Despite talks of post-racialism, complexion politics are alive and well. The most recent incident to fuel the light skin/dark skin debate is Sanaa Lathan’s cover for Uptown Magazine.

The magazine faced backlash from several critics who ascertain that Lathan’s skin looks lighter than usual on the cover of the magazine’s May issue. Uptown joins a long list of magazines and advertorials, including Beyonce’s ad for L’Oreal, O.J. Simpson’s cover for Time Magazine, Gabourey Sidibe’s cover for Elle Magazine and Kim Kardashian’s photoshoot for Complex Magazine, that have been called out for skin lightening.

But with Uptown Magazine being an African-American publication, the skin-lightening issue hits closer to home. In response, the company published a provocative piece, “Lighten Up: Does Skin Tone Still Matter” to create a healthy and insightful discussion around color complexes and complexion politics in the media.

While they acknowledge that Sanaa appears lighter-skinned on the cover, they don’t deny or confirm the claims that they are responsible for lightening her skin. Surely there are several other factors that could contribute to a lighter complexion that have nothing to do with Photoshop. Perhaps, the studio was well-lit or maybe Sanaa Lathan appears paler because she simply stayed out of the sun.

Why do critics automatically assume Photoshop or foul play because her skin appears lighter? Is that fair? Do you think their criticisms are valid? What does the backlash say about the state of complexion politics among African-Americans?


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