedia page about historical terms used in the United States and elsewhere for person of Black African/non-Black African ancestry:

Here's the information from that page, with the exception of resources and a list of other related words or terms that could be researched:

"Quadroon, octoroon and, more rarely, quintroon were historically racial categories of hypodescent used in Latin America and parts of the 19th century Southern United States, particularly Louisiana. The terms were also used in Australia to refer to people of mixed Aboriginal and European ancestry.

Quadroon" is someone of one-quarter black ancestry. A quadroon has a biracial parent (black and white) and one white parent. In other words, the person has one black grandparent and three white grandparents.

"Octoroon" means a person of fourth-generation black ancestry. An octoroon has one parent who is a quadroon and one white parent. In other words, the person has one black great-grandparent and seven white great-grandparents.

"Quintroon" is a rarely used term that means a person of fifth-generation black ancestry. A quintroon has one parent who is an octoroon and one white parent. In other words, the person has one black great-great-grandparent and fifteen white great-great-grandparents. "Hexadecaroon" is an even less common term to describe a person of fifth-generation black ancestry. Mestee or mestif (mestiffe) was also used for a person with less than one-eighth black ancestry.

Culture and law
This racial classification differed somewhat from the "one-drop theory" current in most of the United States, in that it recognized a higher social status for black-descended people by degree of majority white ancestry. Nevertheless, people of minority black ancestry in these cultures were still heavily discriminated against and often subject to slavery.

In the United States, the Jim Crow laws generally followed the "one-drop theory"; hence the case of Homer Plessy, a Louisiana man of one-eighth black ancestry who was prevented from sitting in a railroad car reserved for whites.

By the later 20th century, these terms had almost totally faded from use, being generally considered obsolete".

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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: Sandra in Sydney
Date: 25 May 08 - 05:14 AM

Back in the early 90's I knew a Jamacian woman who referred to her niece as half-caste (her sister was married to a [white] Englishman). I'd never heard anyone use that phrase & I assumed at the time it was a slip of the tongue or a bit of very old cultural indoctrination as she'd spent half her life in Jamacia, the rest in England. My acquaintance was married to a (white) Australian & they had a child few years later, and moved overseas sometime later.


(google ads are always on the ball!! - Black Singles Photos Find Black Women online & Black Women White Men Black women who only date ... )

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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: Azizi
Date: 25 May 08 - 08:25 AM

Hey, Sandra! Thanks for sharing that information.

The editors of the book Slaves, Free Men, Citizens-West Indian Perspectives {Lambros Comitas and David Lowenthal; Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1973} use the term "half-breed" in their summary of a chapter called "Freed Blacks and Mulattos" {pps 74-93]. That chapter is part of a classic study of eighteenth century Jamaicans that was written by a White man who was a judge on that island for twelve years, History of Jamiaca, or General Survey of the Ancient and Modern State of that Island, 3 vol., pp.320-36 [Edward Long;originally published in London by T. Lowndes, 1774, available as Cass Library of West Indian Studies No. 12, London, Frank Cass, 1970].

In their summary statement of the chapter, the editors of Slaves, Free Men, Citizens-West Indian Perspectives write
"The free-colored population are viewed in terms of the problems they posed for the whites, who were at the same time their progenitors, rivals, and lovers. Conceiving these associations dangerous to white purity and mastery, the author [Edward Long] fulminates against local practices concerning half breeds". {p. 74]


The term "half-caste" is used in an account of racially mixed people that was written by C.L.R. James and was also included in the Comitas & Lowenthal compilation, The Black Jacobins [New York, Random House {second edition, revised from the 1938 edition}, 1963, pp. 36-44}. James' chapter in the Comitas & Lowenthal book is titled "The Free Colored in a Slave Society". In that book, James uses "Mulatto" as a catch-all referent for persons having any Black/non-Black mixture.

Here's an excerpt from that chapter {the page numbers I'm citing are from the Comitas & Lowenthal's book}:

"In the early days every Mulatto was free up to the age of 24, nnot by lawm but because white men were so few in comparson with the slaves that the masters sought to bind these intermediates to themselves rather than let them swell the ranks of their enemies. Yhe Negor Code of 1685 authorized marriage between the white and the slave who has children by him, the ceremony freeing hereself and her children. The Code gave the free Mulattoes and the free Negroes equal rights with the whites. But as the white population grew lager, white San Domingo discarded the convention, and enslaved or sold their numerous children like any king in the African jungle. All efforts to prevent concubinage failed , and the Mulatto children multiplied, to be freed or to remain slaves at the caprice of their fathers. Many were freed, becoming artisans and household servants. They began to amass property, and the whites, while adding unceasingly to the number of Mulattoes, began to restrict and harass them with malicious legislation...They were excluded from the baval and military departments, from the practice of law, medicine, and divinity, and all public offices, or places of trust. A white man could trepass on a Mulatto's property, seduce his wife or daughter, insult him in any way he chose, certain that at any hint of resentment or evenge all the whites and the Goverment would rush out ready to lynch...

Behind all this elaborate ton-follery of quarteroon, sacatra and marabou, was the one dominating fact of San Domingo society-fear of the slaves. The mothers of the Mulattoes were in the slave-gangs, they had half-brothers there, and however much the Mulatto himself might despise this half of his origin he was at home among the slaves, and in addition to his wealth and education, could have an influence among them which a white man could not have. Furthermore, apart from physical terror, the slaves were to be kept subjection by associating inferioerity and degration with the most obvious distinquishing mark of the slave-the black skin...No Mulatto, therefore, whatever his number of white parts, was allowed to assume the name of his white father.

But depite these restrictions the Mulattoes continued to make progress...[in 1755] in some districts some of the finest properties were in the possession of these half-castes"...

...quateroons and other fair-skinned Nulatooes [saught] too have their remote ancestors transrormed into free and noble Caribs [Indians]...

The advantage of being white were so obvious that race prejudice against the Negroes permeated the minds of the Mulattoes who so bitterly resented the same thing from the whites. Black slaves and Mulattoes hated each other. Even while in words, and by their success in life, in many of their actions, Mulattoes demonstrated the falseness of the white claim to inherent superiority, yet the man of colour who was nearly white despised the man of colour who was only half-white, who in terms despised the man of colour who was only quarter white, and so on through all the shades.

The free blacks, comparatively speaking, were not many, and so despised was the black skin tghat even a Mulatto slave felt himself superior to the free black man. The Mulatto, rather than be slave to a black, would have killed himself.

It all reads like a cross between a nightmare, and a bad joke. But these distinctions still exercise their influence in the West Indies today*.

While whites in Britain dislike the half-caste more than the full blooded Negro, whites in the West Indies favour the half-caste against the black." [pp.95, 97, 98, 102]

*In a footnote on that last page I quoted, the editors write that this is still true in the West Indies in 1961. I'm an African American with maternal West Indian ancestry [that I believe is mixed but mostly Black African. My father was "adopted" by a light skinned family in Michigan. He was lighter skinned than my brown skinned mother, but I don't know what his ancestry was. Generally speaking, as a result of my experiences as a child growing up in Southern New Jersey in the late 1940s, as well as my years in Northern Jersey in the mid to late 1960s, and my years in Western Pennsylvania since the late 1960s, I can testify to the fact that there was and still is a great deal of skin color consciousness among African Americans.
I don't know enough about the Caribbean to say whether this is still true there. However, it certainly does appear from my reading, from my interactions & conversations with Black folks from the Caribbean ["Black" here using the USA definition and therefore meaning any person of African descent regardless of their racial mixture] as well as my study of current political & cultural events in that region that as is the case in the USA, in the Caribbean there is still a considerable amount of skin color consciousness, skin color resentment, and favoring of light skinned Black people over dark skinned Black people.

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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: Azizi
Date: 25 May 08 - 08:34 AM

In a post to the Lyr: Pretty Quadroon thread, Q provides an interesting excerpt of a White woman on a ship in 1850 who conversed with a French speaking quadroon woman. That quadroon woman was returning from her studies in a French convent, and was ostracized by all the other persons on that ship:


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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: Azizi
Date: 25 May 08 - 09:01 AM

Surfing the Internet for this thread, I came across this website:

I found this multi-page website to be rather difficult to navigate, but it includes some very interesting information. Among its pages is this one on the history of quadroons in Louisiana:

Here's an excerpt from that page:

"Unrestricted by the social code of the French, the quadroons could be coquettish and flirtatious in the streets and cabarets. As early as 1786 a law was passed in an effort to subdue them; any woman of color appearing in a hat on the streets of the city was subject to arrest and imprisonment.

As a woman had to have her head covered in public, the free women of color were reduced to wearing a tignon- also called chignon, a scarf wrapped about their heads in the style of the slave women. Not to be outdone, the free women of color soon devised bright madras cloths that they wrapped high on their heads and decorated with jewels and flowers.

The children born of the first generation of placage were called mulattoes, those of the second quadroons, of the octoroons and so on, according to the fraction of black blood. They did not consider themselves black but Creoles of color, they spoke French, had French names and developed their own customs. For some reason the word "quadroon" became the term applied to light-skinned mistresses in general"...

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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: Azizi
Date: 25 May 08 - 09:07 AM

According to,

"Louisiana Creole (also called French Créole) refers to people of various racial descent descended from the Colonial French and Spanish settlers of Colonial French Louisiana, before it became part of the United States in 1803 with the Louisiana Purchase, with claim to the culture and Creole cuisine. The common accepted definition is a mixture of (mainly) French, Spanish, African, and Native-American heritage however some may not be all of these. It should be noted however that there are also white French Creoles. Before the Civil war the term Creole was applied to most 18th century families in southern Louisiana who had French, Spanish, or African ancestry. Cajuns were always excluded from this distinction, due to their lack of social status in old Louisiana and mostly white Acadian background...

If the American Civil War promised rights and opportunities for the enslaved, it caused anxiety for the Free Person of Color. Louisiana under the French and Spanish housed a three-tiered society, similar to that of Brazil, Cuba, Haiti, Mexico, and other French and Spanish colonies. This three tiered-society allowed for the emergence of a wealthy and educated group of mixed and black Creoles. Their identity as a Free Person of Color, or Gens de couleur libres or 'personne de couleur libre' was one they had worked diligently towards and guarded with an iron-fist. They enjoyed most rights and privileges, by law, as whites, and could and often did challenge the law in court of law winning their case against whites (Hirsch; Brasseaux; Mills; Kein etc.). Knowing that the United States did not legally recognize a three-tiered society, the American Civil War posed a considerable threat to the identity and position of the Free People of Color. Following the Union victory in the Civil War, the Louisiana three-tiered society was dismantled.

In efforts to maintain their social and political identity, the former Gens de couleur libres began using the term 'Creole' much in the same way that the white elite did beginning in 1803. The Gens de couleur libres were native speakers of both Colonial French and Louisiana Creole.

Black slaves in Louisiana, particularly in the southern realm of the state, were also Creoles. The success of the Union in the Civil War ultimately released slaves from servitude, at least on paper. Through sharecropping and Jim Crow laws, they found themselves in bondage again. However this servitude allowed for the preservation of the Creole language of the Black Creole working class of South Louisiana. They too were largely of Roman Catholic faith and saw themselves different from their Protestant English-speaking counterparts."

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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: Azizi
Date: 25 May 08 - 09:17 AM

Historically, some Creoles-such as Jelly Roll Morton-
vehementally rejected being categorized as African American {Black}.

There is still a debate among people of Creole descent as to whether they and historical Creole persons should be identified as African American or as Creole. For instance, here's another page from the website:

That page starts with the question: "What should it be 'Creole of Color' or 'African American'?" That page then write:

"Henriette Dellile has been nominated for Sainthood by the Catholic Church and has been called the First African American in the United States to be chosen for Sainthood.

We as "Creoles" again are being Denied our place in History & our Cultural Heritage! We have stated again & again that we are not African Americans but "Creoles" & again the church, above all people has chosen to label us as such! The arguments, issues and petition below are strong reasons why this Cultural Genocide must stop. Study the issues and print the petition so you may support our cause by signing this petition!"


That petition decries what its authors consider to be the miscategorization of Henriette Dellile as African American, based on the one drop of African blood ruling. Here's an excerpt of that petition:

"...the Sisters of the Holy Family in their misrepresentation of Mother Henriette DeLille, operating under a strictly political stance, and in order to give all of her birth and sainthood credit to the AFRICAN-AMERICANS, are using the ONE-DROP POLICY RULE of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, which has been outlawed legally as far back as 1975, when before that time held that ONE DROP OF AFRICAN blood an AFRICAN did make. So as you can see that as of 1989, the ONE DROP POLICY was outlawed prior thereto.

We are also aware that the ONE-DROP POLICY RULE only
came to existence many years after the birth of Mother Henriette DeLille, and perhaps even years after her death. That rule came about almost 30 years after the Civil War of 1862 - 1864 when the South lost the Civil War and slavery was abolished; and the South therefore wanted to give vengeance to all who had any blood of the slaves in their veins.

To further that vengeance, the United States Government and especially the Southern States, legislated the racial identity of all Native-Born French Creoles to that of Negro and Black. Racial identity is something inherent to an individuald and should not be legislated by anyone. If one would check the U.S. Archive records, one will find that before the 1900 Census, all Creoles were listed as "M" for Mulatto (meaning multiracial) and all African-Americans were listed as "B" for Black.

