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第4册 - Unit 8, Section A - Slavery Gave Me Nothing to Lose

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I remember the very day that I became black. Up to my thirteenth year I lived in the little Negro town of Eatonville, Florida. It is exclusively a black town. The only white people I knew passed through the town going to or coming from Orlando, Florida. The native whites rode dusty horses, and the northern tourists traveled down the sandy village road in automobiles. The town knew the Southerners and never stopped chewing sugar cane when they passed. But the Northerners were something else again. They were peered at cautiously from behind curtains by the timid. The bold would come outside to watch them go past and got just as much pleasure out of the tourists as the tourists got out of the village.

The front deck might seem a frightening place for the rest of the town, but it was a front row seat for me. My favorite place was on top of the gatepost. Not only did I enjoy the show, but I didn't mind the actors knowing that I liked it. I usually spoke to them in passing. I'd wave at them and when they returned my wave, I would say a few words of greeting. Usually the automobile or the horse paused at this, and after a strange exchange of greetings, I would probably 'go a piece of the way' with them, as we say in farthest Florida, and follow them down the road a bit. If one of my family happened to come to the front of the house in time to see me, of course the conversation would be rudely broken off.

During this period, white people differed from black to me only in that they rode through town and never lived there. They liked to hear me 'speak pieces' and sing and wanted to see me dance, and gave me generously of their small silver for doing these things, which seemed strange to me for I wanted to do them so much that I needed bribing to stop. Only they didn't know it. The colored people gave no coins. They disapproved of any joyful tendencies in me, but I was their Zora nevertheless. I belonged to them, to the nearby hotels, to the country - everybody's Zora.

But changes came to the family when I was thirteen, and I was sent to school in Jacksonville. I left Eatonville as Zora. When I got off the riverboat at Jacksonville, she was no more. It seemed that I had suffered a huge change. I was not Zora of Eatonville any more; I was now a little black girl. I found it out in certain ways. In my heart as well as in the mirror, I became a permanent brown - like the best shoe polish, guaranteed not to rub nor run.

Someone is always at my elbow reminding me that I am the granddaughter of slaves. It fails to register depression with me. Slavery is something sixty years in the past. The operation was successful and the patient is doing well, thank you. The terrible war that made me an American instead of a slave said 'On the line!' The period following the Civil War said 'Get set!'; and the generation before me said 'Go!' Like a foot race, I am off to a flying start and I must not halt in the middle to look behind and weep. Slavery is the price I paid for civilization, and the choice was not with me. No one on earth ever had a greater chance for glory. The world to be won and nothing to be lost. It is thrilling to think, to know, that for any act of mine, I shall get twice as much praise or twice as much blame. It is quite exciting to hold the center of the national stage, with the audience not knowing whether to laugh or to weep.

I do not always feel colored. Even now I often achieve the unconscious Zora of that small village, Eatonville. For instance, I can sit in a restaurant with a white person. We enter chatting about any little things that we have in common and the white man would sit calmly in his seat, listening to me with interest.

At certain times I have no race, I am me. But in the main, I feel like a brown bag of mixed items propped up against a wall. Against a wall in company with other bags, white, red and yellow. Pour out the contents, and there is discovered a pile of small things both valuable and worthless. Bits of broken glass, lengths of string, a key to a door long since decayed away, a rusty knife-blade, old shoes saved for a road that never was and never will be, a nail bent under the weight of things too heavy for any nail, a dried flower or two still with a little smell. In your hand is the brown bag. On the ground before you is the pile it held - so much like the piles in the other bags, could they be emptied, that all might be combined and mixed in a single heap and the bags refilled without altering the content of any greatly. A bit of colored glass more or less would not matter. Perhaps that is how the Great Stuffer of Bags filled them in the first place - who knows?

