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Saturday, February 15, 2020

What The African American Saying "All My Skinfolk Ain't My Kinfolk" REALLY Means

Edited by Azizi Powell

Latest revision - Feb. 16, 2020

This pancocojams post provides explanations for the African American saying "All my skinfolk ain't kinfolk" (or similarly worded sayings).

This post also showcases seven excerpts from several online sources that include the saying "All my skinfolk ain't my kinfolk" (or similarly worded sayings).

The content of this post is presented for cultural and linguistic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Novelist, essayist, anthropologist, and filmaker Zora Neale Hurston is widely credited as popularizing the saying "All my skinfolks ain't kinfolks".

Thanks to Zora Neale Hurston for her cultural legacy. Thanks also to all those who are quoted in this post.

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INFORMATION ABOUT ZORA NEALE HURSTON AND THE SAYING "ALL SKINFOLK AIN'T MY KINFOLK"
The saying "All my kinfolk ain't my skinfolk" is widely credited to Zora Neale Hurston. Read the quote given as #1 below that indicates that Zora Neale Hurston popularized that saying (as opposed to originated [coined] that saying).

Here's information about Zora Neale Hurston from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zora_Neale_Hurston
"Zora Neale Hurston (January 7, 1891[1][2] – January 28, 1960) was an American author, anthropologist, and filmmaker. She portrayed racial struggles in the early-20th-century American South and published research on Hoodoo.[3] The most popular of her four novels is Their Eyes Were Watching God, published in 1937. She also wrote more than 50 short stories, plays, and essays.

[...]

Hurston's works concerned both the African-American experience and her struggles as an African-American woman. Her novels went relatively unrecognized by the literary world for decades. Interest was revived in 1975 after author Alice Walker published an article, "In Search of Zora Neale Hurston", in the March issue of Ms. magazine that year."...
-snip-

Unfortunately, although numerous online sources attribute the saying "All my skinfolk ain't my kinfolk" to Zora Neale Hurston, none of those sources indicate when and where Huston used that saying (for instance, in which of her books or essays). Also, I wonder how widespread the saying "All my skinfolk ain't my kinfolk" actually was among African Americans before Zora Neale Huston popularized it.

In my online perusal of published examples of "All my skinfolk ain't my kinfolk", the earliest example of that saying was in 2004. Here's an excerpt of that example:
From http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,880301,00.html 10 Questions For Tavis Smiley
By Christopher John Farley; Tavis Smiley Sunday, Dec. 05, 2004
..."WHAT'S MORE DIVERSE THESE DAYS — NPR OR PRESIDENT BUSH'S CABINET?

Bush's Cabinet. It is ironic that a Republican President has an Administration that is more inclusive and more diverse than a so-called liberal-media-elite network.

BUT DO BUSH'S MINORITY SELECTIONS REFLECT THE VALUES OF THE COMMUNITIES FROM WHICH THEY COME?

There is a distinction between symbolism and substance — Zora Neale Hurston once said, "All my skinfolk ain't my kinfolk." But whether one likes or loathes the people Bush has chosen to be part of his Administration, he is reaching out."...
-snip-
If you know of any published examples prior to 2004 of the saying "All my skinfolk ain't my kinfolk" other than the quote attributed to Zora Neale Hurston, please share that information in the comment section below. Thanks in advance!

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DEFINITION OF "KINFOLK"
From https://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/kinfolk
"kinfolk
Your kinfolk are the people in your family. Even very distant cousins you've never met can be described as your kinfolk.

When anthropologists use the term kinfolk, they mean people who are related by blood and share a common ancestor. You can use the word in a much wider way, though, to include people related by marriage and adoption, as well as friends who are so close you consider them part of your family. Kinfolk combines the Old English roots cynn, or "family," and folc, "people." "

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DEFINITION OF "SKINFOLK"
From https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=skinfolk
"skinfolk
Someone who is of your own race or skin colour but not your family or friends , probably not someone you even like
All my skinfolk are not my kinfolk
by Deebaby January 18, 2017
-snip-
This bold font was used in this comment on that page. This is the only entry for "skinfolk" on that page (as of the date & time of this pancocojams post).

I think that Deebaby meant "not [just] your family or friends".

One's skinfolk usually also include one's kinfolk. However, for various reasons (including interracial marriage and adoption), members of a person's family may not be the same race/s and/or ethnicity/s as that person. Also, a person can have friends who aren't the same race/ethnicity/s that they are.

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MY EXPLANATION OF THE SAYING "ALL MY SKINFOLK AIN'T MY KINFOLK"
The saying "All my skinfolk ain't my kinfolk" means that just because a person has the same skin color that you do (is a member of the same race/ethnicity as you are), that doesn't mean that they will treat you like a family member (i.e. be supportive and considerate of you, and/or agree with you on the issues that you consider important.)