We do not deny that Mother DeLille has African blood as part of her ancestry and we are proud of that, and we find no problem with that, but then that was only one portion of her ancestry. Therefore Mother Henriette DeLille by virtue of her ethnic makeup was of multiracial origin. And when she was born, she was automatically a Gens de Colour Libre, and in Louisiana that identification meant that you were not just African but of various ethnic origins and came under the meaning of being FRENCH-CREOLE. To wit: A person born in the New World of European and African ancestry - native to the place. In other words A FRENCH-CREOLE-AMERICAN.

The definition of a French- Creole-American states that the person has French, Spanish, African and Indian ancestry along with other various European ancestry as the case may be. In the mid 1700's and mid 1800's these various racial groups formed family unions and had offsprings which were multiracial in origin"...

[Capitolizations are as found in the text of the petition]

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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: Azizi
Date: 25 May 08 - 09:42 AM

References to "yellow gal" or "yellow women" in 19th century and earlier secular African American and Caribbean dance songs and/or shanteys refer to quadroons or other women of Black/non-Black mixtures.

There are several songs in Thomas W. Talley's 1922 book Negro Folk Songs, Wise & Otherwise that document the tension and rivalry between light skinned "Negroes" and dark skinned "Negroes" {and vice versa}.

Here's the text of one such song:


Stan' back, Black man,
You cain'ts shine;
Yo' lips is too think,
An' you hain't my kin'.

Git 'way black man
'You jes haint fine;
I'se done quit foolin'
wid de nappy-headed kind.

Stan' back, black man!
Cain't you see
Dat a kinky-headed cgap
Hain't nothin' side of me?

Negro Folk Rhymes, Wise & Otherwise {Thomas W. Talley, Kennikat Press Inc. edition, 1968; pps. 10, 11; originally published in 1922, The Macmillian Company}

Talley includes the following footnote about this song:

"In a few places in the South, just following the Cicil War, the Mulattoes organized themselves into a little guild known as "The Blue Vein Circle", from which those who were black were excluded. This is one of there rhymes."


I'm aware that there were [and still may be] "African American" social organizations and clubs throughout the USA similar to the "blue vein circle" that Talley wrote about. Indeed, the Black Greek letter sorority that I joined during college used to be such an organization.

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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: Azizi
Date: 25 May 08 - 09:45 AM

I should have indicated that in the late 1960s I would not have been accepted into that sorority [which shall remain nameless here] if that incorporated organization still had adhered to its previous preference for light skinned women.

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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: Amos
Date: 25 May 08 - 10:03 AM


I think you are doing a really good job on this topic.

As usual.


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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: Azizi
Date: 25 May 08 - 10:15 AM

Thomas W. Talley's 1922 book Negro Folk Rhymes includes a song titled "I Wouldn't Marry A Black Girl". That book also includes a song titled "I Wouldn't Marry A Yellow Girl Or A White Negro Girl". Here's the words to that last song:


I sh' loves me dat gal dat dey calls Sally Black*
An' I sorter loves some of de res';
I first loves de gals fer lovin' me,
Sen I loves myse'f de bes'.

I wouldn' marry dat yaller N**ger gal,
An' I'll tell you de reason why:
Her neck's drawed out so stringy an' long,
I'se fafeared sh 'ould never die.

I wouldn' marry dat White N**ger gal,
{Fer gracious sakes!} dis is why"
Her nose look lak a kittle spiyt;
An' her skin, it hain't never dry.

Negro Folk Rhymes, Wise & Other Wise {Thomas W. Talley, editor, Kennikat Press, Inc. edition, p. 63; originally published in 1922, The Macmillan Company".

* Talley writes that "'Black' here is not the real name. The name is applied because of the complexion of the girls to whom it was sung."

In that same book, Talley has a chapter titled "A Study In Negro Folk Rhymes". In that chapter Talley writes "...there is the Negro rhyme, 'I Wouldn't Marry A Black Girl', but along with it is another Negro rhymes 'I Wouldn't Marry A White or Yellow Negro Girl'. The two rhymes simply point out together a division of Negro opinion as to the ideal standard of beauty in personal complexion. One part of the Negroes thought white or yellow the most beautiful standard and the pother part of the Negroes thought black the more beautiful standard". [p. 249, Ibid]

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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: Azizi
Date: 25 May 08 - 10:18 AM

I appreciate that compliment, Amos.

I admire what you do here on Mudcat, too.

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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: Sandra in Sydney
Date: 25 May 08 - 10:19 AM

thanks from me, too, I vaguely knew the meanings of these terms and your experience & research have brought them to life.

In India there's the same preoccupation with lighter skin. Skin tone is mentioned in wedding ads, as lighter skinned young people are a more attractive marriage prospect.


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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: Azizi
Date: 25 May 08 - 10:47 AM

I find it rather ironic that 86 years after the first publication of Thomas W. Talley's classic compilation, Negro Folk Rhymes, the first two lines from the song "Stand Back, Black Man" can be found in "contemporary" versions of an African American children's handclap rhyme that is, in part, based on another song that is included in Talley's compilation "I Love Coffee, I Love Tea".

The children's rhyme "I Love Coffee, I Love Tea" is sometimes called "Down Down Baby". Another name for versions of that rhyme is "Shimmy Shimmy Co Co Pa" or some similar sounding title.

In "Stand Back, Black Ma", the lines given are:

"Stan' back, Black man,
You cain't shine"


In the confrontative versions of "Down Down Baby" the lines are:

Stand back white boy
you don't shine.
I'll get a black boy
to beat your behind.


I've not collected any examples in which the racial referents are reversed {meaning the girl says "Stand back black boy/you don't shine/I'll get a White boy to beat your behind". However, it's possible that those examples exist now, or will exist sometime in the future. I have collected one example that says "stand back White girl" and another example that say "stand back boy"}.

For clarification's sake, I'll post a complete example of that rhyme:

Down, down, baby down by the roller coaster
Sweet, sweet baby I'll never let you go

Shemie, shemie coco butter, shemie shemie pop
I like coffee, I like tea, I like a black boy and he likes me
So step back white boy, you don't shine
I'll get the black boy to beat your behind

Last night and the night before
I met my boyfriend at the candy store
He bought me ice cream he bought me cake
He brought me home with a belly ache

Mama, mama, I feel sick
Call the doctor, quick, quick, quick
Doctor, doctor, will I die
Close your eyes and count to five
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, I'm Alive!
-Tonya T. {African American female}, memories of her childhood in Crawfordville, Georgia {1979-1987};

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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: Azizi
Date: 25 May 08 - 10:56 AM

Sandra in Sydney, here's to all people of good will throughout the world hoping for & working for a time when human beings move beyond our value based physical appearance hierarchy to a time when skin color and other indices of physical appearance are nothing more than valueless descriptors.

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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: Azizi
Date: 26 May 08 - 11:41 AM

"Colored" was another group reference that was commonly used for African Americans.

See this excerpt from

"Colored is a North American euphemism once widely regarded as a polite description of black people (i.e., persons of sub-Saharan African ancestry; members of the "Black race"). It should not be confused with the more recent term people of color, which attempts to describe all "non-white peoples", not just blacks. The term colored in particular (along with Negro) has fallen out of popular usage in the United States over the last third of the 20th century, and is now archaic and potentially derogatory, except in certain narrow circumstances such as the name of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

The term "colored" appeared in North America during the colonial era. A "colored" man halted a runaway carriage that was carrying President John Tyler on March 4, 1844. In 1863, the War Department established the "Bureau of Colored Troops." The first twelve Census counts in the U.S. enumerated "colored" people, who totaled nine million in 1900. The Census counts of 1910–1960 enumerated "negroes."
Free people of color were sometimes accorded higher status than blacks, because of the association of the latter with enslaved status. In addition, free people of color were sometimes the children of planters who may have passed on wealth in the form of property or education, including apprenticeship to a trade. In the well-established Creoles of color community in New Orleans and southern Louisiana, many people became educated and owned property, including their own businesses. but were more often considered lesser than people of separate ancestry...

The historical term free people of color refers to people of African descent during slavery who lived in freedom. A related term from the time of slavery is gens de couleur, a French expression that refers to the free descendants of white French colonists and Africans. Because so many of these people had mixed African and European ancestry, they are sometimes labeled mulatto. They are also sometimes referred to as affranchis.

Some struggle to identify with the term, arguing the word color merely refers to level of skin melanin, and so fails to define correctly those who are not noticeably non-white or whose racial background includes both races of white and non-white. It should be further noted that terms such as colored people or people of color are technically misnomers; all white people have color in their skin as well, with the exception of albinos.

The term women of color has been embraced and used to replace the term minority women. Some also prefer the term of color to the term minority because they see the latter as describing a stance of subjugation and objectification"


That article continues by providing definitions for the group referent "coloured" in Britain, South Africa, and elsewhere. Who the term "colored" refers to differs from one nation to another.

From reading Mudcat threads, I have come to understand that the group referent "Black" also has a different meaning in the UK than it does in the United States. If I understood those posts correctly, in the UK, "black" not only refers to people of Black African descent, but also refers to people whose ancestry is East Indian, Pakistani, and [perhaps?] other racial/ethnic groups.

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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: Azizi
Date: 26 May 08 - 12:18 PM

Here's an essay that I wrote on group referents for African Americans:

"Once upon a time, as I'm sure that you're aware, some people of African descent in the United States used the referent 'African' to describe themselves. As evidence of this, one can point to the Protestant denominations AME and AME Zion [African Methodist Episcopal and African Methodist Episcopal Zion].

Some people preferred to be called "Negroes". And other people perferred to be called "colored". "Colored" seemed an apt name for us as there is a wide range of skin colors for individuals within our group, from white, and many shades of brown, to blue black. "Colored people" is the group referent that was selected to describe us by one of our most active national organizations, the NAACP. The term "colored people" remains in the name of that organization which continues to work to protect and advance our civil rights.

In the mid to late 1960s, the referents for Black Americans were really in flux. During this time, a number of African countries were becoming independent nations. For the first time for many of us, the continent of Africa, and African cultures were getting some favorable press. For a growing number of Black Americans, it was a matter of pride to be identified with historical & contemporary mother Africa.

At that time in the United States the 'melting pot theory' was being ditched for the 'multi-cultural' mosaic theory on how American culture is shaped. As a result of this paradigm shift the mass media was paying more attention to the positive contributions that each hypenated ethnic group in the United States provided to the whole.

If was therefore not surprising that eventually the term 'Afro-American' was added to the list of hyphenated Americans [although as per Americans' custom to simplify things, the two words came to be used without the hypens]. So you heard more about "Italian Americans", "Asian Americans", "Native Americans", and "Irish Americans". And you also heard about "European Americans", although I believe California's Latino Americans started using the group referent "Anglo American" instead of "European American".

Then it was that some formerly Negro, formerly colored people argued that we should just use "black" or "black Americans' as our formal group referent. But there was a real problem with this referent. Notice that all the group names but 'black' were capitalized. Did the use of the small 'b' connote a lessened status?...Many thought it could be interpreted this way. So though "black Americans' was still used informally {often with the 'b' capitolized, the search was still on for a formal group referent.

For a while "Afro-American" appeared to be the winner. But then someone noticed that the beginning word for all these hyphenated names except 'Afro' referred to a geographical place-a homeland. Others noticed that 'afro' spelled with a small 'a' was the name of a natural hairstyle that was gaining prominence among segments of Black Americans at that time. For sure brothers and sisters didn't want their formal group name confused with the name of a hairstyle...No, the group name had to connote pride and promote a connection with the glories of Africa past and the promise of Africa now and in the future..

What name would it be? "Why, 'African American' of course!" the leaders exclaimed. And the people followed their leaders' lead as people usually do.

So that was how "African American" won the "what-should-we-be called?" contest. And that is why "African American" remains the formal referent for Black Americans today.

[Sat on a pin. My story end.]

Reposted with minor corrections from thread.cfm?threadid=77610#1386594
Cross cultural marriages

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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: Amos
Date: 26 May 08 - 12:18 PM

There is still a lot of currency for the term "colored" as a noun, in parochial Southern communities.

It is a heinous piece of cultural stupidity.


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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: Azizi
Date: 26 May 08 - 12:30 PM

Ha, Amos!

We crossed posted at the same time. Great minds, and all of that.


I think that the term "Negro" was doomed as our group referent after the rise of multiculturalism was that "Negro" isn't linked to any geographical place. But another reason why I think that the term "Negro" was doomed to be used as our group referent was when it became known that it meant "black" in Spanish.

I think that one reason that "colored people" was preferred at one time by African Americans is that there are so many different shades of skin colors in our race. So this is much more an inclusive term than "black". And there was a time-not very long ago-when it was an insult for a Black person [meaning an African American] to be called "Black". Unfortunately, still today many Black children will start to fight if they are called "black" or "blackie".

There's still a lot of work to do to help Black children [and other children] feel good about their racial/ethnic group, and about themselves.

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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: quokka
Date: 26 May 08 - 12:48 PM

Azizi, they used to 'grade' Indigenous Australians according to the percentage of 'black blood' they had as well - the terms 'quadroon' etc were also used here in Oz for most of the twentieth century, to categorise and often incarcerate people. There was a documentary shown recently about the Freedom Rides here in the 1960's based on the principles of the American Civil Rights movement that is well worth looking up.

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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: Azizi
Date: 26 May 08 - 01:06 PM

With regard to my 25 May 08 - 10:47 AM post to this thread, I've collected some examples of that "Down Down Baby" rhyme that use the term "colored boy" instead of "black boy". The source for one of these examples described hereself as a Puerto Rican woman, Yasmin Hernandez. Yasmin indicated that she knew this rhyme when she lived in a mixed neighborhood in New York City that consisted of Black families and Puerto Rican families.

