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Stunning Rosemarie Delrio should have wanted for nothing; yet, judged as a misfit and an outcast by the society from whom she carves acceptance, she is the epitome of loneness and need. Neither white, nor Negro, but a mixture of both, not even the early lessons learned from discrimination and racial slurs can toughen the sensitivity to living a life of rejection. Born as the offspring of two ethnic groups, she belongs to neither, and suffers rejection by both.
During Jeanette Cooper's first year of teaching elementary school, school integration among the white and black races was just getting underway. It was a time when schools and school children were undergoing one of the greatest transitions and challenges in American history. Jeanette had a young biracial girl in her class whose anguish over her plight to fit into the context of two racial cultures was nearly overwhelming. She turned to Jeanette for solace and comfort with an outpouring of misery and confusion that was unforgettable. When Jeanette retired and started writing books, the young biracial fifth grade girl was the inspiration for her first novel, Wall of Color.
Wall of Color will offer you a vicarious and emotional experience into a young biracial woman's plight to live within the restrictive boundaries of a society (1953) where rules of segregation allow few exceptions to its all-white, all-black, separate but equal divisions upheld by Plessy v. Ferguson 163 U.S.537 (1896).
“What is your interest in my boy?” Remmy demanded as soon as Beau left the room.
Her abrupt manner rather startled Rosemarie, but upon seeing how Remmy looked at her, there was no doubt the old woman was determined to know Rosemarie’s intentions where Beau was concerned. “I care a great deal for Beau,” was all she said, hoping it might suffice as an answer to the old woman’s question.
“How much do you care for him?” she quizzed, her jaw set with determination.
Rosemarie shot a sharp, suspicious glance at her, thinking the old woman was out of line snooping into personal matters. She recoiled in alarm at such meddling. “I’m sorry but my feelings are private,” she answered with stubborn pride.
Remmy’s brows drew close together, a vertical line forming from the top of her nose up above the line of her brow. “I have raised Beau since he was born. His mother died and I was the only mother he had. I have loved him like my own child, and you can understand why I feel so protective toward him. I have seen the way he looks at you, the way he touches you every chance he gets. Only a fool would fail to see he cares for you.” She cleared her throat, swallowing, and then twisted her head about anxiously as she prepared to continue her discourse. “You are not right for my Beau.” Her eyes seemed to reach out and grab Rosemarie’s gaze, the expression on her face holding an icy coldness.
Rosemarie sent her a look of innocent bewilderment. “Remmy, I respect your feelings for Beau, and while I don’t want hard feelings between us, I think it best we not discuss this further.” An explosion of resentment grew force inside her.
“Did you hear me? You are not right for him. Look at your skin. You have black blood running through your heart. He’s white and needs someone who will complement his life, not tear it down.” She paused for reflection, watching Rosemarie’s mouth gape open in shock before she continued. “I saw what Beau’s mother went through trying to be someone she wasn’t––stepping out of the bottoms like she was somebody, walking up and down the streets, in and out of shops like the whole city belonged to her. She couldn’t help that, though. She loved life so much she was full of joy and laughter, resembling a young child turned loose in a wonderland where things were hers just for the asking. She was poor, but her joy of life made her richer than anyone.
“I was with her the first time she met Beau’s father. We were at the market place, and she was especially beautiful that day. Her mama had gathered up all her old scraps, sewed them together, and made her a swirling gathered skirt––all them little scraps a different color and design, but oddly very pretty. It was the best piece of clothing she had, and she wore it with pride and the excitement of a little child with its first new dress. She was running about the market place, laughing just because she loved to laugh, touching the fruit and vegetables, lifting them and smelling them, spinning in a circle in that gathered skirt so her legs were bare right up past her knees. He was there, Beau’s father, just standing there, watching her as if he’d never seen any woman before in his life until her.
“I saw in his eyes what he wanted, knew he would have her one way or the other, and he did. I never expected him to fall in love with her, but he did that, too. Oh, yes, I saw with my own eyes. I was her aunt. He followed her home that day, and then began coming frequently after that with sacks of food, gifts, and new clothes for her. I knew what was in his mind. She knew, too. Then finally, after he’d been coming around steadily for nearly a month, he took her with him one day, put her up in a fine apartment, lay in her bed night after night until he was struck by her spell and never looked at another woman again.”
“But they loved each other! How can you find fault with that?”
“I find no fault with love. I find fault with people trying to be something they can’t be. The two of them just weren't meant for each other. You can’t take a rock and turn it into a diamond, but that’s what he tried to do. He gave her everything, dressed her in the finest clothes and jewels, but she could never overcome her yellow-brown skin that marked her for who she really was, a white man’s whore.
“Your skin is the color hers was. Do you think you can make my Beau happy? You would ruin his life. He’s white and will be accepted wherever he goes, but not with you. You’re just another nigger like me, and like she was. He deserves someone who will be accepted, someone who can mix with his own kind; not be shunned and cast out by people he has known most of his life.”
Rosemarie was trying to keep her self-control, trying to hang onto her equilibrium, trying to avoid becoming defensive, or simply breaking down by the force of the rejection she felt. The old woman was looking at her as if for some acknowledgment of all she had said, so Rosemarie said the first thing that popped into her mind. “If they shun him, they aren’t worth knowing,” She wanted to say much more, but knowing silence was the best response to such an attack, she guarded her tongue.
“You still don’t understand do you? I don’t want him to suffer like his father and mother. I don’t want you to suffer, but you will. If you marry Beau, you will suffer the same as his parents did, and like them, you will never find peace.
“His father lived in misery, dying a hundred different deaths every time his precious Jacqueline was snubbed or ridiculed. I saw how my Beau bore the brunt of his mother’s roots all his life, trying to live down the gossip and whispers that followed him about like the plague wherever he went. What do you think his life will be like with the likes of you? All you will ever do is bring him pain.” Her face contorted with a look that combined anguish and fury.
The old woman was ferocious, stating her case with forthright and unadorned candor. While Rosemarie didn’t exactly feel threatened by her, she nevertheless, felt her whole body stiffen into a taut, rigid pose of anger. Once again, her golden, caramel colored skin had provoked an issue, her antagonist brutal in manner. Rosemarie felt the sting of tears, silently forbidding herself to cry. She wished the old woman would let the subject drop, but she seemed determined to make her point.