All Articles Tagged "light skin"
Last week, artist Jidenna made headlines when he spoke about how being light skinned in Nigeria affected his upbringing.
In case you missed it, Jidenna said:
“Our family was light. When you’re light-skinned you’re a heavier target for being kidnapped. Because you’re seen as more valuable. You’re seen as white. You have more money. We were robbed. Our family has been assaulted. It’s different. For us, we’ve always been a target. When you come to America, it’s different.”
He then spoke about the violence his family experienced because they were perceived as White and wealthy, saying that the family had been robbed and assaulted. After that incident, when Jidenna returned to Nigeria for his father’s funeral, his family, remembering their other experiences, came armed to protect themselves from any potential danger.
Well, the comments were not well received, particularly by those in the Nigerian community. While, some understood that he was referencing his unique set of experiences, others felt he painted the country in a negative light.
The one time they ask Jidenna about Nigeria he gives it a negative light… Odiegwu.
— ⠀⠀ (@NonnyUzo) July 11, 2015
There was no way Jidenna could have avoided the criticism and backlash. So in response, on his personal website, the artist penned this open letter to the Nigerian community.
July 15, 2015
To all my Nigerian brothers and sisters…
I am, always have been, and always will be proud of my Nigerian heritage. I understand the pain and anger caused by some of the comments I made in a recent interview, and I wanted to address you directly. Contrary to popular belief, this interview was not the first in which I mentioned Nigeria. In fact, I’m frequently bragging about how Nigerians attend the world’s most prestigious institutions, and how we are known to produce world class doctors, entrepreneurs, innovators, lawyers, engineers, professors, athletes and artists. Unfortunately, people tend to leave these moments out, and, in this case, highlight stereotypes. I would never do or say anything to intentionally disgrace the legacy of my father nor my fatherland. But to not relay my own story, both the good times and the bad, would be a disservice.
My name is Jidenna, which means “to hold or embrace the father” in Igbo. It was my father who gave me this name and who taught me countless parables, proverbs, and principles that made me the man I am today. These same principles helped me to write the record “Classic Man.” When I brought home a 98 percent on a test, my father would say, “ah ah, where are the other two points? Go and get them, then bring them back.” My father and Nigerian culture has always stood for excellence. While the majority of my childhood memories are beautiful, I also have experienced the challenges that Nigeria has faced since Independence.
When I was 5 years old, my family was robbed at gunpoint, my mother was beaten, family members were kidnapped, and I was shot in my foot. As is the case with all kidnapping, targeting those who are perceived to be wealthy is the objective. In this instance, my father was the target because of his prominence in the community. This was a traumatic experience for my family that would shape our entire lives and our experiences in both Nigeria and America. As a little boy, I swore that I would never let that happen to my family again. As my father often said, “Once you’re bitten by a snake, you‘ll be ready to shoot a lizard!” At the time of my father’s burial 5 years ago, my family in the village was concerned about increased targeting for kidnapping since the rate of abductions had increased dramatically in the area we are from. We were traveling from America, which along with our biracial appearance, had the potential to attract attention and pose a threat to our security. In light of what happened in the past and the tense climate at the time, my family took precautions to ensure our safety. This was not an uncommon protocol at the time. I recognize incidents such as these are not unique to Nigeria or the African continent, and there have been significant improvements in the region since this period.
In the recent interview to which I’ve been referring, I shared my family’s experience traveling from the States back home for the burial. In this interview, I used the term “light-skinned.” When using this term, I was actually referring to my immediate family’s mixed or biracial appearance. See, no matter what language I use to describe my heritage, I’m certain that someone will feel some kind of way. This is a larger discussion not meant for this statement, but certainly derives from our colonial past and postcolonial present, and in the States, from the days of slavery to the present times. My comments about skin tone were related to the notion of perceived wealth and value, not my personal beliefs. My point was never to imply that biracial or “light-skinned” people are the only ones or the most targeted group of people kidnapped, or that I myself was wealthy at the time. Rather than focus on my perceived value, let us continue to focus on the value of Nigeria.
There is no question that Africa is playing a pivotal role in the future of our planet and that Nigeria, with it’s booming economy and burgeoning middle class, is a driving force. I will continue to play my role in the Renaissance taking place in Nigeria and Africa at large. We may not agree on everything, but know my heart is your heart, and my experience is part of our collective experience.
