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Ted Hearne: Letter to my father

Today’s selection comes from Ted Hearne’s 2015 composition Coloring Book. He describes the work as such: “I set the words of three great black American writers of different generations (Zora Neale Hurston, James Baldwin, Claudia Rankine) in texts dealing with identity, not because I could ever pretend to speak for them, but because I wanted to know: Could I better understand their words by speaking them in my own voice? Could I better understand my own perspective—my own identity, my whiteness, my relationship to racism—by appropriating the perspective of someone different? What are the boundaries that separate me from not-me? And what does it mean to hold myself apart?” Below is the text, a poem by Zora Neale Hurston.

Letter to my father
Him. He
He has only heard what I
I felt. He
He is far away but I
I see him.
Him but dimly across the ocean and the continent that have fallen between us.
Us. He
He is so pale with his whiteness then and I
I am so colored.
Music. The great blobs of purple and red emotion have not touched him.
He is so pale with his whiteness then and I
I am so colored.

—Zora Neale Hurston
from “How it feels to be colored me” (1928)

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