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SEVERAL ONLINE DEFINITIONS OR EXCERPTS THAT EXPLAIN OR USE THE SAYING "ALL MY SKINFOLK AIN'T MY KINFOLK"(AND SIMILARLY WORDED SAYINGS)

(These excerpts are given in no particular order and are numbered for referencing purposes only.)

1. From https://www.farooqkperogi.com/2014/02/25-black-american-english-expressions_23.html 25 Black American English Expressions You Should Know (II)
By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D., Sunday, February 23, 2014

[...]
"24. “Skin folk.” This is a Black English expression for members of one’s race. It’s modeled on the Standard English expression “kinfolk,” which means members of one’s nuclear and extended family. The phrase was popularized by Zora Neale Hurston, an African-American folklorist and author who once famously said “All my skinfolk ain't kinfolk.” It is a witty and creative way to say “not all people who share the same racial identity as me are my family.” In other words, there is more to friendship and affinity than mere racial similarity. African-Americans say this when they are betrayed by fellow blacks."

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2. From https://tcchitima.wordpress.com/2017/11/03/all-my-skinfolk-aint-kinfolk/ “All my skinfolk ain’t kinfolk” by TCCHITIMA, NOVEMBER 3, 2017
"In my time at Girls’ College I came to the realisation that “all my skinfolk ain’t my kinfolk” This quote by Zara Neale Hurston perfectly describes the system at my school. The quote means that not all people who share the same racial identity as me are my family. This hit me hard. For a while, I’ve been wanting to speak up about the system that is rooted in inequality at my school and I’ve been getting messages from other black people telling me not to speak up because I’m still at the school or not to speak up because I’m leaving and it is no longer my issue. What they don’t understand is it is and always will be my issue! I am a proud black girl who loves everything about herself! I personally may not have been broken down by the system but my sisters have and they may not always be able to voice out their opinions!

[...]

The school encourages a snitch system reminiscent of apartheid/colonial eras and what I consider a disingenuous “campaign game” where you are rewarded according to your level of conformity. This has led to deeply engrained fear in a majority of the girls – afraid to speak up even when given a platform to do so anonymously… This is heartbreaking.

I stand in solidarity with all of the girls at my school affected by the racist remarks that were made at my school and attempts to erase our ethnicity and identity. I stand with those who have already spoken out and we stand for those who haven’t found the courage to speak up!"

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3. From https://extraecclesiamestlibertas.wordpress.com/2015/11/05/all-my-skinfolk-aint-my-kinfolk/
"All My Skinfolk Ain’t My Kinfolk" NOVEMBER 5, 2015 ~ LMICKENS
"One of Republican presidential hopeful Ben Carson’s schticks is his insistence that if nominated and elected, he would be America’s first “real black president.” As opposed to the “fake black” president we have now. This assertion isn’t new, since Herman Cain was saying the same thing during his own failed presidential run, and this meme is being reiterated by white Republicans who are desperate to run a black candidate to make them seem less white and less racist. Whatever one thinks of Obama’s policies, the notion that he is somehow “less black” than Carson or Cain ignores the way in which blackness was and is constructed in the United States.

As I have mentioned before, using the one drop rule as the basis for determining who is black “defines blackness down” to the point where it has no meaning. If you go to Latin America or Europe, black people are considered to be, well, black. Beige, tan, coffee-colored,and copper-colored people are considered to be in a different category altogether, but in the United States all would be considered “black.” Booker T. Washington and Frederick Douglass both had white fathers, yet no one questions whether they are black.

Perhaps what Carson means is that Obama’s background and personal history differ too much too from that of the “average black person.” To which I would ask: so what? Contrary to what many people would have you believe, there is no single normative black experience. I know a lot of people would consider my own experiences — private secondary schools, private colleges, extensive post-graduate education, socialized mainly among white people, no experience in “the black church” — to not be a normative black experience.

There are as many black experiences as there are black people, and each experience is peculiar to that person. It’s particularly ironic, because Obama did everything right according to the conservative life plan (go to elite schools, wait until marriage to have children, got a number of high-paying positions) and actually governs to the right of Nixon, but is considered to be some kind of fire-breathing communist.

I think what is really going on is that conservatives think that black people voted for Obama simply because he’s black, so if they can get a black candidate of their own to field, they can finally get some of those sweet, sweet minority votes. Except if you actually look at the statistics .

[...]

What Carson actually shows to me is that wingnuttery comes in many colors. Every day he seems to come up with some new ridiculous statement, like the pyramids were built by the Biblical character Joseph to store grain ( http://www.timesofisrael.com/carson-pyramids-not-tombs-built-by-joseph-to-store-grain) or that the Holocaust could have been prevented if the Jews had been armed (http://bluenationreview.com/ben-carson-implies-holocaust-could-have-been-prevented-if-jews-were-armed). While Carson may be a skilled surgeon, he has no business making public policy. Indeed, I think fellow black atheist Zora Neal Hurston said it best when she said, “All my skinfolk ain’t my kinfolk.”....