我清楚地记得我成为黑人的那一天。

13岁之前我一直住在佛罗里达州的一个黑人小镇伊顿维尔。

小镇的居民全是黑人。

我所认识的白人都是来自佛罗里达的奥兰多或是去往奥兰多的过路人。

本地的白人骑着风尘仆仆的马匹,而北方来的旅游者则驾着汽车沿着乡下的沙土路一路驶来。

小镇的人见惯了南方人,因此他们经过时小镇的人照旧大嚼甘蔗。

但是看到北方人则是另一回事。

胆怯的人躲在窗帘后小心翼翼地偷看他们,

胆大的则会走到屋外看着他们经过,感到很有趣,就像这些旅游者看到这村庄也感到很有趣一样。

门前平台可能是镇上其他人不敢去的地方,但对我来说,那儿就像前排座位一样。

我最爱坐在门柱上。

我喜欢在那儿看人们来来往往,也不在乎让那些人知道我喜欢看他们,

通常还与他们搭几句话。

我向他们挥手,如果他们也向我挥手,我还会与他们打招呼。

骑马或驾车的人通常会停下来,我们不可思议地互打招呼之后,我可能会随着他们"颠儿几步",这是我们佛罗里达最南边的说法,意思是跟着他们走上一小段路。

如果正巧赶上家里人来到房前看见我,他们就会毫不客气地打断我们的交谈。

那段日子里,在我看来,白人和黑人的区别只不过是他们路过小镇,但从不住在这里。

他们喜欢听我"说几句",喜欢听我唱歌,看我跳舞,并为此大方地给我小银币这倒使我感到意外,因为我太愿意跟他们"说上几句",太愿意为他们唱歌跳舞了,他们给我钱时我才会停下来。

只是他们不知道这一点。

黑人不会给我钱,

对我表现出的任何一点欢乐的苗头,他们都不赞同。但我仍然是他们的佐拉,

我是属于他们,属于周围的旅馆,属于那个地方,属于每一个人的佐拉。

但我13岁时,家里发生了变故,我被送到杰克逊维尔的学校去了。

离开伊顿维尔时我还是我,佐拉。

可在杰克逊维尔下了船后,原来的佐拉不复存在了。

我似乎发生了巨大的变化,

我再也不是伊顿维尔的佐拉了,我现在成了个小黑妞,

在好些方面都是。

在镜中,在内心深处,我变成了永远不黑不白的棕色人──就像最好的鞋油,抹不掉,不褪色。

身边总有人提醒我自己是奴隶的后代,

但这并没有使我沮丧。

奴隶制是60年前的事了。

解放黑奴的这场手术很成功,病人的情况也不错,谢谢。

这场使我从黑奴变为美国公民的可怕战争喊道"各就位!"

内战后的那段时期说"预备!"我的上一代人则喊"跑!"

就像一场赛跑一样,我飞速起跑,决不可中途停步,伤心回望。

身为黑奴是我为文明生活所付出的代价,而作出这一选择的并不是我。

世界上再没有什么人有过比这更大的争取荣耀的机会了。

想想将要获得的新生活,而且我们不会有任何损失。不管我做什么,都可能得到双倍的嘉奖,或是双份的责难。想想这一点,知道这一点都令人激动不已。

占据国内舞台的中心可真刺激,而台下的观众则不知是喜是忧。

我没有总是感到自己是有色人种。

甚至现在我还常常感觉自己还是伊顿维尔小镇上懵懂无知的佐拉。

比如,我可以在餐馆和一位白人坐在一起。

我们闲谈一些都经历过的平常琐事,白人会安静地坐着,兴味盎然地听我讲。

有时候我不属于任何人种,我就是我自己。

但我大体上还是感觉自己像一只靠墙立着的装满各种杂物的棕色袋子。靠墙立着的还有其他颜色的袋子,白色的,红色的,黄色的。

倒出袋中的物品,可以发现一堆或有用或无用的小杂物:

碎玻璃块,小线头儿,一扇早已朽坏的门上的钥匙,一把锈蚀的刀,一双为某条从来没有、将来也不会有的路而准备的旧鞋,一根弯曲的钉子(它所承受过的重量足以弄折任何钉子),一两支仍散发出几许花香的干花。

你手中拿的是棕色的袋子,

面前的地上则是袋中所装的那堆东西──与其他袋子中所倒出的东西几乎一模一样,如果把它们混成一大堆,再分装到各自的袋中,也不会有多大的不同。

多少有点有色玻璃片也没有什么关系。

也许当初上帝这个装袋者往我们各自的袋中填塞时正是这么做的,谁知道呢?

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