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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  • it maybe true that the entire photo may be light in its content,although I feel that that was just as much a part of the scheme to lighten her face for America’;s inbred hatred of dark complexion,we know that in society especially tv and the movies,lightskin is highly revered.One black director I know that has shown an acute distain for darker complexton blacks is Tyler Perry,just notice his movies and you will see that the villian role is almost always played by the darkskin brother,hence driving even deeper the long held belief that darkskin is bad.I know what makes us black folks tick, I can recall when me and a one-time girlfriend were selling black figurines, it was at this time I recieved a greater insight into how skewed and twisted the minds of many blacks were,for example,we had an extremely difficult time selling the darkskin characters even at 1/3 off while the cost of the lighter complexioned characters remained the same,no price cuts. That experiance really opened my eyes and now I as a darkskin black man am beginning to feel less attached to the black community.I often wonder sometimes while looking at a lighter complexion black if he or she can see my humanity the same way I sometimes feel about whites.there seems to be this separation somewhat withon our community that is based on complexion and its very disturbing.Some black female groups are even discriminating against darker complexioned girls.the movie videos tend to show lighter complexioned females all the time and if thats not enough to convince you just listen to some of the black rappers like young berg saying before the whole world how much they despise dark women. I strongly feel that blacks especialy if you are darkskin ,should pay a closer watch of the color hue used in movies and videos and if it seems that the director or movie group have a problem with color hues, they ought to stop buying their movies and CD’S .gthat i believe will put an end to this colorism.IF YOU ARE DARKSKIN AND YOU ARE BUYING MOVIES AND CD’S FROM RAPPERS WHO DONT HONOR YOU BY PORTRAYING FOLKS WHO LOOK LIKE YOU IN THEIR WORK YOU ARE A FOOL.STAND UP AND BE COUNTED.STOP BUYING THEIR WORK UNTILL THEY SHOW YOU RESPECT. I DO NOT BUY TYLER PERRY’S MOVIES

    • Vi

      I agree with pretty much everything you said. You also find that archetype in villans in Disney movies. They always have a darker complexion. Its almost like it is ingrained into our childrens’ mind that dark means evil. Little Mermaid- Ursula the Sea Witch is lavendar toned skin with a black dress. Princess and the frog, darker villan. (using voodoo) Aladdin and Snow White reinforce this archetype as well, so its no suprise that other media outlets are doing the same.

  • smooches

    Some black people are color struck!,it really is crazy,no one can help how God made them!,and BLACK IS STILL BEAUTIFUL!