Here's that example:

Down, down baby
Down, down the roller coaster
Sweet, sweet baby
I'll never let you go
Chimey chimey cocoa pop
Chimey, chimey pow
Chimey, chimey cocoa pop
Chimey, chimey pop
I like coffee, I like tea
I like a colored boy and he likes me
So lets here the rhythm of the hands, (clap, clap) 2x
Let hear the rhythm of the feet (stomp, stomp) 2x
Let's hear the rhythm of the head (ding dong) 2x
Let's hear the rhythm of the hot dog
Let's hear the rhythm of the hot dog
Put em all together and what do you get
(Clap clap, stomp stomp), ding dong, hot Dog!
-Yasmin Hernandez, East Brooklyn, New York, November, 2004 {from her memories of the 1980s}


A Mudcat guest posted a similar version of "I Like Coffee I Like Tea" that contain these lines:

"I like coffee I like tea
I like a colored boy and he likes me
so step back white boy
you don't cause a cool colored boy gonna bet* your behind

* probably a typo for beat, as the next lines continue the theme of beating.



When collecting children's rhymes, I believe that when you can it's important to collect demographical information-including race/ethnicity. I believe that demographics may make a difference in the recognition of slang terms or references to current celebrities. For instance, there's one foot stomping cheer that was [is still?] widely known among Pittsburgh, PA African American girls in my neighborhood in which they say that they are "kickin it with Genuwine". Not only do you have to know that one definition of "kickin it" means "relaxing, spending tome with [hangin out with]. But you also have to know that Genuwine was [is?] the name of a popular young African American R&B singer.

Another reason why I believe that it's important to as much as possible collect demographical information along with the examples of children's rhymes is that these rhymes provide a glimpse into the life, worldview, concerns, and aspirations of specificgroups of children who recite them. Just as the types of rhymes, and the performance of the same rhyme or similar rhymes may differ among different groups of children, the psycho-social meanings of these rhymes may differ among various populations of children.

I'm wondering if the use of that word "colored" in American English children's rhymes could be a way of dating the rhyme and/or if you know that the rhyme was currently recited, the inclusion of that word could be a way of determining that the children saying it are non-Black [because since the late 1960s, "colored" isn't a group referent that African American children would be familiar with or use.

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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: Azizi
Date: 26 May 08 - 01:22 PM

Quokka, thanks for that information about Australia. It seems that many people around the world have suffered as a result of value based color consciousness. In my opinion, the attitudes and actions resulting from value based color consciousness negatively impacts White people as well as people of color.

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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: John on the Sunset Coast
Date: 26 May 08 - 03:36 PM

Azizi- This is a most informative discussion. Would that it could be somehow consolidated for easier reading.

It is truly a shame that folks still think in terms of color, and worse, in shades of color. I remember a TV show episode wherein the Black protagonist was invited to a businessmen's club. The used the brown (shopping) bag test to see if he was light enough to be invited to join. He refused their offer.

My mother, of blessed memory, never could change current terminology, and still referred to Blacks as a Colored fella or woman, but never meant disrespect by it. A woman who I have coffee with regularly, a college graduate and former teacher also uses the term Colored; I guess old habits are hard to break for some.

During my Jr. High (Middle School) days, I used to walk to school with kids of Asian descent and Black-African descent. By high school the races self-segregated, except for the few Blacks who were athletes or had other special talents..

I have to go now, but I'd like to continue this in PMs if that is good with you.


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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: Azizi
Date: 26 May 08 - 04:31 PM

John on the Sunset Coast, thanks for your comments.

I look forward to your pm.


See the next comment I'm posting to this thread which is in reference to folks not changing the group name for Black Americans that they are used to.

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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: Azizi
Date: 26 May 08 - 04:33 PM

This is an excerpt of an essay that was written in 1999 by a friend of mine. This is posted with her permission:

From Colored People To Black
[Barbara Ray]

I remember a time when "black" was not even remotely considered attractive – let alone "beautiful"… we were called "colored-people" and it was an insult to be called "black." In fact, I know an elderly woman personally – right now-who still refers to (us) as colored and I want to correct her every time she says it – I did before but – old habits (way of life) are hard to break.

You just don't know how happy and blessed I felt when the "change" took place .. Black and Beautiful .. I am Black and I'm Proud.. And not just for my own sake...My daughter was teased a lot in school and the community because of her dark skin tone .. but in the late 60's we begin to grow and calling us "black" didn't hurt no mo!

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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: catspaw49
Date: 26 May 08 - 05:02 PM

BTW........Persons/people of color was used at the turn of the previous century to a great extent and by many leaders of the community including DuBois. The term "Colored People" was chosen by the founders based upon that terminology for the NAACP.

I have nothing but respect for the organization and for men like Julian Bond who I was fortunate enough to spend some tme with on his visits to Berea College in the '60's. So my question is, why has the term never changed? I can't believe it bothers the organization a lot if they still use it.


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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: Azizi
Date: 26 May 08 - 05:21 PM

Spaw, I assume that you mean why hasn't the NAACP changed the organization's name to the "new" group referent.

My guesses are
1. the Board of Directors of that organization wanted to preserve that name since it was already a well respected "brand". To change it not only would have involved some economic costs, but would mean that the organization would have to spend time & money familarizing
the public with that new name.

2. the Board of Directors of that organization might have wanted to wait to see which name "won the contest" since in the mid to late 1960s there were a number of group referents vying for the title of the formal group name [Afro-American; Afra-American;

3. the Board of Directors of that organization may have decided that NAAAAP [the National Association for the Advancement of African American people] was too many A's. I certainly think so.


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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: Tangledwood
Date: 26 May 08 - 06:22 PM

".. they used to 'grade' Indigenous Australians according to the percentage of 'black blood' they had as well - the terms 'quadroon' etc were also used here in Oz for most of the twentieth century, to categorise and often incarcerate people. Cheers,
Quokka "

I'm surprised to hear that. I can only assume that it was used in a specific region or in particular walks of life. The only place that I came across the term was in a series of novels set in the southern USA. During the last quarter of the twentieth century I lived in Melbourne, Broken Hill, Arnhem Land, Adelaide, and a couple of years in Papua New Guinea, without ever encountering it. With so many races in Australia I think it would be a very brave, or naive, person that would attempt to categorise percentages of blood lines.

I'm not sure where this discussion is heading though. Given that some offensive words should be removed from current use, no amount of politically correct name changing, e.g. American Indian/Native American/First Nation, will remove bigotry where it exists. Conversely, if you are my friend that doesn't change if you decide to call yourself Negro instead of Afro-American.

Humans love to put each other into categories; Blond/brunette, black/white, Hindu/Moslem, Scottish/Irish, north or south of the river - just because you may be placed into a particular category doesn't necessarily mean that there is any negative judgement attached.

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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: Azizi
Date: 26 May 08 - 08:26 PM

I'm not sure where this discussion is heading

Tanglewood, with regard to your sentence that "Humans love to put each other into categories; Blond/brunette, black/white, Hindu/Moslem, Scottish/Irish, north or south of the river - just because you may be placed into a particular category doesn't necessarily mean that there is any negative judgement attached", I agree.

With regard to your question that I placed in italics, I generally write my purpose for starting threads in my first post to that thread. Although it could have better written, I stated that I had just read a Mudcat thread on the song "My Pretty Quadroon". A couple of people in that thread wrote comments in which they used a lower case letter for the group referent "Negro". As a means of sharing information, and not criticising those posters, I wrote a comment on that thread that addressed to a small degree the history of that group referent, and how, after the mid 1960s we [African Americans] don't use it except as a pejorative. O also addressed the meaning for us of capitol "N" and small "n" for that word.

In this thread, I wanted to explore and wanted other posters to join me in exploring the use-in real life, and in song-of the other referents that have been used for African Americans. In some sense this is akin to an "anthropological study" for its on sake. I also believe that talking about differences can help people learn about other people and cultures, and can help us realize that we are more alike than different.

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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: Azizi
Date: 26 May 08 - 08:28 PM

In my last post, O=I

Any other typos will have to fend for themselves.


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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: GUEST,Artbrooks in Seattle
Date: 26 May 08 - 10:53 PM

I recall a story a friend (who was a deep chocolate brown in skin tone) told me about going to a family reunion for the first time - the kind that my family doesn't have, with multiple iterations of third cousins twice removed. He was amazed that there seemed to be two very distinct groups there; those who were light and and those who were dark skinned. After some inquiry, he learned that a certain set of his relatives had begun to "marry white" (his term, not mine) generations before - that is, to actively seek out lighter-skinned mates. It was as though there were two separate get-togethers, since the two groups did not mingle. He said that he was uncomfortable enough with this entire situation that he and his family soon left.

Just a couple of unconnected points - isn't the United Negro College Fund still a very active and well respected organization?

And, BTW, I've never heard the term "zebra" used in reference to a "mixed-race" individual.

As always, an interesting discussion - and I will attempt to keep my personal antipathy toward the use of colors (ie, black and white) to describe people that cover the full range of hues from pink through tan to brown.

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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: GUEST,Louise
Date: 26 May 08 - 11:47 PM

Interesting discussion Azizi. I teach in a practical nursing school where many of my students are African immigrants or children of immigrants, so when I teach classes on cultural diversity I usually feel that my students know much more about this subject than I do. Still, many of them don't have much of an understanding of how the history of slavery and bigotry here in the US still influences people's attitudes and behavior. When talking about the "one drop theory" I couldn't resist pointing out that such an attitude actually is expressing the fear that the "African blood" i.e. heritage is *stronger* than any amount of "white blood."
To me this is an example of the underlying/unconscious fear that any group of oppressors must feel toward any people they are mistreating. Underneath all the bluster about the innate superiority of the group doing the oppressing is the realization that, given the opportunity, the oppressed could oppress the oppressors in exactly the same way. Fear twists human thinking and behavior in such strange ways.

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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: Azizi
Date: 27 May 08 - 10:28 AM

Artbrooks, you're right. The United Negro College Fund is another institution that kept a retired group referent in its name.

Also, Art, with regard to the word "zebra" as used as an informal referent for people of interracial birth, I've only seen and/or heard that word used by White people. Among Black people-including those who themselves have one birth parent who is Black and one birth parent who is non-Black, the informal referents that I've seen in print and heard are "mixed" and "half and half".

And, btw, I agree with you that color words are problematic, particularly with children, since they know that their skin doesn't look like the color "white" or the color "black". I suppose that I've yielded to societal pressure and use the terms "black" and "white" for people. However, I really don't like the color terms "red" and "yellow", and won't use them as referents for people. I know. I'm not being consistent. But, being inconsistent is a part of life, too.


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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: Azizi
Date: 27 May 08 - 10:30 AM

When talking about the "one drop theory" I couldn't resist pointing out that such an attitude actually is expressing the fear that the "African blood" i.e. heritage is *stronger* than any amount of "white blood."

Louise, that's an interesting point. I hadn't thought of the "one drop theory" in those terms. I also like the way you phrased the statement that "Fear twists human thinking and behavior in such strange ways". You have a great way with words, Louise. Kudos!

Also, Louise, I'd like to encourage you {and other guests who may be reading this thread} to join Mudcat. Membership is free and easy to do. Just click on the word "Membership" that is on the right at the top of the page, and follow those instructions.

I hope to "see" your comments on other Mudcat threads!

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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: Azizi
Date: 27 May 08 - 10:44 AM

Speaking of color referents for people, the word "redbones" is used to describe people of Black/non-Black ancestry who often have a reddish tinge to their skin.

Here's an excerpt from :

"Redbone" is a term used to describe certain racially mixed ethnic groups in the Americas. Many use the term "redbone" for African Americans with light skin. This still seems to cause controversy and confusion among people. A related term is "yellowbone". The two terms tend to blur when one can say someone is "so light that you can see the red blood flowing though their bones".

There are two classes of "Redbones" and are two separate ethnic people. The first ethnic group who were called "Redbones" were groups of multi-ethnic families with similar or the same English surnames who were labeled as Free Persons of Color, Mulatto or Indian by early American census takers. The term was used for these mixed race multi-ethnic groups of families in Louisiana, South Carolina, Mississippi and East Texas...

The ancestry is said to consist of a combination of two or more of the following ethnicities; Northern European, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, South Asian, Native American and African ancestry of various degrees and mixtures...

Redbone" is seemingly a term common in the Neutral Zone and East Texas among nineteenth century era Euro-Americans and African Americans who thought they were referencing people of multi-ethnic genetics. Later generations of these two ethnicities seemingly continued to reference the descendants of these racially obscure people to the extent that some of these descendants seemingly began to think of themselves as "redbone." A usage is also claimed for an isolated enclave in South Carolina whose complexions confounded their neighbors. Close scrutiny reveals only vaguely distinct differences between the culture of the referenced people and the culture of the dominant Euro-Americans surrounding them wherever the epithet is used.

"Melungeon" is simply another epithet seemingly used in similar fashion with evidenced history to about the same era which produced the terms "redbone", "moor", "brass ankle", etc. All these terms have been associated with many of the same surnames. The term "melungeon" was seemingly common among Euro Americans and African Americans in Tennessee and Kentucky before its usages was recently expanded through tourism promotions and genealogy marketers."...


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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: Azizi
Date: 27 May 08 - 10:58 AM

Here's a link to the Redbone Heritage Foundation:

Under its name on the home page is this statement:
"Taking Pride in Who We Are"

Here is the organization's "About Us" statement:

"The Redbone Heritage Foundation is a not for profit organization chartered in the state of Louisiana. Our purpose is to foster research into the origins, the history, the culture, and the ethnicity of those people known as Redbones. Members will be encouraged to conduct such research in a scientific manner without prejudice or predetermined conclusions. Material pertaining to these people will be preserved, published, and made available to other researchers."


