Lets talk about Shades and Tints…
1. Is it bad that I want racial solidarity?
I was surfing the Internet this weekend—because what else does a 19-year-old black kid in the hood have to do over 4th of July weekend, when he is surrounded by little kids with fire-cracker ammunition, those things can definitely be dangerous. While surfing the net, I ran across a Myspace Video post that was titled “For light skin/caramel skin people only. ” As a very , confident, Hershey-chocolate-complexion individual, I was of course inclined to open and watch this video. A 15-year-old kid spent 5 minutes ranting on about how light skin African Americans are coming “back into style” and then went on to say how dark skin individuals are going “out of style.”
My initial reaction was to simply ignore the post and move on with my very complicated internet surfing life, but there was something about this internalized racial divide that I could not convince myself to forget. It was probably because the person who made the video was a YOUNG BLACK TEENAGER, if it was someone of a more mature audience, I might have been able to ignore it. What made the situation worse were the comments to the video post. “Dark skin is ugly.” “Finally someone has said what I have been thinking” “I’m only attracted to light skin people anyway”. I have no problem with preference, but I want people to understand if their preferences root from a history of racism.
My father who is also a darker toned man, explained to me that when he was a child he wished he was “light skin” with “good hair.” He warned me early in my life how this world can be easy to judge and he told me to always be proud of my skin color. My father was right, the judgment of my skin tone and the burden of colorism became a reality in my life. The first situation where I felt judged—or just teased—for my skin color was not by a klu-klux-klan member, it was not a former slave owner, it wasn’t even the common 21st century systemic racism. It was my Black classmates at O’Toole Elementary School on the south side of Chicago—near 67th and Western if you know the area. Students consistently yell playground taunts based on darker skin not being attractive. I can still hear echoes of comments like “you black as dirt.”
2. Is it bad that I want racial solidarity?
The Video post did not offend me…it did not make me mad…not sad either…I was worried. The deeper I go into academia, the more I start to surround myself with liberal thinkers, and begin to forget that there are still young minds that are lost in the sauce—yes I still use corny phrases from my childhood. I was worried because I want to believe that we (all humans of every race) have moved beyond a paradigm that believes the tint or shade of an individuals skin can be “in” or “out” of style. I was worried because I want my slightly younger peers to understand that this inner-racial tension roots from attitudes perpetuated when slavery existed, the same attitude that caused many people to believe that the level of Black success in this country depended on what your results were in a brown paper bag test. I’m worried because I know that these tensions grew when light skin individuals would get better jobs and slide into better neighborhoods while in my experiences I have seen too many little dark skin girls fall into low self-esteem due to this social stigma that black is not beautiful. We read and study about all of this hate and self-hate carried throughout history, and now, through the progression of technology this 15 year-old Black male wants to create an internet video that rekindles the fires of hate within a race that has more than enough to deal with between issues of poverty, lack of education, HIV, drugs, and incarceration rates.
3. Is it bad that I want a little racial solidarity?
They say the third time is a charm. Maybe this desire of mine will one day become a reality, but I won’t hold my breath.
I encourage you to check out this poem by Michael Ellison titles “Light-Skin-DID” It gives a comical side to this issue, and ultimately taught me that every serious conversation can be talked about openly when guards are down by the way of laughter. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OH2a46QmHR0