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In the latest issue of Uptown magazine, Kierna Mayo delves into one of the issues that have continued to divide us—color.

Despite the many strides we have made and our best efforts to overcome it, we can’t deny that colorism is still a big part of our communities. Whether we are complaining about Lil Wayne’s constant celebration of “redbones,” or wondering why a commercial only showcases light-skin sisters, or are rooting a little harder for the FLOTUS because she’s a brown skin woman, we can’t deny that Black folks still have a complex relationship with skin color.

In the piece, “Skin Deep,” Kierna Mayo interviewed a cross-section of prominent African-Americans to see how and why we are still so obsessed with color.

As I read the discussions, many things jumped out at me. One major theme was that there is pain on all sides. Whether you’re a light skin sister who has at once been celebrated and shunned because of your skin color, or if you’re a dark skin sister who has been fetishized and/or cast aside because of your deep hue, there is pain. No matter what point on the color spectrum you fall on, we’ve all been hurt.

Writer/Activist Michaela Angela Davis on ‘Yellow Fever’…

“I’m so far on the light-skinned scale that I don’t actually benefit from the typical light-skinned thing. Growing up, I was so fair. I had blond hair and was often mistaken for albino. I was almost able to be a voyeur. My sister, however, is very Halle Berry. I held a panel once with black women who were really high up (at mainstream institutions) in the fashion industry, and [the two darker-skinned women] scheduled to be there couldn’t make it. My panel was light-skinned by default and the reaction from the crowd was so intense. I chose people based on their credentials. A part of me thought that if all these women had brown skin, no one would have been up in arms asking, “Where are the light-skinned girls?” [Panelist] Tricia Rose is a professor of Africana Studies at Brown—but they saw her as a “light-skinned academic.” Brown-girl under-representation is a real thing, but it doesn’t change the fact that in that moment, Tricia felt reduced.”

Allison Samuels on rappers finally “getting it”…

“I remember interviewing Snoop. He really seemed to get it. He has a daughter. My friend who works at a casting agency says now Snoop’s always like, “Make sure you have brown girls.” He didn’t do that 10 years ago, but now his little daughter is dark-skinned. It almost takes this rude awakening. I remember LL Cool J said his niece once told him he must have thought she was ugly. He was like, “What?” Her classmates would call her Crispy because she was dark. She said, “Because you don’t put girls who look like me in your videos.” And he said it just broke his heart; he just felt so bad. And I’m like, But why does it take that though?”

Mark Lamont Hill on Black men and complexion…

“Like everything else, male privilege allows us to get by. I mean, there’s something to be said about Biggie being “black and ugly as ever,” [as he said in one of his songs], but still having models surround him at the club. It doesn’t mean that he wouldn’t have the same issues around color, but men can navigate it more freely than women can because there’s much more pressure on women to be defined, on a fundamental level, by how they look. But dark-skinned brothers do struggle. You hear stories about all the challenges—like Wesley Snipes coming up before being dark-skinned was cool. There’s a very real pain underneath that. But our response is so maladaptive that [many of us] just go out and look for the lightest woman we can find.”

The conversations in Mayo’s article are raw, honest, and telling. Even though many of us find discussions of colorism played out, we can’t deny the effect it has had on our communities.

To read the entire article, check out the Uptown magazine site.

Clutchettes and Gents, why do you think we’re still so hung up on color?

 

 

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  • Black Beautiful & Slightly Annoyed

    The reason these issues continue to be an issue is because ignorance is bliss. The way we speak to each other is disgusting. Our words are the cancers that kill other sistas and brothas. When we address how rude, disrespectful, and hateful we are to each other we can get past our issues but until then we will continue to hurt each other emotionally and physically. So many people are going to church looking for the Lord to heal them but the Lord also made shrinks to help you get your mind right. Far too many people need psycological help. When people go around hurting others it’s because somebody hurt them and they never learned how to heal from those wounds. Healing starts from within but it cannot start if we do not take seriously how psycologically screwed up we are from generations of taking abuse from outside and inside of our commnities.