This website may have been recently launched, as there are no other pages that I could access. Perhaps the information on the website is for members only. There is a "to join" feature on the home page, but I didn't click it.


The Melungeon Heritage Association is a multipage website with a number of features.
Here's that association's mission statement:

"ur mission is to document and preserve the heritage and cultural legacy of mixed-ancestry peoples in or associated with the southern Appalachians. While our focus will be on those of Melungeon heritage, we will not restrict ourselves to honoring only this group. We firmly believe in the dignity of all such mixed ancestry groups of southern Appalachia and commit to preserving this rich heritage of racial harmony and diversity."


And here's an excerpt from one of the essays on their home page:

"Plecker's Infamous 1943 List

The head of Virginia's Bureau of Vital Statistics from 1912 to 1946, Walter Ashby Plecker, believed "there is a danger of the ultimate disappearance of the white race in Virginia, and the country, and the substitution therefore of another brown skin, as has occurred in every other country where the two races have lived together." This "mongrelization," in Plecker's view, caused of the downfall of several earlier civilizations. He was determined to prevent this in America, or at least in Virginia.

In January of 1943, Plecker sent a circular to all public health and county officials in Virginia, listing, county by county, the surnames of all families suspected of having African ancestry. The cover letter stated that they were "mongrels" and were now trying to register as white. The names listed in the southwestern Virginia counties included Collins, Gibson, Moore, Goins, Bunch, Freeman, Bolin, Mullins, and others described as "Chiefly Tennessee Melungeons." You can read more inside..."

[The word "inside" is hyperlinked on that page]


Here's another excerpt from that home page:

"First Union Gallery

In July of 1997, members of an online mailing list decided to gather in Wise, Virginia, to celebrate their Melungeon heritage. The organizers expected about 50 people; instead, more than 600 showed up. First Union attracted people from all over America - researchers, writers, and most of all, people who were curious about their ancestry and were exploring their Melungeon roots, whether known or suspected. From First Union, the Melungeon Heritage Association was chartered. Inside, you'll find a photo gallery of that weekend in July 1997".

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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: PoppaGator
Date: 27 May 08 - 12:08 PM

There were significant differences in racial attitudes in the English-speaking American colonies as opposed to the French and Spanish areas of the New World, notably Louisiana.

While Africans were enslaved in both areas, they were much more thoroughly dehumanized in the English colonies. In Louisiana (the area of which I am most knowledgeable), a significant population of middle-income, well-educated gens libre de coleur ~ free people of color ~ was allowed to develop.

These folks considered themselves, and were considered by others, to be of an entirely separate category from enslaved Africans. It was not until after the Civil War, during the era when Jim Crow laws emerged, that mixed-race or "Creole" Louisianans were first looked upon as "colored" or "Negro," that is, as members of the same social/"racial" category as the freed slaves. That was when the "one drop theory" took hold, which was so eloquently described above by Louise.

It's sad but true that the legalized,codified prejudices of the societies into which we are born "colors" our perception of each other as fellow human beings [pun intended]. In the US, all of us, black and white alike, generally see anyone who exhibits any trace of African ancestry as African-American or black.

In South Africa, on the other hand, longstanding apartheid laws always distinguished between "blacks" (native Africans with little or no "mixed" ancestry) and "coloreds" (people with any mixture of European and African ancestry, seen as "less inferior" than the 100% Africans, and subject to less stringent legal limitations).

Even now, after tremendous political change in South Africa, I'm sure that people there still see each other not as either black or white, but as black, colored or white. And, to folks brought up in such a culture, African-Americans, almost all of whom have a degree of mixed ancestry, do not look "black"; they are seen as "colored."

The fact that legalized segregation/apartheid was abolished a generation ago in the US, and more recently in the RSA, while of course steps in the right direction, did not and could not immediately cancel the prejuducual effects of decade after decade of life-experience in a society within which racism has been institutionalized.

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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: Azizi
Date: 27 May 08 - 04:53 PM

PoppaGator, thanks for your well written post. As you said, while we are moving in the right direction, people are still experiencing the the effects of centuries of racism. There is much to do to help eradicate and lessen personal racism as well as institutional racism in housing, the education system, the criminal justice system, and the mass media etc.


I have one question for you though PoppaGator. What is the RSA? Does that refer to South Africa? Or is that a typo for the USA?

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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: paula t
Date: 27 May 08 - 05:25 PM

The issue of categorising people by colour always perplexes me.A Black friend of mine said that she preferred to be called Black even though she was "officially" categorised as "mixed race".The term "Black" to her was a political term which related to her experience of society and the way she was treated within it. It was related to a perceived lack of power.Azizi, I would value your opinion about this. Is this still the case?(unfortunately my friend died in the late 1990s)
I believe that there is still a great deal of ignorance.Hopefully we have moved on a little since the printing of a set of encyclopedias which I picked up in an antiques shop a few years ago (c1930s).It contained a chapter about "The 5 races of Man"and these races were"White, Black, Brown, Red and Yellow".Where to start eh?A terrifying reflection of attitudes in our not too distant past!

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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: Azizi
Date: 27 May 08 - 06:29 PM

Many people who have one African American birth parent and one non-African American birth parent consider themselves to be African American. Some don't. Senator Barack Obama is an example of a person of Black/non-Black ancestry who considers himself African American. I have read that champion golfer Tiger Woods does not.

In my opinion, Americans and other Western nations throughout the world rely on visual clues to help them determine who is or is not a member os specific races. In that sense, individual people lack the power to decide which race they belong to since their physical appearance-their skin color, facial features, and hair texture-largely make that determination for them. If they choose to go against societal norms, and declare themselves to be White even if they don't "look White", regardless of whether or not they were raised with very little contact with African American people, they will have a difficult time convincing other people that they are, indeed, White.

I've met people who I and who other people would consider to be African American based on their physical features. Those people had Black and Native American ancestry, and were raised as Native Americans. Some of them self-selected their racial group to be only Native American, and some of them indicated that their race is both African American and Native American. I think that American society is much more accepting of a person saying that they belong to both the Black race and the Indian race, then they are with a person saying that they belong to both the White race and the Black race.

The "powers that have been and the powers that still be" have made what was once legal rulings and what is now is still social determinations that a person cannot be considered a member of the White race if they have any known degree of "Black blood". However, this White exclusivity rule has been weakened because nowadays people can claim Native American ancestry and still be considered White {if they look White}. Maybe that is also the case for people who have some Asian ancestry.

Because the one drop of Black blood rule is undoubtedly racist, I believe that the time will come when more people of Black/non-Black parentage who don't "look White", will insist that they are White. And the time will come when more people of Black/White ancestry who don't "look White" will insist that they are members of both the Black and the White race. I believe that time will come, sooner rather than later. But I hope that those people who make the decision not to be legally counted as Black, recognize that some members of society will probably still consider them to be Black. And I hope that those people who "opt out of membership" to the Black race, will not make that decision because they are prejudiced against Black people.

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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: GUEST,Joseph de Culver City
Date: 27 May 08 - 06:44 PM

Azizi, You've done a fine thing here. Thanks for your scholarship and generosity. I have nothing substantive to add to the discussion, but I wanted to say that I find your many posts on this topic inspiring. You remind me of my grandma (and that's saying something).

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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: artbrooks
Date: 27 May 08 - 07:24 PM

"What people want to be called" reminds me of an experience early in my career in Federal personnel administration. We (the VA) wanted to get all of the possible points for employing "minorities", especially in professional and supervisory positions, so we were sent a printout of the "racial" breakdowns among our employees, which was based entirely upon their personal self-identifications. It said that we had no Negro (the term then in use) physicians, which seemed to me to be incorrect. I went to speak to the member of our staff who was from Ethiopia (and who was very dark-complected), and asked him for permission to "correct" his records. He told me in no uncertain terms that (1) Negro only referred to people from south of the Niger River, (2) that he was a direct descendant of the Queen of Sheba and (3) he considered himself to be a Caucasian (the term then in use). I said, "thank you, doctor", went away, and his record remained untouched.

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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: robomatic
Date: 27 May 08 - 07:47 PM

My father used the term 'colored' most of his life as a standard (non-derogatory) term for people I call black. He was probably aware that it was becoming archaic but we are creatures of habit. He did not have a racist bone in his body.

I remember meeting a very interesting man at a Bahai gathering, his background was Jewish Portugues, Native American, and Black. He appeared to be a black haired Caucasion but he told me at family gatherings he was the stand-out.

- - - - - - The one drop of blood rule taken to a comedic extreme:

In the movie "Dogma" by Kevin Smith, protagonist Linda Fiorentino is supposed to be an nth level descendant of Jesus. When original disciple Chris Rock reveals that the Savior was indeed "a brother", Jason Mewes looks over at Linda and goes: "she's black?"

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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: Jack Campin
Date: 27 May 08 - 08:00 PM

Following on Sandra's comment, I've heard "half-caste" quite often in the UK, Australia and New Zealand. I assume it's a relic of the Empire, i.e. from India. It was almost invariably derogatory - in New Zealand the implication was that such people didn't even have the perceived redeeming value of "pure-blooded" Maori, being mostly urbanized proletarians with no traditions of deference. There was a whole raft of ugly stereotypes about being mixed-race in NZ, though when they got politicized it was more in the direction of European fascism than the American slave-society model.

I never did figure out *why* "Negro" became perceived as an insult. On arriving in the US from New Zealand in 1974, I used it when talking to my Afro-American neighbour and he looked at me as if I'd just been chipped out of a dinosaur fossil deposit. I got his point, but it had never occurred to me that the word itself could carry any negative connotations, any more than "Maori" did; in fact, to this day I don't think I've ever heard it used as a derogatory term.

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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: Charley Noble
Date: 27 May 08 - 08:49 PM


Thanks again for provoking a very important thread and for providing your perspective for sorting it out.

I grew up in Maine, where Black students were few and far between, and the ones in my high school were considered minor celebrities (late 1950's).

When I was accepted for the Peace Corps (1960's) and assigned to teach high school in Ethiopia I had to reconfigure categories. I was to teach Africans (Ethiopians) who considered themselves "White" although they looked "Black" to me but it was the "Bantu" that they (the Ethiopians) looked down on as "slaves." Frankly I never did figure it out, other than one's ethnic group also played a role in how one was ranked.

We, as "Americans" got away with a lot because of where we came from. There were also Hindu and Sikh teachers in the high schools and I never figured out where they were ranked by the Ethiopians. Well, we were busy teaching and if we could get by as teachers, that was more than enough!

"We" tended to look down on the Hindu and Sikh teachers because they tended to write there lessons on the blackboard for the students to copy while we churned out reams of paper via our state-of-the-art Gestetna (Hah! I bet you don't know what that is!) stencil printing machines.

The Ethiopians were puzzled in turn by our Black volunteers. But they were obviously "Americans" and generally were accepted as such.

Of course when I was doing my initial library research on where I was being sent, I found such lovely exploration books titled as ETHIOPIA: Hellhole of Creation, and National Geographic "exploration" articles; they were less than useful for me at the time (prior to training), although interesting (and even amusing) in retrospect.

Most of us were "Whites" in a country where the resident "Blacks" had no sense of inferiority via colonialism. There were internal politics which we never did understand, and external politics which we were too naive to comprehend. As Peace Corps high school teachers we were a third of the teaching staff of the country, which had a major impact on the education system of that country. One wonders what kind of impact that was!

Charley Noble

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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: Azizi
Date: 27 May 08 - 09:49 PM

Jack, in my opinion, "Negro" is derogatory and degrading, as it carries the negative, historical baggage of the pre 1970s-before we "said it loud/I'm Black & I'm proud". Few African Americans under sixty years of age still use the term "Negro" in spoken language or in print, unless we mean it as a put down {insult}. For instance, if a Black man or Black woman acts in a subservient, currying for favors manner toward White people, he or she may be called a "Negro". If he or she really does that uncle tom, aunt jemina thing up, than he or she is a negro with a small n, which means the insult has been multiplied to the x degree.

We {African Americans} realize that most White people have difficulty keeping up with our slang and colloquial expressions-particularly since we often change them if they become used too often by White people. :o)

But we figure that it's been almost forty years since we decided on the formal referent "African American". Therefore, by now, we think that White people should be used to saying and writing "African American" instead of "Negro". The best we can say of a White person from the USA who doesn't use "African American" as the formal term for Black people is that they are old fashioned. But "old fashioned" suggests that they may be stuck in the pre-1970s when many White people didn't respect Black people's humanity. Using "Negro" would call into question whether that [non-Black] person is just simply stuck in the past because of his or her inability to stay current, or is using a long retired referent on purpose to convey the message that Black people should have remained second class citizens.

Notice that I said "African American" and not
"Afro-American". These two terms are absolutely not the same.
Using "Afro-American" as our group referent means the non-African American person is trying. But using the term "Afro-American" means for some reason or reasons-good, bad, or indifferent-that person hasn't kept up with the times. Instead, they are stuck in that brief interim period between the late 1960s and the late 1970s or so before "African American" had been solidified as the approved referent for Black Americans.

