“If you’re White you’re alright, if you’re brown, stick around, if you’re Black, stay back. ” You may not have ever heard that old saying, but many believe the feeling behind it is still as popular as the rhyme was generations ago; positive character traits are associated with light skin, while negative attributes and problems are connected to darker skin color. Many people believe that African Americans receive a great amount of discrimination from Caucasian Americans. Although this is true, there is a growing problem within the African-American community itself. That problem is lighter-colored vs. rker-colored.
There is a mind-set that light is closest to white so it must be right. I was one of the many African Americans who have been led astray to think that black-on-black racism was OK. For many now it is the media. The media play such a big role in differentiating between the darker-skinned people and the lighter-skinned people. I was watching a TV show one day and the show was about being against your own race. There was an African-American lady on the show and she was just going on and on about how ugly darker-skinned people were and how she is so blessed to be light-skinned.
It sickened me to see a grown lady talking about this black-on-black racism. However, I could not blame her. Later she explained that when she was younger, her mother would tell her to stay away from the darker kids because they would mess up her reputation. She was led astray, just as other African Americans often are. The European standard of beauty — keen features, light skin, and straight hair — continues to dominate popular music videos, television shows and movies. On TV and in magazines, you seldom see a dark-skinned black person. Our culture is still being led to believe that having lighter skin somehow makes you a better person.
Black people with lighter skin get treated better; I believe this discrepancy stems from the days of slavery. This segregation of shades within the same race is a serious problem. Racism has always been an issue for the black community. In the past, some black social clubs and societies only allowed those who had light skin. Today, black children having white G. I. Joes and Barbie dolls with blond hair and blue eyes reinforce racism. It is also strengthened by the absence of dark-skinned black people on TV and in magazines. What happened to “Black is Beautiful”?
The black race is made up of many shades, so how can anyone say one is better than another? Many people complain about seeing primarily light-skinned black women in music videos. Almost all people I asked say the same answer: “It is messed up, but what can I do? ” Most were angry about how dark-skinned black women are portrayed in music videos: “When they do show dark-skinned girls, they are all greased up. These images of dark- and light-skinned black women affect people differently. However, it is clear that the absence of beautiful dark-skinned women and the flood of images of light-skinned women increase self-hatred and division.
The self-hatred comes in many forms; when I was in High school, a black girl told me she only wanted to marry a white man so her children would have light skin and white features. “Ah just couldn’t see myself married to no black man. It’s too many black folks already. We ought to lighten up the race. ” From Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston When you begin a book with a quotation like that, you’re inviting trouble to come in, kick off its shoes and stay awhile. But that’s Marita Golden’s intention, in her article Color Hurts, published in the New York Times.
There are so many words to describe African-Americans’ pernicious, persistent dirty little secret colorism, color-conscious, color-struck, color complex. And then there are the more specific descriptive terms that separate Blacks and create castes, and cliques, and that are ultimately definitions not of color but of culturally defined beauty and ugliness and that can end up distributing everything from power, to wealth, to love. High yellow, high yalla, saffron, octoroon, quadroon, redbone, light brown, black as tar, coal, blue-veined, caf au lait, pinkie, blue-black.
Marita Golden, Don’t Play in the Sun: One Woman’s Journey Through the Color Complex. Marita Golden founded and served as the first president of the Washington, D. C. based African American Writers Guild. She wants to ignite debate about one of the oldest, rawest issues among African-Americans. The aching honesty in the words of Zora Neale Hurston’s character, from 1937, Ms. Golden says, evokes a continuing aesthetic hierarchy among African-Americans that puts light skin at the top and dark skin at the bottom.
It’s the subject of her new book, Don’t Play in the Sun: One Woman’s Journey Through the Color Complex. For Don’t Play in the Sun, Ms. Golden interviewed black people, including a psychotherapist, a cultural historian, a biracial writer, a TV producer and her friends and her husband. The book’s title comes from her mother’s warning that the sun would make her deep brown skin even darker and less attractive. Through the prism of her own skin, Ms. Golden explores the belief that light skin and European features remain the highest standard of beauty in most places in the world.
Color, though, is not just a black thing, she says. It is not even an American thing, with versions of lighter-is-better in India, Asia, Africa and the Caribbean. Ms. Golden considers this global obsession a legacy of colonialism. She describes her own separation as a child. Her mother, lighter skinned, disapproved of her dark coloring. She told young Marital she would need to marry someone light-skinned to have presentable children. Having read Guldens autobiography, Migrations of the Heart, I believe the color conflict was the basis of serious alienation between mother and daughter.
