Black folks use a lot of food references to describe our many skin tones, from butterscotch, brown sugar, vanilla, and caramel to honey, mocha, toffee, and even every woman’s favorite treat, chocolate. Some of us embrace these sweet names as a demonstration of how in love we our with our skin, and others ask why we can’t ditch the candy references and just be what we are: black. Tika Sumpter is not a part of the latter group.
In a recent interview with Hello Beautiful, the actress talked about the relationship she developed with Mike Epps while on the set of their new movie “Sparkle,” saying,
“He’d just come in the makeup room in the morning, and then he’ll just say something and be like, ‘Hey, chocolate.’ You know?”
Though Tika giggled after she made that remark, the site still asked her how she felt about Mike and his lighter-toned comedic self referring to her in that way, especially in light of Naomi Campbell’s infamous comment that “It’s upsetting to be described as chocolate.” Tika said she doesn’t mind.
“I think it’s a term of endearment. I mean I don’t care. It’s just like, I don’t know if it’s like they don’t know what else to say, or do they just love my skin color? I don’t know.
“I don’t think it’s anything negative. I mean, chocolate’s my favorite thing to eat. So I can’t live without it. So I don’t mind it. I don’t find it like a negative way. I just— it is what it is. And I know when guys say it like, you know, I know when Mike Epps says it… it’s not a negative thing. So I don’t care. Look, if Tyler Perry wants to pay me the money to call me ‘chocolate’ and be an a**, I’m cool with it.”
I’m not completely sure what that Tyler Perry reference was about, but I’m feeling the rest of what Tika said. I think when someone you know or have a rapport with references your skin tone in a way that’s not derogatory, it’s not a big deal. It’s almost the same as only wanting to be called pet names like sweetie, honey, or baby by close friends, boyfriends, or relatives. But when random men on the street — who ought to know better anyway — think it’s cool to just shout out things like “hey chocolate” or “hey red” to get your attention, it’s not even so much offensive as it is uncomfortable and inappropriate. It really is quite easy to tell when someone is using one of these words as a term of endearment versus an expression of disgust with your skin tone, but as the story so often goes with black people and color we tend to get in our feelings when caught off guard by one of these said terms.
How do you feel about people using words like chocolate or caramel or mocha to describe your skin color?
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