Of course, a non-Black person could just say "Black people" or "Black Americans", though both of those terms refer to more people in the African Diaspora than African Americans. But my suggestion is not to say "the Blacks" [or "the Whites"] or "the Black community". "Black" should always be used with another noun. Why? Well, to do otherwise has come to be interpreted as a person generalizing, and lumping all Black people together into one person, And that is a big no no. It harks back to that "all Black people look alike" syndrome. There is more than one Black person. There are tons of Black people, numerous Black communities, and different Black cultures. We aren't a homogeneous people who think alike, talk alike, look alike, or act alike.

I wish there were at least one other Black person on this forum who publicly acknowledged his or her Blackness. I wish there were times when we [that person and me] could go at it about politics or religion or culture or what have you and then folks would see that Black people don't always agree.

Maybe I'd disagree with that person just to prove my point that all Black people are not the same.

Well, maybe not.


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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: Azizi
Date: 27 May 08 - 09:55 PM

Oh well, another font command gone wrong. I can see it happened after the word "communities". Oh well, practice makes perfect, or so they say.

Sorry 'bout that.

But while I'm here, the "maybe not" that I wrote at the end of my last post refers to me disagreeing for disagreement's sake with that other Black person who should show up on this forum as a regular poster sometime soon {I hope}.

It does not mean that I disagree with the point that I made that all Black people are not alike. That should be obvious.

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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: Azizi
Date: 27 May 08 - 10:03 PM

Charley, it's always good to "hear" from you.

Have I mentioned lately that you need to write a book on your experiences. It would be so interesting to read, and I'd learn so much from it.

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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: Franz S.
Date: 28 May 08 - 12:50 AM


I've been reading your posts with deep interest for several years now, never feeling that I had anything to contribute but learning much from the discussion. Maybe this time I have something to say.

I went to college with Charley Noble and we're still friends. My mother always assured me that on the 1950 census I am listed as Negro or Black or whatever the currently acceptable term (to the Census Bureau) was at the time. That was because my stepfather was Black/Negro/Afro-American/African American. My aunt (my stepfather's sister) had six children ranging in skin color from "light, bright, almost white" to very definitely Black. I'm clearly white/White/ even Jewish by complexion and genetics, but I've been told by family members that I'm the patriarch of an African American family of which I am the only white member. I say this not to brag but to try to make clear where I come from.

When I was a youngster in the late '40s and through the '50s I remember clearly the struggle in the (may I just use Black to save typing?) community to get media and government agencies to capitalize Negro.   No sooner had that battle been almost won when Negro became a Tom word and Black was the word in my community. When Black became acceptable later there was a decade or so of casting about before African American became the preferred term.

Through all of this the central issue I believe has always been respect, and who gets to make the definitions. The discussion of labels from the colored/Negro/Black/Afro-American/African American community has always been about whether we (I include myself in the group because I choose to) may define ourselves or whether we must be defined by those who oppress (or "don't have a prejudiced bone in their bodies"). When a label we choose gets co-opted, we naturally look for another term that is OURS, not theirs,

I have a hard time using African American, not because of any political concern but because of habit. I'm still caught up to some degree in the struggle of my childhood to get the damn newspapers to capitalize Negro as a sign of respect. I've gotten accustomed to "Black" after 40 years. I still remember reading the Baltimore Afro-American (along with the Defender and the Pittsburg Courier) when I was a kid.

In this country the "one drop" theory has always ruled. Maybe my childrens' generation or my grandchildrens' generation will succeed in making this discussion irrelevant except as a historical curiosity. I can hope. Whatever the laws might have said about what legally makes someone Black, one drop usually controls. I can't remember the '50s movie about that; " Imitation Of Life"?

But the isuue is respect. Do we get to define ourselves or do we acquiesce in their definition of us? The genetic definiions of proportion of African DNA are of historical interest-what do those old words mean? But now as always it's about who has the power and how it is used.

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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: Celtaddict
Date: 28 May 08 - 01:41 AM

I suspect a good deal of the confusion about the 'right' way to refer to friends and neighbors with some African ancestry stems from the ideas Azizi posted above "we often change them if they become used too often by White people. :o)" and Franz, above, "When a label we choose gets co-opted, we naturally look for another term that is OURS, not theirs" This seems to suggest that, not only is there not "THE" accepted term, other than strictly temporarily, that white people can use, but also that once we start using a term, it begins to seem derogatory, and a new group referent is sought. This is a bit like adolescents' slang, which, if the adults (aka 'they') start understanding and using it, must be changed, as a type of 'code' promoting unity of a group which feels itself at odds with the 'others' who do not use the terms. It is also a bit like the ongoing change in how various physical and mental conditions are described. Whatever term has been in common use, as society progresses, seems to suggest an earlier time prior to that progress, so comes to seem derogatory; so 'simpleminded' became 'retarded' (which means 'slowed down') became 'mentally disabled' became 'developmentally challenged' as society learned more about people living with these conditions and the affected individuals made greater progress in mainstream society; 'crippled' became 'handicapped' became 'disabled' became 'physically challenged' became 'differently abled.' Perhaps the perception of need to seek a new group referent reflects a recognition of social change, of progress in sensibility, in equality, in opportunity, in perceptions of others.

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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: Tangledwood
Date: 28 May 08 - 05:56 AM

"I never did figure out *why* "Negro" became perceived as an insult. "

Jack, this is purely my own theory. Enslaved Africans came with the label "negro" already attached by common British usage. I assume that the white property owners in southern USA during that era were comparatively poorly educated. It seems quite feasible to me that they could have corrupted the word; - negro - negra - nigger. The last word became offensive due to its association with slavery when that became universally offensive. Later the word association was reversed carrying the offensiveness with it.
Just a theory with no research to back it up.

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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: Azizi
Date: 28 May 08 - 06:26 AM

Through all of this the central issue I believe has always been respect, and who gets to make the definitions.
-Franz S

Franz S, it's a pleasure to meet you. I very much appreciate you sharing your story and your observations about the diversity of Black life in America. I am particularly glad that you wrote about those times that I also remember when Black people struggled to get media and government agencies to capitalize the word "Negro".

I recognize you as a fellow African American because-as you said-you choose to be part of that racial group in part because that is the way you were raised. I'm sure that there are Black people who have a closer affinity for specific White ethnic groups {or other racial groups} then that's their choice, and that's alright with me [not that it matters a hill of beans what I think. I should rephrase that to say that it doesn't matter to me if a Black person chooses to identify more with a specific White {or Asian or other racial} group as long as they aren't rejecting being Black because they are prejudiced toward us. I knew a White girl in high school who was absolutely "in to" Chinese culture. She learned how to write in Chinese, tried to learn how to speak Chinese, and was vociferous in her study of historical Chinese cultures. She told me that she believed that she had been Chinese in another life. Who am I to say she was wrong about that?

I don't want to live in a color blind world. I want to live in a world where people recognize & celebrate the beauty & richness of cultural diversity. I believe that there can be healthy and vibrant unity in diversity-including racial, ethnic, religious, gender, gender orientation, age, and all other forms of diversity.

Frantz, in your post you mentioned Imitation Of Life
This 1959 tear jerker film is about a very light skinned girl who rejects her Black mother and moves away from her to another city where she "passes" for White. That movie is based on a 1933 novel of the same name and is a remake of a 1934 film.

And by the way, Franz, I thought that my prayers for a brotha or sista to disagree with had been answered. But I agreed with everything you wrote.

But there is one thing you wrote that I can take exception to-you spelled "Pittsburgh" wrong. The name of that city that is my adopted home is spelled with an "h" at the end.

So there!


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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: Azizi
Date: 28 May 08 - 07:12 AM

Celtaddict, "African American" has been the formal referent for Black Americans since the mid to the late 1970s.

In referring to Black people, it's also appropriate to use the informal referent "Black". For instance, there's the James Brown song "Say It Loud, I'm Black and I'm proud". Note that James Brown didn't write "Say It Loud, I'm African American and I'm proud".

I believe that I spoke part of the truth when I said that we {Black people} change our slang and colloquial expressions when they become used too often by Whites. But in my opinion, that is only one of the reasons why African American slang changes so often. I think one other reason is that we just like to play with words. And we love to create new things, often based on older things. However, the reasons for the change in group referents are much deeper than that. As I wrote in my 27 May 08 - 09:49 post to this thread, I believe that the word "Negro" was rejected by Black people because it was too closely associated with slavery, and too closely associated with the struggles for equality that occurred in the late 19th century, the early twentieth century, and late middle of the twentieth century.

I think that the 1960s and 1970s were times of change. I believe that we {Black Americans} were heavily influenced by the multicultural movement of those times which paid homage to the cultures of different ethnic American populations. One thing that these populations have in common is that they are connected to a geographical place-China for the Chinese, France for the French, Ireland for the Irish, Poland for the Polish etc.

African Americans are a mixed race people. Most African Americans have some White ancestry & some Native American ancestry. And some African Americans {also} have some Asian ancestry. However, the tie that binds us together as a racial group is that we have some degree of African ancestry. I believe that the fact that so many African nations were declaring their independance from European nations during the 1960s contributed to a large degree to the pride we Black Americans felt about being Black. When we grew dissastified with the group referent "Negro", we tried out several other referents and then we [that is to say, a number of Black leaders] decided that African American would be our formal referent. The referent "African American" began to be used in the print and visual medias replacing "Negro", "Colored people", and "Afro-American" as, "Afra-American" and eventually African American became our formal referent of choice. At the same time, "Black" continued to be used as an informal referent for African American people, and other people of the African Diaspora. Notice how I go back and forth in using that formal referent and that informal referents. As the "hip-hoppers" say "It's all good".

It should also be noted that in choosing "African American" as our formal referent, we looked forward by going back to the past to reclaim a group referent that we had used before. For example, the Black religious denominations AME and AMEZ-African Methodist Episcopal, and African Methodist Episcopal Zion had never taken the word "African" from their church names.

While America may be in a change decade now {as reflected in the slogans of the probable Democratic party nominee for USA President, Senator Barack Obama}, the referent "African American" has been very stable for almost 40 years. I don't see that formal referent for Black Americans changing any time soon.

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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: Azizi
Date: 28 May 08 - 07:49 AM

A little bit of house keeping-the "as" between "Afro American", and "Afra American" is a typo as is the "s" at the end of the word referent in this sentence: "Notice how I go back and forth in using that formal referent and that informal referents". I was only speaking about one informal referent "Black".


Now that you mention it, the close connection of the word "Negro", with the word "n****r" is probably a large part of the reason why we went searching for another group referent to replace it. The fact that "African American" is connected to a geographical place is probably the strongest reason why we decided upon that particular referent.

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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: Uncle Phil
Date: 28 May 08 - 09:00 AM

I meant to post something last night, but lost track of time once I started reading the Creole web site referenced earlier in the thread.

I grew up in Louisiana in the 1950s and 1960s. Terms like 'quadroon' or 'octoroon' were no longer in general use in the 1950s. We knew what they meant, but they were just quaint, historical terms to us. Similarly we knew what 'mulatto' meant, but didn't use the word. 'One drop' was conventional wisdom (and probably the law, though I don't really know) so we had no use for words to describe degrees of racial mixing.

My mother taught us it was polite to say 'white' and 'colored'. We were taught to use capitalized 'Negro' and capitalized 'Caucasian' in school. 'Nigra' was still in use, but us cool kids didn't use the word because it sounded old-fashioned. 'Nigger' was used in day-to-day conversation, sometimes as a deliberate slur but sometimes just as a word to identify someone's ethnic group. It was never a nice word and seems to get more emotionally charged as time goes on. I don't recall hearing anyone using black or African-American (or any other hyphenated ethnicity) as a racial referent until the 1960s.

As a matter of opinion, words that describe a physical characteristic (white, black, negro, redskin) still look odd to me when capitalized because they are not based on proper nouns. Words based on national origin (Chinese-American, German-American, Hispanic) should be capitalized because the names of countries are proper nouns. By the same logic Asian-American and African-American should also be capitalized since they are based on proper nouns.
- Phil

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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: Azizi
Date: 28 May 08 - 10:31 AM

Hello, Phil. Thanks for your interesting post. I agree with you that certain words look funny when they're capitolized. But there are a lot of things that shouldn't be that are, right?

I only capitolize Black since I remember-in a vague sort of way-the efforts that were made by "Negroes" to capitolize the first letter of that group referent. Because I'm using Black as a replacement for Negro, {and once that referent was retired, for African American}, it makes sense to me to also capitolize the first letter in the word word Black.

And since I capitolize the word "Black", it makes sense for consistency's sake and out of respect for people, to also capitolize the word "White".

That said, I don't get bent out of shape it other people don't capitolize the first letters of Black or White when they are used as a group referent. And as I said earlier, I don't ever use the words yellow and red to refer to people. This may be inconsistent on my part, but I never said I was consistent.


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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: Franz S.
Date: 28 May 08 - 10:35 AM


Thanks for your kind response. Sorry about the Pittsburgh typo; I really do know better.

Uncle Phil-

The same word can be a common or a proper noun dpending on context and intent. Think of all the people surnamed White, Brown, Green, etc. I even know of a guy whose last name is Pink.

Racial referents are always emotionally loaded. I have known a number of WhitesAnglos who defended their right to use the word "n****r" because African Americans themselves used it. I'm not going to defend its use by anyone. I personally find it almost impossible even to write it much less say it because of the emotional impact on me and my family when it was used against us. It COULD NOT be just another word.

The same applies to capitalization of Black or Colored when referring to African Americans. The lack of the capital letter feels to me like a slur because that was usually its intent in my childhood.

I'm fond of words and grammar and can happily discuss them endlessly, but in this case the emotional content is just too high.

