How It Feels to Be Colored Me Questions and Answers
by Zora Neale Hurston

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What is Hurston's perception of racism in "How It Feels to Be Colored Me?"

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In the essay "How It Feels to Be Colored Me" by Zora Neale Hurston, the author takes a very positive look at being an African American woman. She is comfortable with who she is. She expresses astonishment at racism—at being "discriminated against," as she calls it—because she cannot understand why anyone would want to deny themselves the pleasure of her company. The entire essay takes this mature, even-handed approach.

She writes of growing up as a child in the all-black town of Eatonville, Florida. It was "exclusively a colored town." The only whites the residents saw were those passing through on horseback or in cars. Hurston felt happy, at home, and that she belonged there.

She relates that a change came when at the age of thirteen she was sent to Jacksonville for school. All of a sudden she wasn't merely a person but "a little colored girl." She "found it out in various ways," but it did not leave a lasting negative impression.

Hurston reflects that although she is sometimes reminded that she is the descendant of slaves, this does not upset her. Slavery is in the past, and she says that it "is the price I paid for civilization." She relates that she doesn't always feel colored. This only happens when she is put into a position of "a sharp white background." In other words, she feels her race more intensely when she is surrounded by white people. She says the opposite happens as well when she takes a white friend to a place that is populated mainly by black people.

Hurston clarifies that she finds identity as an American citizen as well as a colored person. She is a complex individual made up of all the distinct parts that make her a unique person, and she is not different than other Americans that have diverse skin colors.

In conclusion, Hurston's impression of racism is that it is something incomprehensible, given that everyone is a separate individual and a unique human being.

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