African-American writer Zora Neale Hurston argues in her 1928 essay "How It Feels To Be Colored Me" that race is not an intrinsic quality that a person is born with, but rather evolves in certain social settings. By exploring these different feelings toward blackness through different characters, Hurston seeks to explain how people come to have different ideas about it.
She starts by describing some negative experiences she had as a child in Florida with other children who called her "nigger." These words felt like punches to the stomach because they came from mouths that seemed friendly enough. But they still hurt even though she was old enough to understand what they meant. Hurston says this experience made her want to hide her blackness and not let others see how it felt to be colored me.
But over time, she realized that being colored me wasn't so bad. She enjoyed being treated differently than other people, especially since it made everyone else feel uncomfortable. And since most blacks in Florida at the time were slaves or sharecroppers, being colored me gave her freedom. She could go where other whites wouldn't follow and do whatever she wanted without fearing punishment from her owner.
By explaining these different feelings toward blackness through different characters, Hurston tries to make sense of how people can have different ideas about race.
Hurston's purpose in writing "How it Feels to be Colored Like Me" is to assert her pride in being black. She pushes back against the idea, articulated by many of her black friends during the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s, that segregation and racial discrimination harmed the black soul and needed to be addressed. Instead, she argues that blacks are capable of any kind of emotion and that feeling proud of your race is not a sign of weakness but of strength.
In addition to arguing that racism does not harm the black soul, Hurston also challenges the commonly held belief at the time that black people were incapable of feeling love. Her story focuses on two characters: Rosashill, who is described as beautiful and talented, and Suwanee, who is ugly and talented. When Rosashill sees Suwanee singing on a street corner, she falls in love with her and wants to marry her. However, Suwanee doesn't feel the same way about Rosashill because she believes that marriage between blacks and whites is wrong. Despite this, they remain together out of love for each other, until they are discovered by one of Rosashill's white friends. After this incident, both women realize that they cannot stay together and decide to part ways peacefully.
Many readers consider Hurston's story to be an example of black pride literature.
Expert Responses Zora Neale Hurston's "How It Feels to Be Colored Me" provides a favorable peek into the author's individuality. The first statement establishes her individualism: 'I am colored, but I give nothing in the way of excusing circumstances.' She is aware of who she is. She is not simply a piece of property with black skin.
Furthermore, the opening sentence reveals her familiarity with literary greats such as Shakespeare and Whitman. This demonstrates that she is an intellectual who cares about culture and society.
Additionally, the first sentence shows that she is aware of how others perceive her. They see her as black and therefore worthless. She refuses to accept this reality and writes about it in her own unique way.
Finally, the first sentence also indicates that she is comfortable with herself. Even though she is colored, she does not feel like a victim of circumstance. Instead, she embraces her race and identity.
This short story is written in the first person narrative voice. The story is told by a woman named Mary Murphy who feels alienated from everyone because of the color of her skin. She lives in Harlem, New York City with her family. Mary has a brother named John and two sisters named Laura and Angela.
She wants to be accepted by her family and friends but nobody seems to care about her situation.