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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: Azizi
Date: 28 May 08 - 10:59 AM

Somewhat off-topic. Okay, really off-topic.

There was a discussion in a relatively recent Mudcat thread, whose name I can't recall, about the use of Oriental as referent for people. It seems that this term is still used in the United Kingdom, but isn't any longer approved as a referent for people in the United States. I remember the saying from around the 1970s? that "Oriental is a rug, not a person"...I cringe every time I see oriental [usually spelled with a small "o"} used as a referent for people. But I confess that I cringe even more everytime I see that "n****g" spelled out. When there are threads about minstrel songs or secular African American slave songs, I either don't open them or I emotionally & mentally prepare myself that I'm probably going to be confronted with that word with all the negative imagery that it implies to me-and to a number of Black people.   


I'd love this community to be more multicultural. I believe that meeting and conversing with people from diverse cultures is an enriching experience. Every culture has its folk music and folk customs. It would be great to learn about different folk songs and folk customs from the people who grew up learning them and living them. I would love to know more about Latino/Hispanic songs and games, and Native American songs and games, and Asian songs and games, and Maori songs and games, and Yoruba songs and games etc etc etc.

I think that a lot of people from these populations don't come to Mudcat because they think that the only type of "folk music" this forum is interested in is the music from Western Europeans, and music from Anglo-Americans. But the fact of the matter is that on Mudcat any member or guest can start a thread on almost any subject. Therefore, the fact that there are no threads on those subjects isn't a legitimate excuse not to start one and two and more.

Here's hoping that more people from different racial and ethnic groups in the USA and elsewhere in the world, will begin to make use of this forum to share information about their folk music and their cultures.

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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: Azizi
Date: 28 May 08 - 11:02 AM

Franz, I posted my comment about that n word before reading yours.

And re your other points, thanks for the back up!

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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: Jack Campin
Date: 28 May 08 - 11:33 AM

"From reading Mudcat threads, I have come to understand that the group referent "Black" also has a different meaning in the UK than it does in the United States. If I understood those posts correctly, in the UK, "black" not only refers to people of Black African descent, but also refers to people whose ancestry is East Indian, Pakistani, and [perhaps?] other racial/ethnic groups."

I'm in Scotland, which is a good bit different to England in its racial mix, but I think that widened usage of "Black" is relatively unusual, mainly confined to people with a strong political agenda (primarily white racists, but also people trying to promote solidarity among non-white peoples). I would never think of applying it to an Asian myself.

There isn't much alternative to "Black" for people of African descent here - "African-British" ("-Scottish", "-English") is never used, "Afro-Caribbean" is very commonly used, and "African" tends to be applied to first generation immigrants from Africa with no distinctive word to label their children. It's fairly common for people to label themselves with a specific national origin - Barbadian, Ghanaian, whatever (makes more sense in the UK since most people of African descent will know exactly where their ancestors came from).

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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: Azizi
Date: 28 May 08 - 12:30 PM

Here's a hyperlink to the thread that includes a discussion about the use in Great Britain of "Oriental" as a referent for Asians:

BS: Mudcat Is Difficult For People Of Color

See the post at 02 Mar 08 - 02:31 PM and probably some posts before it and definitely some posts after it.

Thanks to Mudcatter Rowan that thread also contains hyperlinks to other Mudcat threads on race and race relations. I suppose this thread should join that list.

That thread was much more emotionally difficult for me than this one. I stand by the words that I wrote in that thread, but probably would change its title to "Sometimes Mudcat can be difficult for people of color."

That said, I'm glad that I remained a part of this Mudcat community because as a result of being part of this community, I have met and exchanged conversation with many good people, and I have learned more about myself and about others.

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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: Azizi
Date: 28 May 08 - 12:41 PM

Jack Campin, thanks for that information about the use of referents in Scotland and other parts of the UK. The fact that people of African descent in the UK know "their roots and culture" [as the late great Bob Marley put it] is a blessing.

Few African Americans don't know which African ethnic groups their African ancestors came from. Condequently, we {African Americans} pick up some words from Swahili East and Central Africa, and some music & religion, and body gestures and more from the Congo {Central Africa}, and fashion from Senegal West Africa, and more music, fashion, dance, and religion from the Yoruba in Nigeria {West Africa} and kente cloth, day names, and spider stories, and adinkra symbols from the Akan {Ghana, West Africa}, and some boot dancing and Chaka Zulu admiration from South Africa etc etc etc.

That's how we have connected ourselves to the motherland, because we don't know and have little way of knowing who our African ancestors were. And so we make do in that way. Which is much much better than nothing.

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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: Azizi
Date: 28 May 08 - 12:44 PM


Few African Americans don't know which African ethnic groups their African ancestors came from ...what a terrible sentence! Ugh!!!

Here's what I meant to write: Few African Americans know the ethnic group of their African ancestors.

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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: PoppaGator
Date: 28 May 08 - 05:26 PM

A few random observations:

The English (if not the British) have a long history of referring to dark-skinned non-African people as "black" ~ specifically, the native people of several of their colonies. Natives of the Indian subcontinent (i.e., current-day India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh) have a range of skin tones most of which are darker than those of Europeans, but have always been considered "Caucasian" by those who take seriously the concept of "race." English colonizers typically referred to the people of India as "black."

Indeed, I'm pretty sure that the beloved but fatally controversial children's book "Little Black Sambo" is set in India, not Africa.


While African-Americans obviously have no way of knowing the African communities from which their ancestors originated, we all know that the slave traders bought most of their human cargo in a fairly small area on the coast of West Africa. The slaves were not necessarily native to the immediate area ~ they came from tribes/communities that had been conquered by the slave-selling Africans who traded with the Europeans ~ but it's a pretty good bet that almost all of them were from relatively nearby West-African areas, not from the distant lands of East Africa and South Africa.

I've read some linguistic studies that trace a few African words that have entered American English through their use among the slave populations. They are invariably from West African languages. (The only example I can think of at the moment is "gumbo," from a West African word for the vegetable we call "okra.")

Current-day African American scholars and others interested in promoting black pride, etc., have adopted words and customs from all parts of sub-Saharan Africa in an effort to create (or re-create) a semi-synthetic heritage for African-Americans. One example would be the Swahili words used for the various days of Kwanzaa ~ few if any of the enslaved ancestors of today's Black American population would have spoken Swahili, a language of East Africa. Nevertheless, I think it's entirely OK for folks endeavoring to create a history for themselves (because their own real history was stolen from them) to appropriate whatever Africanisms they choose.


One more observation: people's racial identity really has as much to do with community and culture as it does with genetics. In the US, where strict racial segregation according to the "one drop theory" held sway for over a century, "mixed-race" people ~ including even those with a single ancestor of Arican descent among many white ones ~ were legally deprived of rights and consigned to a community of similarly restricted second-class American citizens. Over time, all members of this downtrodden group came to recognize each other as brothers and sisters, and as "different" from the white ruling group. In another setting such as South Africa, where a more complicated system of racial discrimination was in place, mixed-race folks were subject to a different degree of discrimination compared to their "pure"-black African neighbors, and everyone in that society, white black, and brown alike, would perceive and feel a definite difference between the "colored" and "black" communities.

The racial community and identities of one's parents (and maybe grandparents) have a lot to do with whether a given dark-complected American is considered ~ by himself as well as by others ~ either "biracial" or simply "Black/African-American."

Consider Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter, who has a White mother and a Black father, and therefore grandparents and cousins, etc., in the white community and in the black community. Someone like that is a prime example of a "biracial" person, because he knows and has roots in two separated-by-race societal groups.

Barack Obama would be a similar case, but I didn't use him as my primary example here, because of his estrangement from his father and his father's family. Young Barack would not have had contact with the African-American world through any of his family members, because his paternal grandparents were not only unknown to him, they were also Africans, not African-Americans ~ a whole different thing. Still in all, he must have been very much aware of his "biracialness," because on the one hand his mom and her family were white Americans, while he himself would invariably be seen by others as Black.

Now, Obama and Jeter are persons with half-white and half-black ancestry, and who grew up with one foot in each race, so to speak.

In contrast, consider the very many African-Americans who have similarly "half-and-half" DNA/ancestry, not because of one white and one black parent, but because of sixteen great-grandparents every one of whom had black and white ancestry in roughly equal proportions. People in this category would come from Black American communities, and every branch of their extended families would be Black, by custom and culture, by the perception of others, and even by law ~ by laws no longer in effect today, but nevertheless by laws that played an essential role in determining the social status and the group identity of all those parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, etc., all the way back to the early slave era.

Here in New Orleans, in particular, there is a large community of Creole folks whose ancestry is probably 60-80% French/European and 20-40% African, and whose family trees include plenty of individuals who were considered "quadroons" and "octoroons" well before the Louisiana Purchase. Members of these families who lived in the 17th-18-19th centuries, prior to about 1880 when Jim Crow raised his ugly head, did NOT consider themselves "black" any more than they considered themselves "white." Only after these proud, even aristocratic, people were subjected to the same legalized discrimination as their blacker brothers and sisters did they even begin to identify with other African Americans. In more recent years, many of these Creole persons emerged as civil-rights leaders, thanks in large part to their familes' longstanding involvement in education, their generally well-established financial footing, and their familiarity with middle-class and even upper-middle-class mores.


PS to Azizi: "RSA" stands for "Republic of South Africa." Sorry I didn't clarify.

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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: Azizi
Date: 28 May 08 - 05:30 PM

Readers of this thread may be interested in this review of the 2006 book Race in Another America: The Significance of Skin Color in Brazil written by University of California, Los Angeles sociologist Edward E. Telles. This review of that book was written by Tanya Hernandez is professor of law and justice at Rutgers University Law School-Newark.

Here's an excerpt of that review:

..."Like the United States, Brazil is a racially diverse nation with a significant number of African descendants, stemming from the country's history of slavery. Yet Brazil's involvement in the African slave trade was even longer and more intense than that of the United States. As a result, Brazil has more African-descended citizens than any nation in the world except Nigeria. After emancipation, Brazil's racial divisions continued, but the country occasionally provided social mobility for a few light-skinned, mixed-race individuals. Yet this social mobility was directly tied to the racist nation-building concepts of "branqueamento" (whitening) and "mestiçagem" (racial mixing/miscegenation).

Indeed, the social recognition of the racially mixed identity of "mulato/pardo" served largely as a buffer between White elites and the African-descended lower castes. Social status and economic privilege were accorded based on one's light skin color and approximation of a European phenotype. Simultaneously, the social order devalued Blackness and encouraged individuals to disassociate from their African ancestry. As a result, Brazil was able to maintain a rigid racial hierarchy that supported White supremacy, even as people of African descent approximated and sometimes even outnumbered the White elite. This is in marked contrast to the demographic pattern in the United States, where Blacks have always been a numerical minority and have thus been more vulnerable to the White majority's discriminatory policies.

Individuals in Brazil are overtly discouraged from identifying themselves along racial lines in order to maintain the national myth of a mixed-race utopia. Consequently, individuals can harbor derogatory notions about Blackness while still maintaining seemingly cordial interactions with non-Whites in social settings. Thus, for those Brazilians who focus upon the greater level of sociability between Whites and non-Whites (Telles' horizontal race relations concept), Brazil appears to be bias free. But Telles observes racial hierarchy even within the sociability indicators. For instance, while the level of residential segregation is moderate compared to that in the United States, darker-skinned Afro-Brazilians are more likely than Whites of the same income to live in areas of concentrated poverty.

In addition, non-Whites earn between 40 and 44 percent of what Whites earn, and students of African descent achieve educational levels consistently inferior to those achieved by Whites from the same socioeconomic level. The cumulative effects of these educational disparities are reflected in illiteracy rates for non-Whites, which are double the rates for Whites.

Telles recommends that Brazilian social justice reformers seek not only class-based policies to address the general problems of poverty, but also race-conscious policies like affirmative action. In fact, in 2001 Brazil became one of the first Latin America countries to institute race-conscious affirmative action.

However, the desirability for race-conscious policies is not without social and legal opposition in Brazil. This is why Race in Another America could not have come at a better time. With Telles' demonstration of how racial inclusion and exclusion simultaneously exist in Brazil as matters of both class and stratification, Brazilians may be able to stop talking past each other and instead work together to actualize the equality they all symbolically value".

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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: Azizi
Date: 28 May 08 - 05:57 PM

Thanks for that interesting post Poppagatpr. Also, thanks for the information about what RSA means.

One small point I would make however, is that while the majority of Africans who were enslaved in the USA were from West Africa, there were also some enslaved Africans in the USA who were from Central Africa. indicates that "Africans came from a vast geographic region, the West African coastline stretching from Senegal to Angola and in some cases from the south east coast such as Mozambique".

Btw, in my opinion, that very well sourced Wikipedia page has a good summary of the use of Black as a referent in a number of countries, including the USA and South Africa. The author [or authors] of that page also provide information about the one drop of black blood custom in the USA.

Also, in reading that article, I found out that was mistaken regarding how long "African American" has been the preferred formal referent for Black Americans. The author/s of that article date it from 1988, though it was probably used before Rev. Jesse Jackson promoted its use.

"In 1988 Jesse Jackson urged Americans to use the term African American because the term has a historical cultural base. Since then African American and black have essentially a coequal status. There is still much controversy over which term is more appropriate. Some strongly reject the term African American in preference for black citing that they have little connection with Africa. Others believe the term black is inaccurate because African Americans have a variety of skin tones. Surveys show that when interacting with each other African Americans prefer the term black, as it is associated with intimacy and familiarity. The term "African American" is preferred for public and formal use."

