Stirring the Mind into Thought

Are you lighter or darker than a paper bag? I know I am darker than one. Well, this has been a supposed skin tester for the black community for decades. If you were lighter than the paper bag, you were considered better, but if you were darker, you were not good enough. This tester and continous others in our race goes back to the days of slavery, when the house slave versus the field slave dichotomy started. What some black people do not realize is that when the words “house” and “field” are removed, the word “slave” still remains. Even if they were able to get in the house, they still were not free and still treated like a slave. All of us were victims. In the eyes of the racists, all of us were still “n***ers.” Emmett Till was light-skinned and he was still murdered for whistling at a white woman and Rosa Parks was light-skinned and she was still sent to the back of the bus. Just as the fake “Willie Lynch” letter mentions, the tactic of using skin tone to was meant to divide us as a people and to keep us weak, but after slavery, we still kept dividing except this time by our own hands. We constantly attack each other; lighter African Americans call darker ones “tar-baby,” “you pretty (or handsome) for a dark-skinned person,” “mandingos or hos” (dumb muscular guys and over-sexual women), “jigaboos,” “ghetto,” “loud” and “too black,” while darker African-Americans call lighter ones, “whitey,” “light bright, damn near white,” “high-yellow,” red-boned,” “uppity,” “wannabes,” “think they all-that,” “must be mixed or biracial” and “not black enough.” With these terms, black people are showing themselves to be no better than the oppressors who discriminated against us!

However, we do need to acknowledge that a lot of the division stems from somewhere and on several instances from our own people. Everywhere I witness this conscious and subconscious thinking of many African-Americans and the effects of it. We have lost that idea of “Black is Beautiful” and “Say It Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud” includes all African-Americans, not just light-skinned African Americans. Our media shows it, from the leading ladies in Hip-Hop and RandB music videos (usually bi-racial, light-skinned African American or of another race) to the mouths of the actual artists (Yung Berg and his comment on how he does not do “dark butts, Lil Wayne mentioning how they like lighter-skinned females in lyrics) to who gets the most face-time on magazines, shows, movies and other medium (usually lighter-skinned African-Americans). For example in our pop culture, who are the women are most promoted – Tyra, Beyonce, Halle Berry, Alicia Keys, Rihanna and other lighter-skinned beauties. But do we see darker-skinned beauties, like India Arie, Angela Bassett, Gabrielle Union, promoted as much? One of the only dark-skinned females who is promoted a lot is Naomi Campbell, but mostly for her bad behavior. For music videos with darker leading ladies, I have to go to reggae artists (Tarrus Riley, Gyptian, Richie Spice, Buju Banton) and a few neo-soul artists are the only ones to show their appreciation for African women of all skin tones. In lists for the top beauties, very few, if any, dark-skinned beauties make the lists or are high on the lists. Even worst, magazines sometimes airbrush photographs of African-American women to have their skin appear lighter, although some are already light-skinned. Other incidents have included: 1) parties offering lighter-skinned women free admission (reminiscent of the fraternities, sororities and social clubs that admitted people who were lighter than a paper bag), 2) thinking darker-skinned black men are only good for sexual and criminal activities (and other stereotypes of black people), 3) casting calls for only lighter-skinned people in photo shoots or commercials, 4) a lot of white and lighter-skinned black dolls, but few darker-skinned black dolls (and with natural black hair), 5) in some workplaces, lighter-skinned blacks discriminating against darker-skinned blacks (Applebee’s incident:;-Dark-Skinned-African38.aspx), 6) treating skin color like a trend (light-skin is in and dark-skin is out), 7) not befriending someone or teasing someone because their skin tone is different from you, 8) lighter-skinned people having to prove that they are black enough and the list goes on.

These constant negative reinforcements are not helping. Black people look different and we need a greater representation of that range. More and more darker-skinned African-Americans are using skin bleach creams and skin whiteners to try to make their skin lighter, foregoing realizing the dangerous effects of using these products just to achieve a standard of beauty. Go to a local store in any black neighborhood and one of the products listed are skin whitening creams. Some mothers even put these creams on their own children! In our world, some are actually believing that lighter-skinned is automatically more beautiful, no matter what the female actually looks like (she could actually be ugly and some will still say she is more beautiful than a dark-skinned woman). “You’re pretty to be so dark” just reinforces the idea that some people think dark skin and the features that usually accompany it are naturally ugly and that is not true; there is more than one type of beauty. Unattractive and attractive people exist in every color. Stop using skin tone to define beauty! The sad problem is that this notion has spread worldwide, from countries in Latin America and the Carribean (which is leading to the Latin Americanization of America) to countries to countries in Asia (India has a big market in skin lightener creams) to countries in Africa. Skin bleaching is now a billion dollar business and many people feel as if they have to do this in order to get ahead in life, even if it kills them, and commercials (see them below) and other media encourage this practice.

Why have we internalized the hate that has been put on us? It is foolish of us to perpetuate an idea that was not even ours to begin with and was done against us. There is enough hatred in the world, why do we have to be so divisive and increase that hatred. Outside forces should not determine how we feel about each other and ourselves. If you are lighter-skinned person who gets better treatment at times, you should not let that be a reason for you to feel better than a darker-skinned person. As for darker-skinned person, you should not let how others feel about you determine how you feel about yourself and try to gain confidence in yourself. That is their thinking, but it does not have to be yours. We need to have more acceptance of ourselves and the full range we have in skin tones as a whole before we can get any acceptance from any place else. It is up to us, not the media, to break the cycle of self-hatred. In order to be stronger, we need to come together as people and support one another! Let us stop the cycle!

Colorism in the Black Community

Skin Whitening Commercials:

Skin Bleaching in Jamaica:

September 6th, 2009 at 7:43 PM and tagged , ,  | Comments & Trackbacks (1) | Permalink