Golden would grow up to reject her ‘home training,’ marrying a Nigerian and moving to Nigeria for a time. Additional salt in the wound came from golden growing up in Washington, D. C. , a ‘Chocolate City’ with an entrenched history of politically based racism. However, racism is both personal and political. It can determine who gets opportunities in education and work. People of color who are light brown or fairer are often praised as more attractive and more intelligent, though there is no empirical basis for either belief. They are likely more apt to be hired and promoted than their darker peers.
As black studies professor Henry Louis Gates has observed, color seems to determine which black women are successful as actresses and hired as models or to perform in videos. An Alicia Keyes wins a fistful of Emmys while an India Aries goes home empty-handed. The situation is not monolithic. Dark-skinned women such as Oprah Winfrey and Whoop Goldberg do overcome the color barrier, as they do the barriers of gender and race, but they are phenomenal people. Millions of men and women of color pay the price for being the ‘wrong’ color — darker than a brown paper bag.
Many think that this feeling of discrimination goes all the way back to slavery, when it was thought that those whose color was lighter than a brown paper bag had the chance of “passing” as white. Also those who were lighter were able to work in the house instead of in the field and were usually treated with more respect there. This feeling of resentment had continued to infect the African-American community through generations and generations. How can we even try to fight off discrimination from Caucasians when we are having so much discrimination between ourselves?
Martin Luther King Jr. urged us to learn to respect and love ourselves before we can expect others to respect us. I believe that the African-American community must learn to fight this black-on-black racism before it diminishes the dignity of further generations. Many books on the subject say color-consciousness began long before slavery. But for Africans and their descendants, slavery was where it all began. First off, the institution of slavery itself was based on skin color. Author and lecturer Dr.
Maim Amber, a clinical psychologist who pioneered the development of African-centered psychology, said in his book “Chains and Images of Psychological Slavery” that “the African’s black skin was considered as evidence for his cursed state to serve as a slave. ” So dark skin justified slavery, and became synonymous with other subhuman characteristics: dark skin and sub-Saharan features were considered ugly and less intelligent, while pale skin was associated with superhuman traits. Associations based on skin color have followed us throughout generations because while we are no longer slaves, the oppression hasn’t stopped, said Dr.
Minify Harvey, associate professor in the School of Social Work at the University of Maryland. “It gets inculcated into you in a very indirect way,” Harvey said. “Some of this is very unconscious so people will say, ‘oh, no, it has no effect on me,’ but some of those people are the same ones who teased others in high school about their skin tone or their hair type. ” During slavery, Harvey said, children of slaves and slave owners who were shades lighter than others were granted certain privileges. “Those privileges varied; some were allowed to learn how to read, others didn’t have to work in the fields,” Harvey said.
Some of them were later freed by the slave owners. ” Harvey said the stratification created a hierarchy on the plantation. And it later created an elite group of Blacks who happened to look closer to White slave owners than Africans and who wanted to maintain their social status. Willie Lynch, a British slave owner, is notably credited for giving a speech addressing American slave owners on how to keep their slaves under control. Lynch outlined a number of differences between slaves including age, “color” or shade and gender. He predicted that the black slave would become self re-fueling and self-generating for hundreds of years.
You must use the dark skin slaves vs. the light skin slaves and the light skin slaves vs. the dark skin slaves,” reads an excerpt from Lynch’s speech. “I think racism within the black race stems from people who are not accepting of themselves, therefore they’re not accepting of others like them,” said Conrod Kelly, 20, a junior business student from Miami. “It all goes back to the house slave versus the field slave. Animosity towards members of your own race is a characteristic passed down from one generation to another.
It’s another form of self-hate. Everyone wants to look white,” junior broadcast journalism major Leslie Orji said. “You can see it in music videos because there are only light skinned chicks with long hair. It makes people feel inferior and gives black people more of a complex, especially women. ” Orji, who is Nigerian, believes that placing European beauty standards on a pedestal “is a destructive habit brought on by colonization,” but believes it is more of a problem among Africans than African Americans. “Women in Africa use bleaching creams because they have to be lighter,” she said.
And if I had an Afro my mom would tell me to go straighten my hair. I think guys and girls just don’t want Afro centric hair anymore because they don’t want to be viewed differently. ” Although Nikki Akinyeye feels that many blacks tend to prefer lighter skin and long hair, she also feels blacks are learning to accept each other’s differences. “Here in the United States, blacks discriminating against skin color is something that can be expected because of the standard of beauty that women who aren’t white are held up to,” said Akinyeye.
But I think that lately it has kind of changed because you see more and more people with natural hair styles and darker skin on television. ” Paula Mitchell, an intern psychologist within the Howard University Counseling Service, disagrees. “African Americans have this beast working against us called the media,” Mitchell said. “It shows stereotypical women with lighter skin and longer hair as more of the love interests. ” Mitchell said many of her clients within the counseling center base their perceptions of their appearance on whether or not men approach them along with the kind of men that approach them.