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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: Azizi
Date: 28 May 08 - 06:00 PM

Sorry for mispelling your name PoppaGator.

Also, since I don't make mistakes that often-ha! ha!-let me also correct this sentence:

"Also, in reading that article, I found out that I was mistaken regarding how long "African American" has been the preferred formal referent for Black Americans."

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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: Franz S.
Date: 28 May 08 - 06:25 PM

It seems obvious that people can be biracial or even multiracial. In fact, by PoopGator's rule that "people's racial identity really has as much to do with community and culture as it does with genetics", I am biracial. But when I was young 50 years ago "biracial" would have been a silly term if applied to an individual. There were biracial committees and commissions, but "biracial" in those days clearly meant "composed of people of both races". The thought that someone could be both Black and White just wasn't possible. Laws in different states varied, from "one drop" to one-eighth or one sixteenth, but in practice if one had any Black ancestry one was either clearly Negro or "passing".

So when did it become possible for an individual to be biracial? Did it start with Tiger Woods? Johnny Mathis wasn't "biracial". I know that people my daughter's age (about 30) have no problem with the idea or reality of a biracial individual. When did that change occur?

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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: Azizi
Date: 28 May 08 - 07:32 PM

"Biracial" as a referent for people who are racially mixed. I began hearing this term in the early 1980s, usually from transracial adoptive parents [meaning White couples or White single people who adopted children who are non-White, including children of mixed White/non-White ancestry].

The term "biracial" appears to be mostly used for those children who had one Black birth parent and one birth parent who is not Black. The sense that I got from many of the transracial parents who I met as an adoptive parent and as a person who was active in state, regional, and national adoption circles [from the late 1970s to the mid 1990s] was that these White parents did not want their children to be considered Black. I believe that some of these White parents who adopted Black {children with two Black birth parents} and/or racially mixed children* [children with one Black birth parent and one non-Black birth parent] didn't seem to me to have worked through their own issues of race and racism. My sense was that some of these parents wanted a three part racial system in the USA of Black, Biracial, and White. Some of these parents talked a great deal about being color blind, and indicated that the only race their children were members of was the human race. Others talked about letting their children decide what race they would belong to when they got older.

* "racially mixed" here used in sociological terms, since most Black Americans are racially mixed, but not necessarily first generation racially mixed

In my presentations at adoption conferences, I discussed the importance of group identity as an integral part of self-esteem. I also led what I considered to be reality based discussions about the difficulties their children of color, and their White children as siblings of these children were likely to have in this race conscious and racist world. Furthermore, I led discussions on how realistic it was to expect a person to be color blind, and to self-determine their racial identity, given the world we live in at this time.

At some of those conferences I attended panel discussions of transracially adopted teenagers and young adults. The panelist were usually either Asian females or racially mixed females. Some of these teens and young adults appeared to have a strong sense of self and a strong sense of their racial identity. Others did not.
I recall one such panel that included a darkish brown skinned teenage girl with straightened hair {meaning chemically processed, not naturally straight}. There was no doubt that anyone looking at her would have assumed that she was Black. When someone asked her what was her racial identity, she said that her mother was Italian and her father was Black and that some days she wakes up and decides she will be White and other days she wakes up and decides she will be Black. I felt bad for her since there is no way in this day and age-let alone almost twenty years ago- that she would have been accepted as a member of the White race.

While I believe that people of mixed racial ancestry should be able to choose which race they belong to, and should be able to belong to both of their birthparents' races, the reality is that this is not yet possible in this race conscious, racist world.

I very strongly believe that people not only need to have a strong, positive sense of self, but people also need to have a strong positive, consistent sense of their racial group. I believed then [when I was working in adoption] and still believe now that perhaps the persons who might have the most difficulty developing a strong group identity, are those who are of "ambiguous ethnicity"-meaning those persons whose physical appearance is such that using visual clues such as skin color, hair texture, and facial features, other people are can't readily determine which racial group or ethnic group those people "belong to".

In my opinion, parents who have adopted children, birth children, or foster children who have ambiguous ethnicity need to be very proactive in helping their children develop and reinforce a consistent sense of racial/ethnic identity. And those parents need to help those children develop a positive sense about the racial/ethnic group they are likely to be "mistaken" for. Furthermore, people who adopt transracially should as much as possible help their children "connect" with families and other children who belong to that child's racial group. Yes, I know, in racially isolated areas, that is easier said than done. I guess when all else fails, there's always prayer.

And I am not being facetious with that statement.

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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: Azizi
Date: 28 May 08 - 09:46 PM

For what it's worth, I just read this comment on a political blog about the upcoming June 2008 Democratic primary in Puerto Rico:

"...For those who feel that because PR has many mixed race persons the vote will go to Obama, I hate to tell you the truth but this is a very racist, blatantly racist place, and amongst politicians in PR there are very very few even mildly African faces. I've lived here full time for the last 29 years and am fluent in the language, so I know a few things. In the last US Census over 80% of Puerto Ricans claimed to be white. This is the old one drop story. In the US, with one drop of African blood you are black, in PR, with one drop of white blood {even if that might be imaginary} you can claim whiteness. And that's the reality, the census shows that".
-RC, on May 28th, 2008 at 1:57 pm


I decided to check with my friend Google to see what he [she? it?] said about this comment. Here's a quote from :

"According to the 2000 U.S. Census there were almost four million inhabitants[in Puerto Rico]. Eighty percent of Puerto Ricans described themselves as "white"; 8% as "black"; 12% as "mulatto" and 0.4% as "American Indian or Alaska Native".[59][60] (The U.S. Census does not consider Hispanic a race, and asks if a person considers himself Hispanic in a separate question.)

A 2002 study of Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) of 800 Puerto Ricans found that 61.1% had Amerindian maternal mtDNA, 26.4% African, and 12.5% Caucasian.[61] Conversely, patrilineal input showed that 70% of all Puerto Rican males have inherited Y chromosome DNA from a male European ancestor, 20% from a male African ancestor, and fewer than 10% from a male Amerindian ancestor. This suggests that the largest components of the Puerto Rican genetic pool are European/Caucasian, Amerindian, and African, in descending order."


And here's an excerpt of an article about racial identity in Puerto Rico:

Latin America and the Caribbean Unite Against Racism
"I spent much of my life in Puerto Rico, a Latin country in the Caribbean, where race was a far second to Puerto Rican identity. You were Puerto Rican first. Your color came second. And it is common to see, within one family, individuals of all shades, from Black to Red to White.

In the U.S., it's the reverse. The mixed family is the anomaly. People sometimes stare as if these families were on display at some circus freak show. And who's considered American is also based on skin color. For example, the term "All-American girl/boy" is seldom used to refer to non-Whites. Yes, it's different here. Many Americans don't even seem to realize that "Latinas" cover a broad spectrum of skin shades and complex racial backgrounds. Every Puerto Rican woman, we think, looks like Jennifer Lopez. Every Puerto Rican male, well, like Marc Anthony.

In this country, where you're either Black or you're White, period, it's hard for most Americans (both Black and White) to imagine a worldview where ethnicity transcends race, where mixtures are acknowledged and accepted. But that's precisely what exists in some Latin and Caribbean countries.

Don't get me wrong. Even countries like Puerto Rico have their issues. For example, it's still better to look like Kelly Ripa than it is to look like Whoopi Goldberg (sorry Whoopi). But Puerto Ricans, and other such countries, know their history. We know that we are a people and a culture born out of the blending of European, African and Native Indian races and cultures. Without this blending, our culture would not exist.

We are reluctant to acknowledge this here in the U.S.

And while other Latin countries may not reflect the same mix of races and cultures, most do represent some mixture of various European, Native, and sometimes Asian cultures as well.

It makes sense then, that a recent Latin American and Caribbean Coalition of Cities against Racism, Discrimination and Xenophobia should come into existence at this important time in our globe's history"...

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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: Uncle Phil
Date: 28 May 08 - 09:55 PM

When I wrote my post this morning I spelled "that N word" with asterisks. I changed my mind and spelled it out before I sent the post. It occurred to me that if someone typed "that N word" into a search engine I'd like them to have a chance to find this thread instead of a hate-filled diatribe elsewhere.
- Phil

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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: Gervase
Date: 29 May 08 - 03:19 AM

In the UK it was commonplace up until the Seventies to refer to any Black person as West Indian, the assumption being that their background was Caribbean. Today, on the diversity surveys that come with every job interview or official survey, the distinction is made between Afro-Caribbean and Black African - but Black African would encompass anyone from Mogadishu to Durban, regardless of real ethnic or cultural background.

The perceived higher status of lighter skin colours was certainly prevalent in Trinidadian, Jamaican and Barbadan communities in London. My mother was a teacher in North London through the Sixties and Seventies, and some 90 per cent of the kids in her school were from an Afro-Caribbean background (the other 10 per cent were Orthodox Jewish!). There girls with light skin tone were certainly seen as more attractive by their peers, with the Jamaican term 'high yella' used to describe them.
(Oddly, Jamaicans were seen as lower-status by those from other parts of the Caribbean, with the Trinidadian parents particularly blaming Jamaican youngsters for any bad behaviour. Naturally, therefore, the more rebellious kids wanted to be Jamaican rude boys, even if they had no connection with the island!)
Girls with lighter skins were also nearly always the ones most likely to use hair-straightening gloop, and there was often an unhealthy interest in skin-bleaching creams, despite blood-curdling tales of horrible burns and scarring caused by some of the home-made and back-street concoctions.
For the boys, however, skin tone didn't seem to be an issue, with little distinction being made between a huge range of tones, while any young guy going in for hair-straightening would have been laughed off the playground!
As for the phrase 'half-caste', it was certainly in common use by White people up until the late Seventies, but was perceived as derogatory by Black people at least before the end of the Sixties. Today in the UK the general term is 'mixed race', although some mixed-race youngsters are asserting their Black identity more, particularly those into hip-hop and other MOBO genres.
And, as Jack Campin says, there is a distinction made between Black and Asian in the UK - though Asian tends to be a catch-all definition encompassing anyone from India to Korea.

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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: Mr Happy
Date: 29 May 08 - 04:15 AM


I쳌fve followed the gist of your discourse with interest & the comments of yours & the other respondents jogged my memory of my experiences with this topic.

As you쳌fll recall, I쳌fm a 쳌ewhite쳌f ?? Brit living in Chester UK, where the indigenous population are at a guess 99% 쳌ecaucasian쳌f.

So in my immediate neighbourhood & city, though you쳌fll occasionally see a 쳌fblack쳌f [incl. Asian, Arab etc] & a sprinkling of 쳌fMongol쳌f race people [incl. Chinese, Japanese, Philipino etc], it쳌fs almost unheard of for anyone to use derogatory terms as you쳌fve described above.

Instead, its much more common to hear terms which describe someone쳌fs nationality, rather than an estimation of the percentage of melanin in their hide!

On the other side of the coin, I쳌fve worked in the bigger cities of northwest England, where the concentrations of 쳌fnon-Caucasian peoples are greater.

In these areas [Liverpool, Manchester etc] especially in the inner city, it was much more common to hear terms such as 쳌eblack쳌f, 쳌enigger쳌f, 쳌echink쳌f, & so on.

Even relatively recently, I was working for the Probation Service in Merseyside, mostly in Liverpool 8 [Toxteth] with offenders, both male & female.

Many of these people would refer to each other by those offensive labels you described; yet it seemed to me it was done in a friendly, matey way rather than to cause hurt.

When I first went out to work there, I was very surprised to hear these terminologies being used, especially among same race groups as a referent to themselves.

A lot of the younger ones mostly boys late teens to mid 20쳌fs would use the 쳌eN쳌f word frequently among themselves.

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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: Mr Happy
Date: 29 May 08 - 04:46 AM

Just re-reading some posts above, I'm reminded of when I worked in Liverpool's Mental Health services.

One've the 'drop-in' day resources where I was an activities co-ordinator had clients which generally reflected a x section of the neighbourhoods population, again in L8 Toxteth:

On my 1st day there, one쳌fve the clients, a 쳌fmixed race, black쳌f lady brought me a coffee & explained to me the workings of the centre & where I might slot in to help.

During the course of our chat she gleaned that as I was from Chester [where all the snobs live!!], I possibly wouldn쳌ft know much about the ethnic diversity of this part쳌fve Liverpool.

She gave examples of the several different waves of immigration to the area, both of the voluntary and forced kinds [slaves].

She said her own ancestry was of the oldest population of black people there, being descended both from slaves in Britain & also from the black sailors of the whaling fleets & other merchant ships, as Liverpool historically was one쳌fve the major ports for slaves.

Over the next weeks she쳌fd often join me to chat & would give further info about the anomalies which she recalled from her childhood in the 1950쳌fs when the 1st waves of immigrants from the Caribbean began to settle in the area, & subsequent settlers from elsewhere [all of African origin] & the sometimes friction & rivalries which could sometimes flare up between these groups

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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: GUEST,Jorrox
Date: 29 May 08 - 05:13 AM

Gervase - are you maybe confusing the term 'UK' with the term 'England'.

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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: Mr Happy
Date: 29 May 08 - 05:20 AM

Coo! I'm really harping on here!

During another episode in my long & variegated employment history when i was a telephone lineman ['for the county' but not a 'Rhinestone Cowboy!].

A new apprentice was assigned to me for on the job training.

He was a pleasant youth in his mid 20쳌fs; whose name was Cliff Hall [sound familiar??]

Turned out he was in fact the eldest son of Cliff Hall of the Spinners Folk Group in Liverpool!