I’m not Nigerian, but I do come from a Jamaican immigrant background. So, I understand the pride people take in their homelands and their desire to protect it, even at the expense of telling half-truths. I get it, especially in America where negative stereotypes about Africa and African people are accepted as truth. Still, if those experiences really are his, they are his to share with the world as he sees fit.
I didn’t interpret his comments as a stain on the whole country. Instead, he was speaking on his racial identity, the mindset and behavior of a select few. And as someone who’s listened to his other interviews, I know this was not the first time he’s spoken about Nigeria. And when I heard him speak of his Nigerian father and the country, he did so favorably. But you might not have seen or heard about those interviews because controversy sells. Either way, I don’t need to defend him. The brotha did quite the job in his own letter.
What do you think? Did he paint the country in a negative light or was he just telling the truth about his experiences? Should negative experiences in African countries be kept secret in light of the negative stereotypes?
Why The Discussion About Colorism Won’t Change Or End Unless We’re Honest With Ourselves And Deal With Our Own Pain
Aside from being a big topic of discussion after A$AP Rocky’s words about women of a darker complexion needing to pass on bright red lipstick, colorism was also the topic of discussion on Twitter a few weeks ago. And the question posed that intrigued me to the point of response was simply:
“Will colorism end without discussing it? Have things improved due to the relative silence over the subject?
I didn’t have to think very hard about that. Every discussion I had been a part of up to a few months ago and every discussion I silently watched unfold ended in hurt feelings and intense anger on one or both sides. For a long time I just chalked it up to years of, “Well that’s just the way it is.” But seeing the discussion get started on Twitter once again, I really got to the root of why I believed simply DISCUSSING colorism will not improve anything.
I grew up being called “high yella” and enduring jabs from classmates telling me that I was trying to be a white girl. When I wasn’t being dissed I was being asked, “Are you mixed? What are you?” People were genuinely interested when they thought I was some exotic mixture of ethnic blood. When I convinced them I was simply and awesomely black, interest was lost. I don’t have time to get into how that tug-of-war effed up my sense of self royally. Nor do I want to go into it. Why? Because there will always be a few who are darker than me who will be outraged by the fact that I even allude to struggling with color issues. And that’s fine, but the discussion about colorism will NOT improve or erase colorism because a great many people just DO NOT respect the other side’s struggle. And if there is no respect between dark and light, there can never be a discussion that will make things better. If there is no foundation of empathy and compassion, what good will a discussion do?
My sister is a few shades darker than me and for years we fought like cats and dogs. I had no real understanding of why. I thought she just hated me and I left it at that. Fine. I hated her too.
It wasn’t until last summer, both of us in our late twenties, that we sat and had a real conversation about it. She revealed to me that her whole life she felt people cared about me more because I was lighter and deemed prettier than her. It blew my mind because I never considered colorism in my own household with my own family. It was “out there,” but not “in here” in my mind. I just thought she had the devil in her when we fought. I had no idea how deep a hurt she was dealing with. But once I shut up and invited her to speak freely, I got it. I understood her and she understood me. But it wasn’t until we decided to drop our defenses and hear each other out objectively that a conversation about colorism would help us to progress. We had to grow up first. And that is something most folks can’t/won’t do. They want to stay stuck in their own little worlds of hurt ON BOTH SIDES of the debate and not acknowledge the pain and frustration on the other side of the line. That is and will always be counterproductive.
The other reason that a discussion about colorism won’t improve the situation is because no one wants to take self-inventory. It’s easy to say “I’m dark-skinned and I’ve been discriminated against” or “I’m light-skinned and been unfairly judged” and never look to see what part you might have played in the discrimination/unfair judgment by someone who isn’t on your side of it all. Were you a light-skinned child who teased and berated darker-skinned girls? Did you stand by and ALLOW it to happen even if you never partook in such behavior? Were you an insecure child of a darker complexion who bullied the child lighter than you because you felt inferior? Let’s get real. We all have hurt and pain, but how often do we dig deeper to see what hurt we’ve inflicted on others?
If we can be honest with ourselves first, and deal with our pain/pre-judgments, then a progressive discussion can happen. But not before. Take it from a sister who is still digging deep daily, learning about herself and others and striving to become better.
