In “How It Feels to Be Colored Me”, Zora Neale Hurston argues that being African American in the United States has not affected her in a negative way much, but rather, it is the people around her who tries to “color” her in a negative way. She writes about how the only white people she knew while growing up were those who passed by the town where she used to live, which is Eatonville, Florida. Since these white people were nice to her, she did not feel “colored” at the time. However, she eventually realized that she is “colored” when she attended a school in Jacksonville where she found herself amidst a sea of white people who looks at her as “colored”
However, this awareness neither made her feel less about herself nor become more conscious of her color. Even at that place, the only times she felt “colored” were those times when there is something that makes her color stand-out such as when she was at a jazz club and a white person reacted in a completely different to the music than how she did and when people reminded her that she is “the granddaughter of slaves.”(Hurston 208) She ended with hinting that every man, despite the difference in coloring, is equal as they were meant to be equal when they were created. People may be sacks of different colors, but inside these sacks are bits and pieces that are very similar to each other.
The author mainly relied on her own personal experiences to support her arguments. She relied mainly on how she feels, putting emphasis on the fact that it is not what other people similarly situated feels by saying what she does not feel such, instead of what she feels. On second thought, she never really considered herself to be similarly situated with other colored people, because unlike most of them, she “do[es] not belong to the sobbing school of Negrohood who hold that nature somehow has given them a lowdown dirty deal and whose feelings are all but about it.”
The author also used analogies, idioms and symbolism to illustrate her point. “I was now a little colored girl,” means that she becomes aware that she is different and regarded differently by white people. Different color sacks are different people from different races. The “jumble in the bags” is used to show equality among races. Such analogies, idioms and symbolism effectively made the reader look at the issue of racial at a different light—in a probably more objective light, by providing a backdrop that is far removed from the biases most people have where the effect of the difference in race may be examined
The article is well written. The author focused on sound and syllabication, and used it to put emphasis on what she is trying to say. There are side-comments and sentences that intended to humor, but serves the purpose of emphasizing a point nonetheless, such as “[b]ut even so, it is clear that I was the first “welcome-to-our-state” Floridian, and I hope the Miami Chamber of Commerce will please take notice.” This statement, aside from giving humor, illustrates how she, even as a child, acts differently from other “colored” people. She also used heavy, dramatic words to put emphasis and dramatic effect to her story and arguments.
The argument is also made through story telling, mostly of personal experiences. The arguments are made through discussion of personal feelings and thoughts. Everything is written in first person. This is an effective method because it helps the reader achieve more than just an understanding of what the author is trying to say. Rather, it makes them feel what the author is feeling. By discussing through the use of personal experiences, the author asks the readers to look beyond the text, and to the meanings and ideas behind the text, thus immersing them deeper into the discussion of a colored woman’s experiences. The article makes the reader empathize rather than explains “how it feels to be colored me”.
The essay is premised on the fact that racial discrimination is rampant, especially in white America. It also assumes that most colored people are negatively affected by this discrimination. It assumes that civilization means integration to the white man’s world, drinking cocktails and smoking while listening to jazz orchestra in a cabaret, while “danc[ing] wildly inside [one]self; …yell[ing] within, …whooping; …shak[ing] [one’s] assegai above [one’s] head” are primitive acts performed only by people who run in the jungle.
However, the author seems to contradict herself as regards the question of whether race is a part of personality or not. In some parts, she removes race as a part of her personality. She portrays herself to be not defined by her race. However, in some parts of the article, race becomes not only a perception, but also a character, which intimately defines a person. When she left Eatonville, she “was not Zora of Orange County any more, [she] was now a little colored girl.” A change within her occurred. This change is not confined only to her environment and to how people see her, but also extends to how she feels within herself. She feels to belong to a certain category—that of colored people. She feels to belong to a certain category within a category—that of colored people who are not “tragically colored”.
Hurston’s argument is convincing because her personal experiences explain why she feels the way she does really well. By drawing the arguments from her personal experiences, she makes herself an authority, whose knowledge and understanding of the subject cannot be questioned. She has drawn a colored woman accurately and colored the canvass with bias and discrimination. The question she lefts the reader to ponder is whether the painters brush will fall on the background or on the drawing of a colored girl. The question is whether the drawing of the colored girl will be controlled by the painter’s brush, or whether she will remain white despite the chaos of colors that is going on around her.
- Hurston, Zora Neale. How It Feels to Be Colored Me. About. 1 March 2007 <http://grammar.about.com/od/60essays/a/theireyesessay.htm>.