Young Cliff seemed pleased that I was a folkie & had seen his dad in concerts etc many times.

He told me his mum was white & dad was black but being from the Caribbean was of mixed black/white ancestry.

He쳌fd 3 siblings all dark skinned except for his little sister who was white with blonde hair & blue eyes!

Young Cliff said he쳌fd joined the Royal Navy after leaving school at 16 & had travelled many parts of the world.

He said the only place he쳌fd been where he쳌fd experienced racial discrimination was in South Africa during the apartheid days.

Along with his white shipmates, he쳌fd gone ashore to samples the highlights of Cape Town, but even though he was a British sailor in uniform was forced by the SA authorities to sit at the back of the bus into town and was refused entry with his pals into many bars, or could only enter into the black or 쳌ecoloured쳌f area.

His shipmates hadn쳌ft experienced racism before either & boycotted establishments like these in protest & support of Cliff their good friend.

Finding from me that my wife was Japanese, he mentioned that in S. Africa at that time, Chinese were classed as 쳌eblack or coloured쳌f; Japanese were classed as 쳌ewhite쳌f!

Probably because Toyota & other Japanese companies were bringing new investment & employment into the country, so apartheid got 쳌ebent 쳌e to accommodate them.

Cliffie said he was very relieved when his ship sailed, as he쳌fd been very upset with his treatment & the way the apartheid system operated against the interests of all the people.

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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: Azizi
Date: 29 May 08 - 01:47 PM

Uncle Phil, I understand yur decision to spell that "n" word. The fact taht some young people {and some middle aged and older people} use that word in a way that they don't consider derogatory, doesn't mean it's not still derogatory.


Gervase and Mr. Happy, thanks for sharing such interesting information about the use of racial references and different attitudes about skin color in the UK {and/or in England}. I like reading anecdotal experiences. I just wish that these real life stories would have shown that people realized that skin colors are descriptors that should have no positive or negative value. I think such a goal is preferable than the goal of being color blind.

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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: Jack Campin
Date: 29 May 08 - 06:38 PM

I don't think the distinction betyween UK and England matters a lot here. Rather, the racial makeup of Britain varies a *lot*, with a few cities like London and Liverpool being very heterogeneous, and others like Norwich and Inverness being at the opposite extreme, and most of the more rural areas being mostly white.

This village (just south of Edinburgh) is typically atypical. It's about 100 years old, built around an enormous deep coalmine. Miners were brought from other parts of Scotland, Northumberland, Ireland, Poland, Russia and Lithuania. The largest minority language until the mine closed around 1980 was Lithuanian. But there is one family of African descent who have been here since the village was built. I talk to the two sisters my age quite often but it's never occurred to me to ask if they want any particular ethnic or national label applied to themselves.

One nasty little teenage thug a couple of streets away called *me* a nigger when I interfered with a bit of vandalism he was engaged in. It's the one and only time I've ever heard the word used as a direct insult in the UK. It's hard to say if the little toerag had too much or too little imagination.

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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: Rowan
Date: 30 May 08 - 01:01 AM

Great thread, Azizi.

There are various aspects I got jogged about but many are so far back in the thread that I can't give proper attributions so I hope I don't misinterpret anyone.

While I had had some general understanding of the term "Creole" (dating from my reading of American literature in my youth) I found PoppaGator's (?) detailed desription of origins and current application fascinating. My first "formal" encounter with the term, however, was in a discussion of linguistics centred on Creole as a language in Hawaii, where Polynesians, English-speakers, Japanese and (I think) Phillipinos had all contributed to a language type now known as a Creole. In my own patch, a similar process has occurred in the Top End of Oz, especially in the Northern Territory, where Aboriginal peoples may be required to speak up to 10 languages to effectively communicate with everyone they encounter; English is well down in the list. To deal with this, a Creole language has developed and one of its characteristics is the utter simplification of the spelling of its written form; "Creole" is thus rendered as "Kriol".

But Azizi's main interest for this thread has been the topic of African American group referents.

Like some others, I have used the term Afro American (as I learned it) and Azizi kindly and firmly set me straight and I can now see from the thread the hows and whys of the changes in detail. I suspect some of the references above to "Tom" are a pejorative as in "Uncle Tom" and I once heard an interesting discussion of how the term had changed from a generally positive descriptor since Harriet Beecher Stowe's book was published. Australian Aborigines have a similar pejorative (that I've mentioned in another thread) to describe an Aboriginal who is "more white" in their attitude than the accusers regard as "acceptable"; "coconut" is aimed at someone regarded as "brown on the outside but white on the inside".

There are still many "white" Australians who, without naming it as the "one drop theory" apply it in practice. I used to have a copy of "Wybalenna", distributed by Ronin Films. Wybalenna translates as "Black men's' houses" and is the name of an Aboriginal settlement on Flinders Island in Bass Strait; in the midnineteenth century, the whites did a line-abreast search across Tasmania's mainland and all the Tasmanian Aborigines were rounded up and shipped to Wybalenna, where they gradually died. Sealers had already kidnapped many Tasmanian Aboriginal women and settled on Cape Barrren Island, just off Flinders Island so Tasmanian Aborigines have always refused to accept whitefella notions of them having "died out", even though there had been genocide.

In the film, descendants of the Aboriginal wives of the sealers described how they were discriminated against by "white" settlers in the 50s and 60s; the term "quadroon" wasn't used but "half caste" was. The same women described how, in the 80s when minimal money was made available for some aspects of support for Aborigines who'd been actively discriminated against, the same whites sought to deny these women's Aboriginality; this denial of Aboriginality was reiterated in interviews with the whites themselves.

The film involved an archaeological investigation trying to locate the buildings of the settlement and the graves of the Aborigines. Although the parts of the cemetery where whites were buried was enclosed and marked, the settlement and the Aboriginal part of the cemetery had been regarded as grazing for sheep and cattle. An ancestor of one of the whites interviewd was universally known (except in the recorded interview) as "Resurrection Bob" from his habit of robbing the Aboriginal graves and selling the skeletons to museums. Having located the buildings and the graves, the local Aborigines erected a small plaque in the Aboriginal part of the cemetery as part of a celebration; a week later it was desecrated. The same desecration happened in Townsville to Eddie Mabo's memorial.

So, while "black" might not be commonly used in Oz, there are places where the attitudes persist.

And the references in the thread to "Latino" and "Hispanic" makes me wonder about how the members of those communities in the US deal with the self-referential issues that have been discussed in the thread, as for African Americans. I have heard it said of the groups in Brazil that there are "chocolates" ('black'-skinned people with predominantly African ancestry), "coffees" (lighter-skinned people with predominantly Amerindian ancestry) and "creams"; presumably people who'd describe their ancestry as predominantly (or even exclusively?) 'European'.

Cheers, Rowan

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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: Azizi
Date: 30 May 08 - 01:53 AM

Rowan, your comment, and many other comments to this thread, based as they are on others' experiences, fascinate me and make me sad at the same time.

Sometimes I don't even want to think about race and then I go bringing it up here on Mudcat. I suppose people are saying "There she goes again.". But I'm learning a lot from reading this thread, and I believe that others are also learning about the insidiousness of race and skin color preferences not just in the USA, but elsewhere around the world.

Rowan, your 30 May 08 - 01:01 AM post, reminds me that I haven't "seen" Hilda Fish around Mudcat lately. I hope all is well with her, and pray that she'll return to Mudcat when the Spirit moves her to do so.

Hilda wrote a number of powerful comments on another Mudcat thread that I started about race: thread.cfm?threadid=88950 "Responses To Racism". That 2006 discussion was the most emotionally difficult one I have had on Mudcat to date, the second most difficult one being the aforementioned 2008 thread "Mudcat is Difficult For People Of Color".
But with a lot of help from my online friends, each time I perservered and learned and grew [in spirit, and, hopefully, in truth]. And I'm still here to testify how I got over [as they say in downhome Black churches whether they are really downhome-meaning in the Southern region of the USA or not].

I feel this thread needs some of Hilda's voice. I believe that my sister Hilda Fish won't mind me reposting a comment she made on that "Response to Racism" thread. But first, I'll repost a comment I wrote on another Mudcat thread as I believe that post serves as a preface & companion piece to Hilda's comment.

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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: Azizi
Date: 30 May 08 - 02:09 AM

Subject: RE: BS: My Prejudices
From: Azizi - PM
Date: 18 Jan 06 - 08:02 AM

Prior to my going to junior high school {age 12 or so}, I didn't know any White people except those who taught in the elementary school that I went to. But I thought that I knew White people through books, and magazines, and newspapers, and movies, and television.

I thought that White people were the center of the universe.
I thought that White people were better than any people who were not White, especially Black people. I thought White people were smarter than Black people. Thank goodness, I attened an interracial school 'cause when I found out that I made better grades than a lot of my White peers, the assumption of White superiority that I had been socialized to believe, began to crack. And slowly but surely that assumption of White superiority came tumblin down.

It took me longer to reject the assumption that the only standard of beauty is White, but slowly but surely I also rejected that emotionally and mentally and spiritually poisonous assumption.

At one time, I assumed that all White people felt that they {as individuals and as a race}were better than any person of color. But as a result of direct experiences, and as a result of indirect experiences {such as Mudcat}, I now know that that it that assumption is also not true. I now know that all White people so not feel this way. But it is certainly true that some White people feel this way.

At one time, I didn't think that any Black person believed that he or she as an individual was better than any White person or that the Black race were better than the White race. I know that that there are some Black people who believe that then and believe it now, but I never did and I still don't. I recognize that a belief in Black {or Asian or Native American etc} superiority is just as wrong as a belief in White superiority.   

I maintain that in order to be emotionally, mentally, and spiritually healthy, an individual must have postitive self-esteem and positive group esteem. I now have both.

I still recognize the power that institutional racism has to injure and kill positive self-esteem and positive group esteem.

I still realize that there is much work to be done.


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Subject: RE: Racial Referents-Negro, Quadroon, etc
From: Azizi
Date: 30 May 08 - 02:12 AM

Subject: RE: BS: Responses To Racism
From: hilda fish - PM
Date: 20 Feb 06 - 01:00 AM

I just can't see that there is a problem saying THAT IS OFFENSIVE - THAT IS RACIST - IT DEMEANS ME - IT DEMEANS YOU - IT DEMEANS WHAT IS HUMAN IN US ALL. IT IS NOT RIGHT. IT IS NOT SOMETHING I'M PREPARED TO LET GO BY UNCHALLENGED. IT IS CRUEL, DANGEROUS AND MURDEROUS AND IF I WAS IN YOUR FACE YOU'D CERTAINLY FEEL HOW I FEEL ABOUT WHAT YOU ARE DOING. GET THIS INTO YOUR HEAD - RACISM IS AN INSULT. I AM CALLING YOU A RACIST. GO AWAY!!!!! To name it and attack it is a good start I think. A story - I was once at a pub with a friend. It was a social meeting between a big group of people of like mind. Various people were getting up to talk about things. It was all pretty progressive and 'good'. Then this guy got up and in response to an article in a newspaper stated that Aboriginal people were more aligned with animals than human - that white people were superior and it was time that Indigenous (Blak) people got the picture. And so on. Everyone listened politely while I started steaming. Oh dear I thought, waiting for my 'friends' to rip him to shreds one way or another. They didn't. There was a lot of polite discussion about how what he said was unacceptable. Un...f...acceptable! I was dying there by what he said and I was dying there because no-one (here you are Azizi) was watching my back. Here we go again I thought. I have to stand up and name this crap and condemn it because no-one else is gonna. They don't even see it. Or they believe in 'freedom of speech', 'politeness'. I thought for a minute and realised no-one was going to listen so I launched myself out of my chair and gave him a mighty smack in the mouth. Everyone grabbed me but I did get a good kick in.    I was hauled out of the pub and banned. Well. I was shaking and in a shocking way but I felt good - not belittled or victimised - but good. Now those who know me know that I am pretty mouthy sometimes but not violent. The worst I mostly do is getting into a swearing frenzy and walk away but truly, mostly I am polite, ladylike, blah blah blah. Some Koories in the front bar came out and sat with me. We sat together and then various people including my friends came out and condemned me at first for being 'violent'. We talked and basically I said they were gutless for not naming and challenging it - they said they had left that to me. Why me? They saw it too. Why always us to deal with this stuff? Everyone knows about the lynchings and the shootings and all the terrible stuff that is given permission through racist words and racist deeds. Sometimes I am beyond words as my people are sometimes so beyond words that all we can do is scream, go mad, and yes, smack someone in the mouth. The guy said he'd never speak like that again in front of me if that is the result. What did I care what the racist creep thought. He hadn't cared about me or my blood. All I can say is name it, challenge it, reject it in all its forms. Its not a polite discussion you know. Good phrase Azizi - "need to know and see is that somebody's got our back". I'd like to rely on that as one human being to another. Life has shown that I can't - yet. And yeah, come to Sydney Azizi and stay with me or Freda. You can see how Australia practises its racism!! There are many forms (just joking heh heh). Oh, the first time I heard "Strange Fruit" was in Melbourne at a folk club such a long time ago. Everyone thought it was a terrific song - I was the only Aboriginal there and I cried and cried and cried once I got what it was about. Everyone thought I was drunk!! How awful and sad is that song? What can I say? Rest in peace all my brothers and sisters on this planet who no longer walk the earth because someone did not like your skin. I honor your short lives and your suffering and will not forgive so easily and well not let racism have a healthy life wherever I meet it. Rest in peace. That's the bottom line isn't it?

thread.cfm?threadid=88950 "Responses To Racism".

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