illustrated portrait of African American author Zora Neale Hurston

How It Feels to Be Colored Me

by Zora Neale Hurston
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What is the main point of "How It Feels To Be Colored Me"?

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The principal point Zora Neale Hurston makes in "How It Feels To Be Colored Me" is that she is not a victim of oppression. Hurston acknowledges that racism exists, but says that she refuses to allow it to be her problem. She sees it, instead, as a character flaw which...

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The principal point Zora Neale Hurston makes in "How It Feels To Be Colored Me" is that she is not a victim of oppression. Hurston acknowledges that racism exists, but says that she refuses to allow it to be her problem. She sees it, instead, as a character flaw which principally hurts the racists, remarking:

Sometimes, I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me angry. It merely astonishes me. How can any deny themselves the pleasure of my company?

Hurston even says that she is not affected by the memory of slavery, which she feels must be far more burdensome to white people, who have to live with the guilt, than to the descendants of slaves. Slavery was the price of being brought to civilization, she writes, and it was a price worth paying, for her, if not necessarily for her ancestors.

Throughout the essay, Hurston contrasts her own positive, optimistic, curious attitude with that of "the sobbing school of Negrohood." She gives a brief account of her childhood, and recalls her first encounters with white people when she was a child. These people were kind to her, and used to give her money for song and dance performances which she enjoyed so much that she would have had to be paid to stop. Her experiences since have convinced her that color has nothing to do with character or destiny, and that her own African-American identity presents no barrier to the enjoyment of life.

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