What does the author emphasize in "How It Feels to Be Colored Me"?

In "How It Feels to Be Colored Me," the author emphasizes that the ideas which people have about race are societal constructs and do not reflect an inherent component of a person's identity.

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One of the main points that Hurston emphasizes in this piece is that race is a societal construct, not an inherent and distinguishable component of a person's identity. Indeed, she recalls that when she was young, she never identified as belonging to a particular race. Living in an "exclusively colored town," she only saw whites when they passed through in their automobiles. Hurston enjoyed performing for them, particularly when they gave her generous "silver" for singing and dancing, which she enjoyed anyway. As a child, she didn't attach the concept of race to these interactions.

Hurston has found that she most feels her race by the contrasts that society sometimes establishes. When she is the lone Black woman in a sea of white faces, she feels like "a dark rock surged upon, and overswept." Despite this, Hurston always "remains [her]self." Sometimes the situation is reversed, and she notices a white person alone in a crowd of Black people. She narrates one such evening when she and a white friend attended a jazz concert together. Hurston "dances wildly" inside herself, yelling and whooping. The music makes her feel the depth of her heritage, and her pulse pounds "like a war drum." At the performance's conclusion, her white friend simply comments that the place has "good music," and Hurston realizes that there is an "ocean and [a] continent" between them.

In the end, Hurston uses the metaphor of bags to again emphasize her feelings about racial differences. The purpose of the bag is to carry things, and it really doesn't matter what color those bags are. If those objects found in the bag are metaphors for various personalities, it is easily conceivable that a "first-water diamond" could just as easily be found inside any given bag as "bits of broken glass." The color of each bag is irrelevant.

Hurston thus emphasizes that the concepts that people have about race are socially constructed based on environment and circumstance. Hurston embraces the power of her heritage while refusing to become bitter about the historical implications of being a Black woman. Instead, she embraces an outlook that "no one on earth ever had a greater chance for glory."

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