    And people will ALWAYS care about what other people think about them. We are social creatures. It is ok to care about what people think. What is not ok is for so many people to have a jacked up way of thinking that keeps the group from rising to the top. That is not cute.

    • So Over This Ish

      I agree with you.

      When we start seeing beauty in ALL shades and stop referring to one another with disrespectful terms, we can truly reclaim Black as beautiful.

  • So Over This Ish

    Hiawatha…I find it interesting that you’re making personal attacks on Sarah without considering the fact that she is simply sharing her experiences as a woman with lighter skin. You accused her of being dismissive when it comes to what dark-skinned girls deal with, but you essentially did the same to her.

    No one said anything about being jealous, but it is true that some darker women take a lot of their issues out on women who have done nothing to them except be lighter. I understand where it comes from, the pain and the hurt, the perception that light is right in the eyes of society. Some light-skinned women can be mean to darker ones. Some light-skinned women do believe that they are better or prettier than darker women. This is wrong because the world is filled with gorgeous dark-skinned girls and plenty of unattractive light-skinned girls.

    But at the same time, I see where Sarah is coming from. People will say the most hurtful, ignorant, hateful things to my face because I’m light-skinned and they know they can get away with it because of the double standard. I know that if I were to respond by being hateful in return, people would be mad because apparently only dark-skinned women have the right to be hurt and offended when somebody is unkind. It seems like light-skinned women aren’t allowed to defend ourselves from cruelty and unwarranted criticism.

    A dark-skinned girl can call me a half-breed b*tch and talk about how pale/pasty my skin is or that I need to darken up, but if I were to tell her about herself…look out!

    These discussions should include everyone’s perspective. It should not be limited to the experiences of dark women only because we all have something to contribute and as Black women, we are all influenced by Eurocentric beauty ideals to some extent. This is not oppression olympics.

    • just me

      you have a very good point and it’s true some dark skin women will hurt light skin women and nobody is discrediting a light skin woman’s pain, but what Hiawatha (hope i spelled that correctly ) is saying is that dark skin women seem to always be made the villain,when a lot of times they are also just victims,but unlike the light skin chick a victim with noone to comfort her.it’s not ‘oppression Olympics’ , it’s the truth.

  • So Over This Ish

    Hey just me…

    you made a very good point too. I guess I view it a bit differently. I hope I didn’t offend anyone but this is an issue that bothers me because we are too rough on one another. We all have different experiences and different paths in life. I would never minimize a darker sister’s pain because I know that it is real. All I’m saying is that it goes both ways sometimes.

    Personally I don’t see dark-skinned women as being villains or victims. Personally, I’ve never seen people comforting light-skinned chicks but that’s just me. I’m sure that it happens but I haven’t seen it. I’m just speaking from my experience but I know that some folks have had different experiences when it comes to this issue. I also know that as a very light-skinned woman, I rarely discuss colorism because people are generally not sympathetic and they think my life is better anyway, so I shouldn’t say anything at all.

    I know that some people will accuse dark-skinned women of jealousy in certain situations, but I would hardly call that comforting to light-skinned women. I simply see it as a very hurtful way to lash out at darker girls. Dark-skinned women have no reason to be jealous of anyone because they are beautiful.

    From my perspective, it’s like this…people try to make me feel bad about the way I look but it is OK for a darker woman to be proud of herself. Why can’t we both appreciate who we are? See where I’m coming from? I know that light skin and loose curls have been deemed more beautiful by society, but that doesn’t mean light-skinned girls generally feel superior. I’ve never felt pretty and my self-esteem is very low. So it is ironic when I hear a darker woman saying that I think I’m cute, when I don’t feel that way in reality. Both light AND dark sisters have to deal with assumptions about our personalities, attitudes, etc.

    It is not OK for light-skinned women to belittle darker women and treat them like crap. It is not OK for dark-skinned women to belittle lighter women and treat them like crap. Whether light or dark or somewhere in the middle, we are all beautiful and worthy of love.