Friday, January 27, 2012

Color Struck

In honor of Dr. MLK, Jr. National Holiday, January 16, 2012

“….where my children will no longer be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” MLK, Jr.

Have Black people finally gotten to the point where they no longer judge each other by the color or hue of their skin? Do we see each shades of Blackness in an equal and desirable manner? Sadly, we would all have to say that it is very apparent that lighter-skin is revered and desired more than darker-skin (especially in women). Amongst the members of the African Diaspora globally, the darker brethren are (generally) the least beautified, quantified and qualified.

Houston…we have a problem!

Listening to MLK, Jr. quotes on BET 106 Park music show, the tribute to Dr. King was set to a backdrop of very talented young musicians. The hosts were interspersing King quotes and viewer’s reactions to the King holiday on the show. I was very proud of the show highlighting the contributions of Dr. King. It was wonderful to hear them speak about the shoulders on which they stand. But there was a very disturbing trend amongst the videos being lauded during the music video countdown…

ALL  the Black male videos featured female groupies that were of a different ethnic group (the majority) and the rest very light-skinned Black women; only an occasional drop of dark chocolate. It did not matter whether it was a single woman featured or a huge dance floors filled with “beautiful” women – all were light with long or straight textured hair. Interestingly, just that week I watched a new Black film premiering on a movie channel and I remembered a scene where a mocha-colored man told a dark-skinned, beautiful woman that he “usually don’t do dark-skin women” but he would make an exception for her. She responded by throwing her drink in his face. But what really added psychosis to neurosis was when the “ditzy” white girl paid him some attention at the end of the movie and he looks upward to “thank God” for his change in luck. I know the movie was intentional about sharing this cultural ailment with its audience, but did we learn anything? Did we take enough pause when Chris Rock released his “Good Hair, Bad Hair” parody. Are we still heart-broken over Precious?

The issues of “color inequality” are coming to the forefront of cultural stratification. The persistence of a people suffering from being “color struck” is crying out loudly to be examined and called out for what it is – prejudice, stereotyping, bigotry and racism - and what it is doing to our young, darker children! It is shameful, ignorant and ungodly to continue the perpetuation of seeing and treating others different because of the color of their skin. It is particularly damaging when your own race continues to self-inflict itself. This mentality appears to be becoming an “acceptable norm” and it is considered normal not to see dark-skinned women being embraced, honored, beautified or in any way desired in mainstream mass communications. Dark-skinned women with “big bootys” are continuously the brunt of ugly or undesirable jokes, by their own people. Our young dark-skinned brothers are constantly portrayed as thugs, gang members, con-artists, pimps and felons in all aspects of mass culture. How can we blame a 2012 GOP Presidential candidate for describing our young boys in the following racist manner, “We don’t think a child of 13 should be held as responsible as a man of 23. That’s true for most people, but black males age 13 who have been raised on the streets and who have joined criminal gangs are as big, strong, tough, scary and culpable as any adult, and should be treated as such.” Are we as a people complicit in our silence and shame?
Even some of our most notable celebrities find themselves in the middle of this distressing issue. MSN news tabloid Wonderwall reported on the new cover art for Beyonce’s album “4” commenting:
Whether or not Beyonce herself is to blame, she sure seems to be a magnet for skin color controversy. New artwork from the singer's album "4" surfaced this week, and her skin (not to mention, that blond hair) appears dramatically lighter than it does in real-life. Although Bey has not yet commented on the growing Web buzz about the image, it's not the first time she's come under fire for the apparent changing color of her skin. In a 2008 L'Oreal campaign, Beyonce's coloring was digitally lightened in post-production. At the time, writer Yasmin Alibhai-Brown wrote in the Daily Mail, that "when black celebrities appear to deny their heritage by trying to make themselves look white, I despair for the youngsters who see those images." Wonderwall, , 1/17/2012
The question stands, “Are we really addressing the lingering consequences of slavery, Jim Crow as well as the internalized and institutionalized legacy of racism? Are we still ashamed of our ancestry? We are a people who are still trying to marry-up, or lighten our family lines. We want to make sure our children are light-skinned with “good hair”. We are the only people on the planet that still believe that a “watered-down” version of who we are is preferable to the original. We learned our lesson well. In the spring of 2008, Harvard University, Department of Government Professors Jennifer L. Hochschild and Brenna M. Powell wrote a white paper on Racial Reorganization and the United States Census 1850-1930: Mulattoes, Half-Breeds, Mixed Parentage, Hindoos, and the Mexican Race”. When detailing the 1890 census, they cite that:
As in 1850, the expansion included more detail on racial mixture. With regard to “color or race,” enumerators’ instructions specified: ‘Be particularly careful to distinguish between blacks, mulattoes, quadroons, and octoroons. The word “black” should be used to describe those persons who have three-fourths or more black blood; “mulatto,” those persons who have from three-eighths to five-eighths black blood; “quadroon,” those persons who have one-fourth black blood; and “octoroon,” those persons who have one-eighth or any trace of black blood.’”

The authors go on to reveal that there were no instructions given as to HOW this was to be determined. I wonder…Ambi skin cream anyone?

We are damaging and in some respects, destroying our young boys and girls born of a darker hue with hair tight&curly in texture. Add other ethnic features such as broader lips, nose, (think Michael Jackson) hips, and ample-behind. It becomes common place for members of our culture that are not mixed enough; to experience the consistent repudiation of those who are (mixed enough). Sadly, many do not recognize this as a dis-ease of self-hate and complicity. Yes, complicit in dishonoring our own magnificent diversity! Still believing the lie that to be “white is right” and continuing to believe all the ignorant stereotypes about dark toned people. And so, agreed upon cultural biases continue to fuel the “need” to buy weaves, eye contacts, nails, sexualized clothing (and behavior), skin lighteners, straightners and cosmetic surgery.

Black people globally need to take the cultural, moral, and spiritual responsibility for the poor self-esteem and self-worth that is being generationally passed down to our children! In addition, the false messages being sent to the “beautiful ones” that they are what they look like and the things they own – by any means necessary!

Every living creature on the planet possesses its own unique, incredible, one-of-a-kind beauty from the Creator. We need to honor this, help everyone embrace their own magnificence and teach all of us to appreciate beauty from the inside-out. See the splendor in all our diversity! Whether white, milk or dark – chocolate is a wonderful thing!!! And remember, most of us grew up with a saying “God don’t like ugly!” I am pretty sure it means an inner thing.

P.S. Perkins
Author and Founder,
Human Communication Institute, LLC

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