'Colorism' is Alive and Well *LINK*
Posted By: Ayinde In Response To: The Legacy of the Brown Paper Bag (Ayinde)
Date: Wednesday, 19 October 2005, at 3:16 p.m.
In Response To: The Legacy of the Brown Paper Bag (Ayinde)
'Colorism' is Alive and Well Among Color-Struck American Negroes
Date: Wednesday, March 16, 2005
By: Gregory Kane, BlackAmericaWeb.com
Are American Negroes as color-struck in 2005 as we have been in the past?
Don't get upset by the term "American Negroes." I refuse to use "African-Americans" in this discussion. I won't use "black" either.
When I was a teenager in the late 1960s and early 1970s, folks in the then-resurgent black nationalist movement reserved the terms "black" and "Afro-American" or "African-American" only for those who showed some signs of political consciousness. Color-struck American Negroes couldn't be either black, Afro- or African-American. They could only be American Negroes.
And judging from some recent media reports, a lot of us still are color-struck American Negroes.
The latest report came from the ABC newsmagazine show "20/20," which covered the phenomenon of "colorism" among American Negroes in 2005. First, "20/20" reporters revealed a study in which people were shown pictures of other people of various races and asked to judge their intelligence based only on the photograph. Whites AND blacks consistently called the people with darker skin less intelligent.
Then the report focused on a group of black students at the University of Maryland College Park. A couple of the dark-skinned students said that when they were growing up — and we're talking the 1980s and 1990s, people, not the 1930s — they were still called names like "tar baby." One lovely Nubian goddess said she was frequently told "you're pretty for a dark-skinned girl."
Then reporters made perhaps the most explosive and controversial charge.
"Colorism is especially prevalent in music videos," the "20/20" report alleged.
That's not the first time the claim has been made. In a show about video dancers and models called "Video Honeys" that appeared on one of the music networks, two dark-skinned sisters talked about the preference directors and producers seem to have for lighter-skinned black women.
"The darker woman takes on the 'ho' complex," one of the University of Maryland sisters said of music videos. "The lighter a woman is, she's the goddess."
Everything in the "20/20" report is something American Negroes have heard before and know to be true. There was only one thing missing, and it was a crucial one: light-skinned blacks have their own horror stories of harassment and discrimination to tell. They get it from darker-skinned blacks.
I saw and heard it all the time growing up. Disses against dark-skinned black kids and slurs of "whitey" and "high yellow" against light-skinned blacks. I remember one incident where a dark-skinned boy mercilessly rode a kid whose skin was nearly white, whose eyes were blue and hair blond. "White boy" was the darker brother's epithet of choice.
One day, the light-skinned brother decided he'd had enough and lit into the dark-skinned brother. They went at it with fists for about five minutes. The darker brother got the better of the fisticuffs, but I noticed one thing: he never called the light-skinned brother "white boy" again.
I immediately sent a mental memo to myself: ix-nay on the "white" word when it comes to lighter-skinned black folks.
The light-skinned blacks interviewed in the "20/20" story probably have their own tales of woe to tell, but on average they conceded that they've benefited from colorism. Mel Jackson is the light-skinned brother who has played, among other roles, the part of "Bird's" slimy ex-boyfriend in the movie version of "Soul Food." When producers want someone to play the role of a black business executive who's articulate and successful and has a good background, Jackson said he's usually offered the part.
"If a black actress is to become a leading lady," the "20/20" report says, "she'd better be light" -- a scene from one of Halle Berry's movies then flashed on the screen -- "or maybe Hispanic, like Eva Mendes."
Mendes has starred as Denzel Washington's love interest in "Training Day" and "Out of Time" and currently stars as Will Smith's romantic lead in "Hitch."
Anyone wondering why those three roles couldn't have gone to any of a bevy of sisters who are fine actresses and, most importantly, could have used the work, might wonder if that "colorism" thing might be at play.
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