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.
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
BACK IN THE DAY…
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.
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
THE BARACK AND MICHELLE FACTOR
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.