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The Curse of Race



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Did you read the story about how Jamaican slum-dwellers are having their skin bleached, in order to enhance their life prospects? I remark on this in my column today, wistfully, bitterly, caustically. I remember an old slogan: “Black is beautiful.” I also remember an old song: “The darker the berry, the sweeter the juice.” Alberta Hunter, in old age, used to sing it very dirtily.

A reader writes, “Remember the response to ‘How do you like your coffee?’ ‘Like I like my women: hot and black!’”

Let me share some more mail, some of which has been quite poignant:

When I was in high school in the ’60s, we lived in a predominately Jewish neighborhood. A girl’s “Sweet 16” birthday gift of choice from her parents was a “nose job.” (My parents couldn’t afford it.) At that age, those girls were still growing, and an excessively chopped beak often left them looking cross-eyed within a couple of years (probably necessitating more surgery, come to think of it. Doctors are not stupid). One classmate, a very bright girl with what I thought was a great, exotic look, came back from Spring Break looking like every other Jewish girl who had had a nose job, and she was oh so pleased with herself.

Heartbreaking. But this is worse:

Jay,

I recall you grew up in Ann Arbor. [Have I ever mentioned that?] I did as well, and started my elementary education at Mack School in the very early ’70s. Mack was a largely black school. And even in the early grades, the black kids would have contests insulting one another’s skin color. The darkest-skinned girl in the school was named Beatrice, and that became the top insult: “Fool, you black as Beatrice!” I can still remember how awful that girl felt and how low she hung her head.

Life is seldom crueler than when race — dumb, stupid, obnoxious race — is involved.



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