La Truly’s writing is powered by a lifetime of anecdotal proof that awkward can transform to awesome and fear can cast its crown before courage. La seeks to encourage thought, discussion and change among young women through her writing. Check her out on Twitter: @AshleyLaTruly and AboutMe www.about.me/latruly.
Another day, another case of a skin lightening incident with a celebrity The latest one to fall victim is India Arie. The soul singer recently released the cover art for her new single “Cocoa Butter.” As you can see India is looking not only lighter but a bit unlike herself. (Though her legs and dress are fabulous!)
Folks started questioning her appearance on the cover and according to TMZ a “source close to India” explained India’s thoughts about the photo.
India says she did not ask that her skin be lightened. It was just a product of extreme lighting and the angle at which she was standing.
While I don’t think she asked to be lightened, she did approve the photo. Which is a bit interesting. Though, I really don’t know if it’s a problem. At this point, people should understand that there are tons of lights that go into producing professional photos.
What do you make of India’s photo? Should she have approved it?
And by the way check out the single. Despite the cover, the song has a nice message and sounds like the India we know and love. Check it out and let us know what you think.
An Open Letter to Hollywood: Is It Just Me, Or Do Women Of Darker Complexions Always Get Cast In The Stereotypical, Negative Roles?
I was excited to see the movie Alex Cross not too long ago. The idea of one of my favorite celebrities, Tyler Perry, appearing in a role that was quite different from all of his others was enough to make me buy a ticket and go support him. I was impressed with the movie, but what I was not impressed with was their selection of characters. I must say, I was disappointment to discover that one of the few women in the movie who was of a darker complexion was once again playing something extremely negative. Another female stereotype for dark-skinned women. Come on Hollywood, enough is enough!
This movie was not the first time females of a darker complexion have been featured in stereotypical, negative roles. This unfortunate typecasting that is happening so frequently that the list of ghetto and criminal roles is becoming exhaustive. The dark-skinned female in Alex Cross was not only a criminal, but she was inarticulate as well. And this depiction made me think back on many other beautiful black women who looked like this woman and played a similar character on-screen. Angela’s character from the Why Did I Get Married movies and series is extremely loud and uncouth. The sole hood character in the beloved “The Proud Family” series, Dijonay, was a dark-skinned little girl. The drugged out prostitute, Candy, in Madea goes to Jail was dark-skinned. The list goes on and on and on. It’s a good thing I have enough sense to know that criminals and those with no level of tact come in all complexions, or else I may have been inclined to think the only women capable of living sub-standard lives are dark-skinned.
In the ’60s and ’70s there were a number of positive portrayals of women of darker complexions in both movies and television. The “Black is beautiful” motto afforded all types of black women the opportunity to be cast in a variety of roles. Dark-skinned beauties like Roxie Roker and Isabel Sanford played wealthy, married women in the long-running sitcom The Jeffersons. Isabel Sanford’s historic Emmy win for her role in The Jeffersons proved that others appreciated her talent and the versatility she brought to her character. And don’t even get me started on the graceful (but broke) Florida Evans on Good Times, or Maxine Shaw in Living Single. So what is going on with the limited positive characters for us now?
It may all boil down to our people and the power we hold in the media. Before I get electronically blacklisted, please read on. More and more African Americans have made influential decisions in what occurs in television and movies. To whites, black people are black people regardless of skin tone. We are usually the only ones hung up on the different shades we come in. I’m aware that there are other groups of people that experience colorism, but for the sake of argument, I’m only referencing black people and white people. Once white people opened up to the idea of allowing us to be in the media, there was usually a wide range of black people they selected for various roles. Fast forward to today’s world and we can find a large assortment of dark-skinned women playing criminals or hood rats and an even larger variety of light-skinned women playing classy, sought after women. Who is responsible for these distorted depictions of black women?
I believe we hold the power to promote or eliminate these biased viewpoints. Considering a dark-skinned woman is the First Lady of the United States, one would assume most of these inaccurate stereotypes would have been removed. But when we hear about people like S. Epatha Merkerson who had no problem vocalizing her displeasure with seeing a dark-skinned child playing a role she felt should have gone to a fair-skinned child, I realized exactly where stereotypes and negative undertones may come from. When our own people attempt to remove a role, recognition, and compensation from another solely because “she didn’t feel that a white person and a black person can create a dark child,” I can see why a lot of our roles are limited or menial at best.
