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Zora Hurston was an African-American author and a civil rights activist in the early 1900s. He died being very poor in a welfare home in Florida. In his book How It Feels To Be Colored Me, the phrase “colored me” is used to represent the black people living in America. In this case, he tries to boost the morale of the black community by trying to explain them that there is no crime in being colored, and it does not make a person any less of a man. He also tries to communicate to the white people in the way of showing them that the ‘colored people’, in this case the African-Americans, are as justified as any other man, be it white or not, and the ‘color’ does not make them any less of human being.
He approaches the African-Americans from a very personal point of view as he puts himself in the place of the masses. He says that having a colored skin texture has not stopped him from achieving what he has set to achieve, and neither does it limit him in any way. As far as he is concerned, being black is as vague and pointless as being tall or short. It is just another of the human physical characteristics. Therefore, it has no bearing, and it does not limit his abilities as a human being.
In the book I Love Myself When I Am Laughing ... And Then Again When I Am Looking Mean by Zora Neale Hurston and Alice Walker, it is stated categorically that the author does feel pity on himself for being colored. Neither does he waste time whining and being sorry for being black, as he has a life to build and goals to achieve, as quoted in Alice Walker’s controversial essay:
“I do 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 hurt about it” (Walker).
Martin Luther King, on the other hand, preaches against racism and the afflictions of the black people in America. He uses the gospel to reach out to the white race and fight against discrimination of the African-Americans living in the United States of America. In his publication, he preaches about peace and co-existence. He is more concerned with the equal treatment of the blacks and whites. For instance, in his speech, commonly referred to as “I Have a Dream” he categorically states his desire for appreciation of the black child for his/her achievements and capabilities and not because of the color of his/her skin. He states,
“I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character” (Luther)
He is, thus, more concerned with the welfare of the people, and seeks to motivate them to fight for what he believes to be true and just. He stands for equal treatment of all regardless of where you come from or one’s color of skin. He is of the idea that character content is the basis of judging one, and not one’s physical nature.
When she refers to being colored, Zora Hurston means people of the African origin living in the United States of America. During that time, they were associated with poverty and strife. She puts that she could not victimize, degrade or humiliate the black people as she had not been exposed to them in this way, neither was she like that. The term color always created the impression of being less in some way. Zora’s statement that she could not write otherwise about the black people means that there was some sort of prejudice about the black people and previous authors had chosen to write negative things concerning the colored people. That is the reason why there was pressure among the black authors to create a respectable character for the black people in order to aid in the fight against racism. This means that the only way that was available to change people’s minds about the black people was to lure the writers to stop writing about the negative things that existed in the black community, and focus on the positive and motivating things. Therefore, the experience of being ‘colored’ was a very negative one. It was related to poverty and defeat, and as such, black people were humiliated and discriminated against.
When Zora was writing this essay, it was at a time when racial discrimination against the colored people was at its peak. There was a social outcry from among the black people that racial discrimination is stopped, and that they are given equal rights and access; just as any other citizen of America. There were many people who rose up to support the initiative and push it to a point where they could see results. The aim of this revolution was to end racism and uphold equality. The experience of the colored changed much later. The colored people were accepted as being part of the American population and given as much equal rights as the whites. Just recently, the American people elected a black president, and this was the ultimate win over the war against racism in America. It proved that the whites had outlived the stereotypes that black people are inferior to them to a point where they accepted a black person to lead them.