Colorism - The Plague of Black America
You've heard it all before, haven't you?
What about these?
And you've heard whites emphasize our color as they are retelling a story about an encounter with a black person, "Well this BLACK woman said to me . . ." or "This BLACK dude went and . . ." knowing that by adding in that "BLACK" descriptor, it sets a darker, more insidious mood of that experience than if it were about a white person. They add that word knowing what stereotypes are conjured up just by mentioning that the person they interacted with was black. Maybe that black person was talking loud and causing a scene. Perhaps it was a black female wagging her finger and snapping her head from side-to-side as she sets someone straight. What you can be sure of is, it's usually never a behavior that portrays a black person in a good light, but often reinforces that coonery stereotype.
Is it no wonder that we as blacks run as fast as we can from being black?
Who wants to be associated with stereotypes such as ignorant, loud, lazy, promiscuous, complainers, angry, second-class, inferior and the like?
But you see, that's the root cause of Colorism.
In America, if you are light-skinned or of mixed race, you are automatically judged by others as NOT being as lazy and ignorant, because you are not all black, or not THAT kind of black.
If your hair is curly and smooth, that means you've got something else in you, making you not THAT black or that kind of black.
If your nose and lips are thin, again, you're not all black and not that kind of black. Because we all know what we have been taught about being black, and it most always begins right at home.
Sitting at the knee of southern born black women, my cousins and I were taught such things such as:
"Pinch the baby's nose to make it keener," they would say. So they won't have some big old' nose spread across their face. Of course, they would never come right out and say it, but it was implicitly implied. And looking in the mirror was a constant reminder of their brainwashed given wisdom.
"Stay outta that sun before you come back looking like a tar baby," we were warned. Because the blacker you are, the less worth you have. They would never say that either, but they didn't have to. We got the message loud and clear.
"Pick that nappy hair. Put a Jehri Curl in it. Press and straighten it. Get a relaxer in that mess." Because anything, even curl activator dripping down your neck and staining your clothes was preferable to walking around with nappy hair.
So once our lessons at home on to hate how we looked were ongoing, society continued reinforcing it. You have but to pick up a magazine on beauty or watch a movie to see that society, and many blacks, revile dark skin, broad noses, full lips and kinky hair. We all know this. Recent statements by black rappers, who themselves can be as dark as night, have made their preference for 'redbones' very clear. The lighter you are, the more doors are opened for you. Ask those black actors in Hollywood if you don't believe it.
For some, if you weren't born with light skin or a thin nose . . . those features that make you look less black . . . you can buy it like Michael Jackson, Lil Kim, Tamar Braxton and Sammy Sosa did, to name just a few. But this isn't just a black problem, though it does negatively impact our lives more than any other race that changes their appearance. Yes . . . Asian-Indians, Iranians, Latinos and Asians lighten their skin and undergo surgery to thin their noses in great numbers. The difference is that those other cultures celebrate and cling to their history, whereas so many blacks try to run from theirs.
Colorism has been talked about and debated amongst blacks since our ancestors were shackled and house slaves (lighter skinned blacks who were produced by rape) were given preference over field slaves (darker ones). We know the impact it has had on all of us all too well. But one question that is never asked, though should be, is why we still cling to the concept that white and light is right. Perhaps the cold, hard and uncomfortable answer is that we cling to it because of the shame and embarrassment associated with being black.
Just ask someone, even blacks, to visualize a person in jail and they’ll say black. Think of a drug addict and you think black. Think of a welfare mother, a high school dropout, someone who is ignorant and dumb . . . a thief, rapist, murderer, and you think black. Think of beautiful and you may think black, but your black beauty is usually of the Beyonce, Alicia Keys and Halle Berry types . . . women very close to white with their light skin, thin noses and straight hair/good hair.
The saying by the philosopher Descartes can be tweaked a bit to say, "I think I am therefore I am," which superbly and horribly describes how black America views itself.
Colorism may have started with whites, but it is continued and heavily reinforced by us. We spend billions of dollars at beauty supply stores usually owned by Asians to buy our artificial straight hair and relaxers to make our own straight . . . skin bleaching creams and lotions to lighten more than just a blemish. And on a side note, while we are there at these beauty supply stores, we spend even more to buy their fake jewelry, flashy clothes, knock-off perfumes and cologne. That's capitalism for you . . . demand and supply. Sell some self-esteem and watch black America's demand for it explode.
The Asians who sell us these things know that millions of blacks desperately crave some sense of self-esteem, no matter how artificial or soul emptying it may be. They saw a demand for it and have risen into the middle and upper middle class by supplying it. Why is it that we, who hand over millions and billions of our dollars to them don't get it?
And on top of it all, we complain that the black dollar stays in our neighborhoods for a matter of hours. So whose fault is that really? I say we should all step in front of a mirror before we start pointing fingers at every other race but our own. Why wait for Hollywood to portray black as beautiful? Why sue television shows . . . the bachelor/bachelorette . . . for not representing us? Why yell at music videos because the light-skinned or mixed girl is always the object of desire? On another side note, perhaps it’s the same reason we wait for someone to fix our schools, raise our test scores and represent us in government.
Again I say, let’s all step in front of that mirror first.
Maybe the next time you refer to someone's hair as "good hair", you’ll know that you are calling your own, "bad hair."
When you are so very quick to say, "There's Indian in my family," you’ll know that you are telling others how inferior you feel being black is.
The solution is simple. It’s not rocket science. It’s not the world’s great-unsolved mystery.
Malcolm X said, “Who taught you to hate the color of your skin? Who taught you to hate the texture of your hair? Who taught you to hate the shape of your nose and the shape of your lips? Who taught you to hate yourself from the top of your head to the soles of your feet? Who taught you to hate your own kind? Who taught you to hate the race that you belong to so much so that you don’t want to be around each other?”
Profound words indeed!
But read it closer and realize it’s in the PAST TENSE . . . “taught” not “teaching”.
Malcolm X provided the wake-up call. Some have just chosen not to or are fearful of awakening.
But now, we can no longer blame the white man for STILL TEACHING us to hate ourselves. We are doing a good job of that on our own without his help.
When Malcolm’s questions then become, “Who taught you to LOVE your skin, your nose, lips and the texture of your hair?” And we respond, “We did!” Then all of us of African descent . . . light and dark, straight and kinky hair, slim and broad noses . . . have won a great battle indeed.
So realize one thing. If you have been taught it, you can unlearn it . . . if you want to.