Ms. Merkerson seems to share similar opinions of some rappers, actors, and other celebrities. They appear to have no qualms about stating their preferences and the scales do not generally tip in favor of women. with a darker complexion While it’s acceptable to state preferences, it is really starting to be unacceptable to continuously equate dark-skinned women with demoralizing traits more often than not. If you ask me, if it weren’t for loud, angry, criminal, and “Aunt Jemima” looking mammy roles dark-skinned women would be even hidden in Hollywood than they already are.
Just because I have an adequate understanding of the origin of many stereotypes doesn’t mean it should be tolerated even if many of them come from our own people. As I anxiously await more and more dark-skinned women to be represented fairly in the media, I will continue to be thankful for the ones who are making strides with more positive roles–however small in number they may be.
You know those days when you’re on YouTube and you start out on one video and after about four or five videos you’re like: “How did I get here?” Well, I had a situation like that last week. I started off watching a video of my sister Kayla singing and ended up at a makeup tutorial video entitled “From Fugly to Fabulous.” Two things occurred to me while watching this video: “Man, maybe I should revamp my makeup routine from nothing to something, because this lady looks FIERCE!” and second: “Why is she calling herself “fugly?” She’s beautiful!”
I would like to think that she was being humble and didn’t want to say something like: “From Beautiful to Mega-ultra beautiful,” but seeing those words made me think of myself as a child.
When I was a little girl living in Alabama, I didn’t realize that I looked different from my siblings until we moved to East St. Louis and we started going to the same school. In this predominately black environment, whenever people saw me with my two older siblings we were always addressed with the same question: “Why is she so dark? Is that y’all cousin?” “No, she’s our sister.” “What? Y’all got different daddies or something?” “No, we all have the same parents, she’s just darker that’s all.” It continued to happen when we started going to our church as well. People would always recognize my sisters as siblings, but would always ask: “Why is y’all cousin always with y’all?” Though I was lauded for having hair that draped to my butt, I still felt insignificant because I was too dark. It didn’t help once I got older and started getting crushes but I was denied because the boys that I liked fancied my sisters saying: “It’s not that you’re ugly, it’s just that they’re so much prettier.” “Umm… okay…”
I felt so bad about my dark complexion that with my first dollars of allowance that my father gave me, we went to Walmart and when he asked me what I wanted to buy with my money I told him, with my five year old voice, skin bleaching cream. My father who is also dark told me that I was beautiful, and from that day, even until now, his nickname for me is “Dark ‘N’ Lovely.”
My father’s encouragement definitely made me feel good about myself, but something that really touched me was an incident from when I was in high school. I babysat for a few families in my neighborhood, and one of the little girls who was my regular was this green eyed blonde two year old. She and I were coloring with markers and I noticed that she was observing me imitating me to the point that she would place her arms the way that I placed mine. I then saw her take a brown marker and began to color on her arm. “Jessica*, why would you do that?” She smiled at me and said: “Now I’m Kendra. I’m beautiful.” Thinking about it now still brings tears to my eyes, but it makes me realize that if a small two year old could see me as beautiful, why shouldn’t I?
It goes beyond a light skin – dark skin thing. It’s about getting to the point that whenever you look in the mirror that you like what you see, and you don’t attack yourself verbally about your perceived imperfections. I have had moments where I didn’t like myself, and even now after having my daughter and trying to lose this extra baby weight, it’s hard not to tear myself apart in the mirror. But I had to teach myself that no matter what, I am beautiful. I feel like I’m finally able to appreciate my looks for what they were. They might not be perfect, but I love me for me, and every woman that I come in contact with is beautiful. No longer feeling like I needed to compare myself to other women, I feel free and I love the freedom of not looking in the mirror and feeling like I’m ugly anymore. I’m me, and hey, I like me! Shoot, love me, actually.
I’m saying all of that to say this, no matter if you look the way that you would like to, and even if you don’t have the remembrance of an authority figure or a little girl’s voice to remind you that you are beautiful, know that you are.
