Sam had flashbacks of being taunted for his dark complexion. The boys called him, blue black, midnight oil and dark as night.
It was no secret lighter people were considered more appealing, so of course Eunice would find Terrence more attractive.
He remembered Grandma Hood saying, “Sam there were all kinds of tales in our Hood family tree where men and women, would turn their own kin over to please the master. Not even thinking it whatn’t right. In old time slavery days you lost who you were if you wasn’t strong. It did damage to your head. Could you imagine denying your beliefs, no longer thinking for yourself. That’s one scary business!” Grandma Hood said, while fanning her chest with a corn stalk woven fan. He listened to her thinking slavery still existed, with skin tone.
Internalized racism was an effect a of colonized people who lost their own identities valuing things the masters did. (12)
“When I was a girl, we wasn’t slaves but the state of mind was as if we were. Jim Crow laws was almost worse as folks didn’t know who they were supposed to hate. We learned we had to break some shackles inside our heads too.
“Your granddaddy grew up over yonder! He was a mighty spiritual chap. He was what you called a Sambo. I loved his eagerness to please but it was a strain on me being raised tough. He could smile graciously, as if he was dying to serve whites despite wanting to clock ’em senseless,” she said.
“Sorry Grandma, what exactly is a Sambo? Is it like a tax man?” he asked.
“A Sambo was what we called our brothers, who were a little too eager to please the whites. When your granddaddy was a boy, he said there were house slaves who thought, they was high and mighty living up in the big house. Them were always lighter skinned not like you and me. You’d never find a deep skinned man working inside the big house, not before Louis Armstrong’s day,” she said.
“Where would they put me Gran? Field or big house?” he asked, already knowing the answer.
“Have mercy. With your lovely soft skin,” she rubbed his arm and chuckled, “You sir’d be working them fields in the blazing sun. But listen no one spoke of the disadvantages of the big house. I heard the girls would never be left alone. They’d have to go with any white man who asked, master or visitor didn’t matter. The house men were emasculated, while those outside grew stronger. Gratitude chile. It ain’t great now but it ain’t like back then. Be thankful for that,” her harsh words were spoken gently.
“How’d the house folks treat the field folk?” Sam asked. He admired how she didn’t mince words.
“Oh Lord! Terrible. Looked down their noses or avoiding eye contact with their own flesh and blood. If a poor bastard wasn’t thick skinned, he’d melt with shame,” she said.
“Do you think there was racism amongst black folks?” Sam wanted to know if she believed in internal racism.
“It was survival is what it was,” Gran said, “but don’t worry. There was a long tradition of paying special mind to those field men with special pies and treats smuggled out to them. All undercover of course,” she said.
“That’s sad Gran,” Sam said.
“Fitting in was a bit like ladies fitting into the health and beauty regimes today. Ladies trying to be like the magazines. We all bleed the same the last I checked. Life can be snuffed out just as easy, no matter what you were born! I never understood why folks had to be like each other anyhow,” Gran said.
“Maybe it won’t last forever. As migration and intermarriage happen all over. Change is coming. It just might take ten generations,” he said.
“Bless your heart Sam,” she said.