1. They were Negroes and we were also Negroes. I just didn’t see Negroes hating each other so much.
This remark sums up Anne’s feelings in Chapter 4. “They” are Raymond’s family, especially his mother, Miss Pearl. As lighter-skinned African Americans, they look down on Anne’s family members, who have darker skin. It is implied, though not actually stated, that they would prefer Raymond marry a woman with lighter skin. Before the civil rights movement, many lighter-skinned blacks aspired to a higher social status, though they were not given any special legal treatment. Lighter-skinned blacks were called by names like “yellow,” “mulatto,” and “high yellow,” and their skin tones reflected the predominance of white ancestry. In some cases, blacks’ appearance was indistinguishable from that of whites. In Coming of Age, the degree of intermixing among whites and blacks helps establish the absurdity of racial distinctions. The fact that blacks make such distinctions despite sharing common mistreatment by whites underscores this, and also highlights the need for unity among blacks.
After her mother is so coldly treated by Raymond’s family, Anne becomes suspicious of lighter-skinned blacks. In fact, she almost does not go to Tougaloo College because she fears the students are mostly lighter-skinned and will look down on her. She eventually becomes so suspicious of the potential prejudice of lighter-skinned blacks that she is herself prejudiced, furthering the theme of the evil of prejudice.