Sometimes people can be so hard on themselves and feel like that because they don’t look a certain way, have a certain shape, or skin tone they don’t look as well. It goes for light skinned and dark skinned girls. (I recently found out that my two older light skinned sisters, who spent a week in Vegas a few years back, spent most of that time tanning, because they always felt that dark skin was beautiful, and they were too light.)
Instead of comparing yourself to someone that you’re not, love yourself for who you are. You are beautiful, and please remember that. So, please don’t be so hard on yourself, and get to loving you for you.
You’re beautiful. Why? Because Kendra Koger tweeted it @kkoger.
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I always thought the comments about light-skinned dudes coming back in style were just light-hearted jokes that really went out of style when the men did back in the 80s. From my perspective, tall, dark-skinned, and handsome has long been viewed as a black (or any other) woman’s dream. Yeah, Shemar Moore had his run and lots of women love Michael Ealy, but the fanfare doesn’t compare to the admiration for Idris Elba (praise ‘em), Morris Chestnut (yes lord), or Tyson Beckford (let the church say Amen).
Taye Diggs is another actor who has been admired for his chocolaty goodness—particularly after his debut in “How Stella Got Her Groove Back,” although I personally enjoyed him most in “Brown Sugar.” But despite the love the mocha-skinned author of Chocolate Me, a children’s book encouraging kids to accept themselves as they are, has received over the years, he says it took him a long time to become comfortable in his own dark skin.
“When I got into high school I started to hear, just from the black community, everybody is more attracted to the light skin girls and the light skin dudes with the light eyes. And from within the race the light skin black people and lighter brown people would make fun of the darker people. So then it was a completely different kind of struggle, Taye told MyBrownBaby.Com.
“And then funnily enough it was when dark skinned men, and this was just from my perspective, there seemed to be a shift where all of a sudden we saw Denzel Washington, Wesley Snipes, Tyson Beckford. I’m still trying to figure out how this came to be. For me, when I saw Tyson Beckford hailed as this beautiful man by all people, that caused a shift in my being. And I remember literally waking up and walking the streets feeling a little bit more proud. And then after the movie “How Stella Got Her Groove Back,” when I had my own personal moments of weakness, I just had to remind myself of all the people that really enjoyed that movie and just kind of lean on that.
I was surprised by Taye’s comments; sort of in the same way it’s shocking to find out a beautiful woman has low self-esteem. You wonder, how could he not see himself as gorgeous when 99% of those around him do, but you realize self-confidence is strictly an internal mindset not based on external compliments and men struggle with self-esteem issues just like women. Still, I’d thought if black men had any sort of color complex, it was related to how they choose women, not so much how they felt about themselves. But maybe it’s all connected. Do dark-skinned men favor light-skinned women because by being with a lighter skinned woman, it somehow makes them more attractive or socially acceptable in their minds? A friend of mine always says she thinks black men’s propensity to date outside their race has to do with self-hatred. Maybe being with a white woman gives some dark-skinned men a boost of esteem that’s even greater than being with a light-skinned black woman. If so, Taye Diggs could certainly fit the bill.
But I’m not as interested in men’s interracial dating choices as I am how their color affects their sense of self-worth. After all, light-skinned men date outside their race too and are obsessed with redbones just like everyone else, and lord knows some think they are God’s gift to women just because they have a little less melanin. I guess it isn’t so hard to see how a dark-skinned man could feel the exact opposite. Still, this is an issue that’s mostly been limited to black women’s experience, most recently in the documentary “Dark Girls,” because there is so much pressure put on all women to fit a very narrow standard of beauty, and black women especially struggle with being accepted outside of that realm. Taye’s remarks remind us that men can be insecure too, and although a lot of women may see a handsome, chocolate man as an Adonis, he might not see himself in that same light at all.
What do you think about Taye Diggs’ comments? Do you think dark-skinned men struggle with feeling accepted aesthetically as much as darker skinned black women? Do you think this issue has any bearing on who they date?
Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.
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I think about race a lot, but color? Not so much. Some would argue that’s because I don’t have to, being of a lighter complexion. But there are more people who have told me about my own skin tone and level of blackness than I’ve ever cared to think about myself.
