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Black Or Caramel Essay, Research Paper

In her essay “Shades of Black”, Mary Mebane uses her personal experiences to analyze the different divisions and classifications within the African-American race. From Mebane?s essay, it is clear to see that division and classification primarily effect black women.

Mebane explains a situation in which she was in, where a light-skinned teacher called her into the office. She did this to tell Mebane that she scored the highest on the verbal section of a test that all freshman had to take (255). Mebane saw the situation as the teacher questioning the score. She feels that the faculty favored light-skinned people to dark-skinned people because light-skinned people seemed to be more intelligent. This is where I think her experiences shape this essay. She assumed all of the teacher?s intentions. There was no proof of whether the teacher called her into the office to congratulate her or to question her.

Within the African-American race it is clearer to see the division of the classes. For example, Mebane talks about another personal experience where someone named Hazel who was light brown, commented on how Mebane was safe because she was dark, but not dark dark. This made Mebane feel inferior and she thought she would have had to kill herself if she were a shade darker(257). This is a good example of how the blacks made other blacks feel low.

Maybe it was not all in Mebane?s head. She explains a situation that arose when she was in high school. When she was a freshman, there was a sophomore who was smart and caramel-colored. Mebane knew that even though she deserved the “best girl scholar” award from her high school, this other girl, Rose, would get it. Unfortunately Mebane was right. She did not receive the award until her senior year when Rose graduated (258).

This situation prevailed not only at school and work, but black males were also big contributors to the lack of self-esteem that some of the darker-skinned women experienced. “From then on I instinctively tended to avoid the college-exposed, dark-skinned male, knowing that when he looked at me he saw himself and, most of the time, his mother and sister as well, and since he rejected his blackness, he had rejected theirs and mine (258).” She found that the lighter-skinned males and the uneducated males were more understanding to the dark dark women than the dark males.

However, there were enough males to reject dark women that some of these women had to come up with methods to make themselves known. For example, they did things like find light-skinned women to hang around to make themselves feel important. They also occupied themselves in jobs like teaching and religious activities. Some took the drastic measure of making themselves sexually available to men. They felt that this would win men who were turned off by skin color (259).

I think that society would not feel it hard to believe that the whites divide and classify the black race; however, I think that many people would be surprised to learn that it goes within the African-American race itself.


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