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4. From https://www.theroot.com/the-politics-of-being-woke-1790856010 "The Politics of Being Woke" Lawrence Ware, 7/14/16
..."This is the heart of what it means to be “woke.” The masses of black folks who were lulled to sleep by economic opportunity have now awoken to the fact that race is, and will remain, a central part of the black experience. Yet there is disagreement about who is allowed to be woke and what is expected of those who have now entered into this new existential state of being.

Who Gets Access?
For me, being woke means awakening to the pervasive, intersectional insidiousness of white supremacy. This awakening is not limited to people of color. Black folks are not the only ones who needed a wake-up call.

Souls that inhabit white bodies can be allies and accomplices in the fight against oppression, in the same way that black folks can be agents and accomplices in promoting, promulgating and protecting white supremacy. As my grandmother once said, conjuring Zora Neale Hurston, “All your skinfolk ain’t your kinfolk.” Meaning that you can inhabit a black body and be an agent of white supremacy. Just ask Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, or any of the thousands of black Americans who are more concerned with white feelings than with black lives and bodies. Black folks don’t have the market cornered on being “woke,” and there is no agreement about how best to actualize the potentiality of the black community.”...

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5. From https://www.iesabroad.org/blogs/kandise-le-blanc/melanin-milan-finding-my-people-abroad#sthash.8GhHD6YU.dpbs "Melanin in Milan: Finding My People Abroad"
by Kandise Le Blanc, October 16, 2019
...."There’s a popular quote from Zora Neale Hurston within the Black community: “All my skinfolk ain’t kinfolk.” Meaning that just because someone is Black doesn’t mean that they’ll always have your back. Zora Neale Hurston’s quote highlights how Black folks can be pitted against one another. But when Black people support one another, we have the incredible capability to lift up one another. Time and time again, the Black students at IES Abroad Milan have shown up for me. From making dinner together to cheering like proud parents anytime I sing, these amazing people have become la mia famiglia (my family)."
-snip-
In the context of that post, "IES" means "The Institute for the International Education of Students, or IES Abroad, is a non-profit study abroad organization that administers study abroad programs for U.S. college-aged students." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Institute_for_the_International_Education_of_Students

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6. From https://www.facebook.com/forblackwomenonly/posts/all-skin-folk-aint-kinfolk-dont-be-bullied-or-psychologically-blackmailed-into-s/1133033590041163/
For Black Women ONLY, March 1, 2016
"All skin-folk ain't kinfolk". Don't be bullied or psychologically blackmailed into supporting just anyone because they are black, especially if the work they produce or the values they uphold aren't in line with your values.
If they:

-denigrate black women's image for laughs
-abuse black women and children off-stage
-degrade and devalue blackness and the black identity (e.g. by stating that mixed race people are better looking, etc.)
-establish disparities among black people by cultures
-pander to racist Whites by placing the onus of racism on black people
and that is NOT about who you are and what you stand for, stick to your guns and REMOVE ALL FORMS OF SUPPORT."....
-snip-
The word "sh&t" (fully spelled out) is used several times in that post.

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7. From https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2020/1/28/1914021/-Black-Kos-Tuesday-s-Chile-Remembering-Zora-s-words-and-wisdom
Black Kos, Tuesday's Chile: Remembering Zora's words and wisdom
2020/01/28
“All my skinfolk ain’t my kinfolk” ~ Zora Neale Hurston

Commentary by Black Kos Editor Denise Oliver-Velez

"As I watch certain folks, who may share melanated skin with me, and a family history of enslavement, persist in sucking up to the very people who would gladly sell us all back into shackles in hopes of gaining favor with the orange massa in the White House and his lackeys, I hear the words of Sistah Zora Neale Hurston in my head.

“All my skinfolk ain’t my kinfolk”

At a time when an all-white slate of Democratic Presidential candidates are fightin’ like yard dogs over a bone, to win over the black vote with new promises and plans, and blue check mark black Twitterati are pontificatin’ and vying to deliver that which they actually cannot do (but will get brownie points for trying) I hear Zora’s voice again, which smart politicians should heed (though I doubt many or any of them have read her)

“But for the national welfare, it is urgent to realize that the minorities do think, and think about something other than the race problem.”

She coulda been talking about Donald Trump when she quipped:

“Anytime you catch folks lying, they scared of something.”

On the anniversary of her death, I seek the wisdom she offered during her life.

There is so much of it."...

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1 comment:

  1. For what it's worth, I'm an African American who grew up in the 1950s and have lived in the Northeast state of New Jersey and since 1969 I've lived in the (almost?) Midwest state of Pennsylvania. And I've never heard anyone say "All my skinfolk" ain't my kinfolk."

    I first read that saying in 2019 (in some online article whose source I can't recall).

    I wonder how widespread that saying is. Is it mostly a folk saying among African Americans from the South?

    ReplyDelete