I can recall the first time someone tried to set me apart. I was in high school and some girls were talking about their enemies—basically the girls who didn’t like them because of some boy they were both messing with at the time. I remember one girl asked me who my enemies were and when I said I didn’t have any, she said, “Please. You’re light skinned and you have long hair. You have enemies.” It was the most ridiculous thing I had ever heard, but over time what she said played out to be very true.
I remember in college I was (admittedly inappropriately) using the n-word, and a guy stopped me and asked, “Should you be saying that word? You don’t even look like you’re allowed to use it.” I thought — did he really just put me in the same category we put white people in?
As an adult, it seems the spotlight on my lack of melanin has grown even brighter. It’s become sort of a running joke among some of my friends that I’m “not really black.” Somehow whenever I’m attempting to have a serious conversation about issues in the black community with other associates, my skin tone always finds its way into the discussion—you know those issues I know nothing about, because I’m of a lighter persuasion.
I always facetiously hit people with the same argument that the LGBTQ community uses: who would choose to be black? Blackness may be a cool fad to some white suburban kids watching Lil Wayne on MTV but anyone who is African-American knows there’s a slew of discrimination, prejudice, and racism that you must bear as a person of color and it’s hardly worth the “right” to call someone a n***a.
I also remind these people that they’re more hung up on my color than I am. I don’t want to explain my blackness every time I get passionate about black on black crime or broken homes, and I certainly don’t need to be reminded of what I look like. I see myself every day. I also don’t want to have to explain my family tree every time someone isn’t satisfied when they ask what I am and I simply say, “black.” I refuse to feel guilty because somewhere along the line Massa most likely raped one of my ancestors or a Cherokee found his way over to one of my enslaved relatives and they procreated, or that my maternal grandfather and great grandparents are Louisiana creoles with a whole mix of things going on.
If I’m down for the black community isn’t that all that should matter?
by Ramona X
When someone always brings something up, you know it’s a sore spot. Like your friend who is sensitive about other people mentioning their ivy league degrees. Yeah, you know she’s always bringing it up for a reason. On another somewhat related note, I don’t trust rappers who make a point of making a song about the beauty of dark women (ahem, ahem Mos Def). The point is if it’s not an issue, why talk about it all the time? Although differences in shade is a sensitive subject in the Black community, the way to get over it is to be conscious of keeping an open mind to all people. Right?
While the following celebrities may be coping with their hangups by talking about their sensitivity to colorism, we think they’re trying to communicate something different.
Dear Very Smart Brotha,
Something happened this weekend that has me questioning what men really want. Let me start off by telling you a little about myself. I am medium height, light skinned with long good hair and light eyes and I have big legs, hips and butt. But I work out and watch my diet so I am not fat I get a lot of attention from men because let’s face it, as much as we as black people talk about there is no difference between light skinned and dark skinned women…I’m sorry its obvious most black men want light skin and good hair. Let’s just be real about that.
So I met this woman at the gym and we started hanging out and she is cool. On paper we both are the same, educated, early 30’s, no kids, financially stable, no baggage or drama. She is short, has a cute shape, but she is dark skinned (Jamaican) and she has a lot of hair but she wears it in a lot of natural styles or she’ll switch it up and wear a sew in weave. She has full lips and a wider nose and she is smart but kind of loud (probably because she is Jamaican, lol). But the girl can dress and she is very feminine. We’ve been hanging out and I really like her, she is so funny and she has a great personality. I AM NOT HATING. She is cool, but not to be mean I KNOW I am prettier than her. Usually when we go out men flock to me and she’ll get a few here and there but lately when we go out I notice more men looking at her than me and approaching her. We went to a poetry club and this man was all in her face telling her how Hot she was and how sophisticated she looked but said nothing to me. And this weekend after a workout the trainer (who is soo fine) and this other man were talking to her and like fighting for her attention. And all I could think is that she is cute but definitely not a banger…they could do better, why do they like her and not me? My looks are in demand, not hers. I’m Beyonce and she is Kelly, lol. And they do not know what type of personality she has when they first see her, so these men are approaching based on looks only. So my question is: Are men intimidated by beauty? Like do they go for cute because they feel it’s more obtainable? If there are two women and one is more attractive than the other what makes men go for the less attractive one? And please do not get on your soap box and talk all that mess that men do not care if a woman is dark or not. We know that is not true, just be real.
Light skin long hair don’t care