Another excellent piece, Allison. As an African-American with deep roots in New Orleans, I can attest to everything you've written here.

It's amazing that what you've written still needs to be said all these years after Dr. Kenneth Clark's powerful black doll/white doll test contributed to the Supreme Court's landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas decision, which as you know, overturned the separate-but-equal rule in public schools.

I would be more startled by your article if I hadn't come across fairly recent research documenting that black kids continued to choose the white doll over the black doll in a replication of Dr. Clark's original experiment 50 years after the Brown decision.

As you may know, there is another dimension to the disconnect between people of color in New Orleans that goes back to the implementation of the Code Noir. Prior to the Black Codes at the end of Reconstruction, Creole people who looked more European than Black were essentially an in-between group with their own culture, music, and language (the Creole patois).

After the Supreme Court upheld separate-but-equal in Plessy v. Ferguson, Creoles were considered Black for the first time and forced to abide by the Code Noir. Since the word "creole" means a person born in the colonies and had nothing to do with race, the new rule led to resentments that continued long after the original reason for those hard feelings had been forgotten.

Although Creoles often intermarried with free people of color, there were many Creoles who were merely descendants of French and Spanish colonizers dating back hundreds of years before Louisiana became part of the United States.

This is not to refute what you've written about a very real problem in which today's people of color make distinctions among themselves based on racial phenotype. It's a ridiculous distinction that is hurtful to both sides. You provide a significant contribution by calling these attitudes out.

No doubt you've seen Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., on the popular PBS program "Finding Your Roots." Although he is phenotypically black, his own DNA test showed that he has more European ancestry than African. Dr. Gates was himself surprised at the discovery, noting the irony of having someone who is predominantly white as head of Harvard's African American Studies Department. One of these days, maybe we'll get over this race thing and fall in with scientists who've been saying for years that we should begin using the term "people groups."

Keep doing what you're doing, Allison. It's always a pleasure to read your work.

Fiction & cultural commentary with a personal twist — by a writer from the Deep South with roots in print & broadcast media.