Jul 25, 2011

One must ask themeselves why in the year 2011 are black people still wrapped up in the color issue. Now don't get me wrong, I realize that African Americans are not the only ones afflicted with the disease of colorism. Indians, Jamaicans, Brazilians, Dominicans, and the list goes on and on suffer from the same disease. Any group of people who have been touched by some form of European colonialism suffers from the exact same disease. The only question is what or is there a cure?

UPTOWN magazine talked to some prominent African Americans and they gave their thoughts on the entire color issue.

Via Uptown:

Michaela angela Davis:

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.

Dr. Marc Lamont Hill and Michaela angela Davis

Marc Lamont Hill: A hundred years ago, there was almost a one-to-one relationship between people’s color and how much humanity we saw in them. The closer to white, the more love we had for a person. There was a lot of deep self-hate.

Michaela angela Davis: It’s part of the systemic leftovers of slavery and Jim Crow; we’re not supposed to connect. My grandmother was very fair with straight hair and was into the paper bag thing. My mother had to secretly date dark-skinned men. Right when my grandmother was about to die, I learned that she experienced post-traumatic stress from witnessing lynchings. Those in her family who were darker skinned were in fear for their lives at all times. At 18, 19 years old, that deeply affects you. So now, in her mind, lighter means living. When she told me that story, I was finally like, I get it.

Allison Samuels
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?

Allison Samuels, Michaela angela Davis, Julian Riley, and Bevy Smith

Samuels: When I first met Barack Obama years ago, I liked him, but when I saw his wife, I was like, Okay, see. I get this brother now; he’s a totally different kind of brother. To me, it said I’m not worried about what other people think. I’m going to marry who I want, who I am interested in, who makes me feel good about me—not who someone tells me I should be with. I think that spoke volumes to black women. If she had looked a different way, I’m not sure that he would have found as much support.

Smith: I definitely think that her being brown—there’s no other way of describing her; she’s a brown girl—absolutely added to the sense of pride. But I don’t think that President Obama is so light. To me, he looks like a brown person too.

Davis: He’s light-skinned, but he chose a black-from-a-distance-black equal. We’ve never had this dynamic before. This ain’t the Huxtables. This ain’t fiction. So it invites us to talk about this stuff. We have to have the painful conversations.

Riley: I voted for Obama, and his wife was a large part of the package. Her complexion adds to her being considered a “real sister,” whatever that means. But there are plenty of light-skinned sisters who are real as well. It’s not just complexion that carries that note. Things would have been different had Michelle Obama been a light-skinned woman. We wouldn’t have been surprised, but would we feel this proud?

The Savvy Sista
I have to admit I'm one of those people who was initially fascinated by Barack Obama because of his wife. I remember his rousing speech during the 2004 Democratic National Convention, but it wasn't until his family came up on the stage that I immediately perked up. I wanted to know more about him because of her. She was emblematic of me and a man that could see the beauty of Michelle was one that I wanted to know more about.


  1. This whole color issue is quite interesting to me. I remember back in college a Filipino friend of mine noticed how tanned she was getting and she told me that if she were back in her country they would call her "nigra." We were actually on our way somewhere and I just about lost control of the wheel because I just wasn't expecting her to say that. It is sad that in 2011 many people across ethnic groups are not proud of their skin color. I'm stunned that skin-lightening creams are actually on the market.

    Unfortunately I know throughout the years, I've heard alot of denigrating comments towards darker skinned brothas and sistas and that would have lasting effects emotionally and psychologically.

    I agree that the president received mad support because of who he was married to. I think subconsciously I was drawn to them because of their likeness to me. But I really just thought they were cool people. I really liked the fact that they genuinely liked and loved one another. The black pride for me really didn't hit until after the election and either an Ebony or Essence article I read mentioned the president's swagger when he walked and when my friends joked about there being hot combs in the White House now. I remember an article on a mainstream website talking about how to get Michelle Obama's hair. That really shocked me. "we" talk about how to get our hair like heres but for someone other than us to say it, WOW!!

    In the end for me, it's like Charles Dickens Tale of Two Cities. We see so much progress, but there is a need for even more because the effects of slavery seem everlasting because we've perpetuated it through our self hatred that resulted from the denigration and the hatred imposed on us. I can't imagine what it was truly like to live back then. it s indeed sad that in 2011 people are not truly comfortable in their skin. We really have to do better with affirming one another.

  2. There are issues dealing with light skin-vs-dark skin, straight hair-vs-natural hair, and older women-vs-younger women.

  3. Colorism is not a disease. It’s a perception; brought to life (in the United States) almost exclusively by people (i.e., mostly (female) black Americans) whose natural skin tone is for all intents and purposes, darker than cashew (and not that of a brown paper bag). Colorism almost always comes up in the discussion when the ‘peoples’ at the nape of the neck become unruly.

    Lighter complexioned (black) Americans couldn’t give a rat’s ass about skin tone, but the traditional brown complexioned (black) American community just can’t get over the fact that they will be ‘black’ for the rest of their (sorry) and oh-so-humbled ‘black’ lives. Stop complaining and be happy that you’re on this Earth breathing this air. Look at it this way, the alternative to living is a lot worse.

  4. I'm not going to lie, I thought Michaela Angela Davis was albino. Either way I think it's her extremely light skinned complexion that drives her to reassure herself and others, that she really is black and really is 'down'. To have the same conversation perpetuated for years on end, is tiresome to say the least. Most of us want equality, want to be recognized and appreciated, etc. We just don't feel the need to constantly blame "white patriarchal soceity" for the lack of progress at the rate we want it. If MAD were to be honest, she would take a look at the colorism and sexism within the black community itself, instead of trying to always blame the "white man."

    But that would entail her having to give up her platform where she blames the majority of the black community's issues on white people. It's sad and it's tired.

  5. Here are a couple of links to very informative postings –
    which fully review the topic of the URBAN MYTH of the
    'Willie Lynch Letter / Speech'; the'Blue Vein' Societies,
    the 'Fine-Toothed Comb', the 'Paper Bag' and the other
    Alleged "Colorism"-Based 'Tests' --as well as --- the
    other URBAN MYTH of ‘Light-Skin ‘House’ / Dark-Skin
    ‘Field’ Chattel-Slave’ Role-Hierarchy System: