“And You Have the Nerve to Call Me Colored!” is a contrastive poem. Unlike Langston Hughes, the writer of the poem has also familiarised us with the struggle of the African American. It beautifully compares two races. The speaker brilliantly praises the persistent skin color of his race. While on the other hand, he mocks the whites whose skin color changes from time to time.
The poem begins when the speaker says that he was black at the time of birth. Also, he grew up with the same color. Moreover, when he goes out in the sun, his skin tone remains the same. When he feels cold, his body does not show any other shade. Even death will not bring any change to his conplexion.
On the other hand, he addresses the world that mocks his dark complexion. While using vivid images, he sketches a fascinating image of their constantly changing outlook. He says that you look pink after birth, but you grow up displaying a white skin tone. Ironically, when you fall ill, you go green. When you take sunbath, your skin turns red. When you feel cold, you turn blue.
Moreover, at death, you display a new color. After describing the tale of their changing skin color, he again addresses the whites. He poses a thoughtful statement that he is called colored by those who themselves are multi-colored.
Major Themes in “And You Have the Nerve to Call Me Colored!”
Gender discrimination, bitter realities of the world, and irony are the poem’s major themes. The speaker of the poem tries to make people observe the world’s reality around. On a surface level, he talks about the blacks’ unjust treatment because of their dark complexion. They are not respected in the world because their skin color makes them stand out. However, in his opinion, their skin color somehow remains constant no matter what happens.
For example, it never changes its shade even when they die. While he limelight the irony of the world when he says how many whites called an African American colored. At the same time, they are the colored ones. Through this simple poetic piece, the speaker conveys a profound message that our world is a mix of races and genders. Therefore, we should respect each other and not try to put anyone down because of their akin tone. We need to treat everyone with respect ignoring their color, caste and creed.
Poetic and Literary Elements in the Poem
Although the poem is simple in its composition, the writer has used many literary and poetic elements in the poem. These techniques helped him to present his ideas emotions in a distinct way. These devices have also helped him to make his meanings clear using literary expertise. The writer has used imagery, repetition, metaphor, symbolism and various other devices in the poem whose analysis is as follows.
- Assonance: Assonance shows the constant occurrence of vowel sound in the same verse. The writer has repeated /e/ and /o/ in “When you die, you’ll be purple.”
- Allegory: Allegory is a literary device. It shows the symbolic representation of an idea or expression. “And You Have the Nerve to Call me Colored” is an allegoric poem because it sheds light on the problems African Americans face in the world.
- Consonance: Consonance shows the repetition of consonant sounds in the poem such as /n/ and /r/ sounds in “When you’re born, you’re pink.”
- Imagery: Imagery is using captivating images that appeal to the readers five senses. The poem is flooded with vivid imagery. Using contrastive words, the writer has painted a clear picture of people belonging to two different worlds.
- Metaphor: Metaphor is another literary device. It is used to compare show contrastive things. The writer has used racism as an extended metaphor in the poem to the sentiments of African Americans.
- Symbolism: Symbolism is using signs and symbols to talk about an idea in an indirect way. This is a symbolic poem; comparison of white and black skin colors symbolizes the bias approach of the world.
- Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. There are only two stanzas in this poem having seven verses in each stanza.
- Repetition: Repetition, a fundamental poetic technique shows the use of same words multiple time. The writer has used this device throughout the poem such as, “I was black”, “When I’” and “When you.”
Let’s Sum Up
Thus, “And You Have the Nerve to Call Me Colored!” draws our attention toward the world’s common problems. Unfortunately, after many years of struggle and hardships, blacks have not been able to liberate themselves from the clutches of racism and biased attitudes of the world.
I hope this engrossing read would have touched your heart. If you want to read more, please visit the following articles.