In 1928, writer and anthropologist, Zora Neale Hurston, writes about her life in 20th century America in “How It Feels to Be Colored Me.” This work is rendered as an important part of African American history. In her work, Hurston reflects on her childhood experiences. As a young girl, she would often feel different and strange from those around her. Now as an accomplished woman, she can see the positives in her difficult experiences.
Her work creates a realm of self-acceptance and self-respect. Hurston describes her life until the age of 13 in Eatonville, Florida an all-black town. As a young girl, Hurston characterizes her innocence of not knowing the difference between white and black people. She claims that the only difference between whites and blacks was that whites always seemed to pass through town (Hurston). Hurston describes her adventurous and naive self: she would become aware of her race when all the white folks in town “liked to hear her speak in pieces and sing…” and they would often give her money for it.
She yearned for the attention and interest from those that viewed her as different. She describes that the black townsfolk often “deplored joyful tendencies” (Hurston). Wherefore, Hurston illustrates that she was never able to fit in her own community, and especially not with the white townspeople. Thereafter, Hurston describes the transition of her life when she moves to Jacksonville, Alabama at the age of 13.
With her move to Jacksonville, Hurston asserts that she was not “…Zora of Orange County anymore, she was just a colored little girl.” She became cognizant of the racial injustice in her stay in Jacksonville, but still, it did not deeply affect her. She sought to look at her position in life as not “tragically colored” (Hurston). She did not feel damned and distraught like those at her high school did (Hurston).
Alternatively, Hurston was thrilled with the opportunity of this racial game, in where she could “…
get twice as much praise or twice as much blame.” Over time, she learned to be herself, no matter the numerous differences that thosearound her had. Accordingly, Hurston confers that “Among the thousand white persons, she was a dark rock surged upon, and overswept, but through it all, she remained herself.” Additionally, Hurston describes her time at the New World Cabaret with a white person. While listening to jazz music, she states that “The great blobs of purple and red emotion have not touched him. He has only heard what I felt” (Hurston). Hurston describes this as the only difference she has ever felt between whites and blacks.
She was subject to emotions due to racial oppression, which in turn showed her “coloredness.” Thus, Hurston accepts her blackness as a symbol of uniqueness. Hurston portrays a sanguine look at the world. Hurston compares other races to bags, she claims “In your hand is the brown bag. On the ground before you is the jumble it held– so much like the jumble in the bags, could they be emptied, that all might be dumped in a single heap and the bags refilled without altering the content of any greatly.” This accentuates her claims, in which humans are all the same no matter their skin color; they are all filled with aspirations. Furthermore, Hurston claims that the bags filled with miscellaneous items are “Perhaps.
..howthe Great Stuffer of Bags filled them in the first place.” Hurston suggests that the creator himself puts all these different people together in the world and for this matter, humans should not be impartial to one another. In Hurston’s “How It Feels to Be Colored Me,” she explains and describes self-love in a time of racial injustice as well as an optimistic view of the world. In a significant passage, Hurston presents the theme of humanization in her work. Hurston states “BUT I AM NOT tragically colored,” she does not view the color of her skin assomething that she should be humiliated or melancholy about (Hurston).
For she will not fixate on something that she cannot change and instead will accept herself as she is. Even though, being an African American was complex in her time, she chooses to stay true to her cultural roots. Those in her community are bitter and blame their nature, so she does “.
..not belong to the sobbing school of Negrohood” (Hurston). With this unapologetic and passionate tone, she is able to set herself apart and show her self-worth. She will not succumb to the cycle of blaming and unhappiness, instead she will live life true to herself. This emphasizes her theme of self-acceptance, which is presented in this work. Hurston contends that “Even in the helter skelter skirmish that is her life,” she has seen that life is far too complicated to trouble over thecolor of her skin.
With this Hurston suggests that she has felt the ugliness of the oppression, but instead of talking about it, she shies away from it. She feels that there is more to life than to be contemplating over the color of one’s skin. Additionally, Hurston postulates that she will not mourn, but instead will take down every jab she receives with everything she has. This passage shows that like all humans Hurston is trying to find her identity and self-worth. It is not until she is older that she is able to view her oppression as a sign not of weakness but as a symbol of strength. Thus, Hurston was able to curb all the injustice that was hurled her way and transform it into determination.