All Articles Tagged "skin color"
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.
With all the separation that still sticks around when it comes to being a black person of a fairer complexion or one with darker skin, it’s about time we have a conversation about what skin color means to black people these days. Not since Spike Lee’s School Daze has the obvious sensitive topic about the differences (are there really any?) and animosity between light and dark skin black folks been so thoroughly evaluated, so our friends at Uptown Magazine decided to tackle it. They interviewed five movers and shakers in the black professional world, including TV host Marc Lamont Hill, editorial consultant Michaela Angela Davis, TV personality Bevy Smith, Daily Beast writer Allison Samuels, and media attorney Julian Riley. All players were asked to evaluate the way they perceive the range of black complexions, and how it has defined them or shaped their experiences. It also helps that their shades vary as much as their opinions. Veeeeery interesting responses people!
To read what these elite professionals had to say about skin color when it comes to dating, growing up and their perception of blacks in the media, head over to Uptown Magazine.
Harlem Sweeties- Langston Hughes
Have you dug the spill
Of Sugar Hill?
Cast your gims
On this sepia thrill:
Brown sugar lassie,
Sweet enough to eat.
Coffee and cream,
Out of a dream.
Or cocoa brown,
Pride of the town.
To plum-tinted black,
In Harlem no lack.
Glow of the quince
To blush of the rose.
To cinnamon toes.
Virginia Dare wine
All those sweet colors
Flavor Harlem of mine!
Walnut or cocoa,
Let me repeat:
Caramel, brown sugar,
A chocolate treat.
Coffee and cream,
Licorice, clove, cinnamon
To a honey-brown dream.
All through the spectrum
Harlem girls vary
So if you want to know beauty
Stroll down luscious,
Delicious, fine Sugar Hill.
Harlem Sweeties from Collected Poems. Copyright, © 1994 by The Estate of Langston Hughes.
Malcolm X once asked poignantly, “Who taught you to hate the color of your skin?” As profound as it was some forty-odd years ago, the question still has as much relevance in today’s society, which still emphasizes preference over shades of color and race over another.
For many black and brown folks, being comfortable in your own skin often means learning to embrace the kinky, curly hair, the full lips and hips, and the various shades of brown, all of which have come to symbolize the African in all of us. However, for a large percentage of our folks, things like laying under the sun to get a Hot tan, or just looking at a dark face in the mirror is not the life-affirming, “I’m Black and I’m Proud” experience brother Malcolm would have preferred. For some, who are driven by the fear of getting or being too black, because their color is a constant reminder of the ridicule, abuse and other negative attributes that have been ingrained so deeply into the psyche, their skin and its color feel more like a prison.
That’s why it is downright painful to see pictures of the new and “improved” Vybz Kartel, a Jamaican reggae and dancehall artist, who went public about his recent physical alteration. Kartel’s once beautiful, chestnut brown skin has been transformed to a dull, pale and eerie color, which he did with the assistance of a skin lightener.
Like many confused folks, Kartel tried to rationale his inferiority issues with claims that the skin whitening process he has underwent is no different from “white people getting a sun tan.” He is even considering endorsing the yet-to-be named cake soap product, which brought about his new ghostly profile.
I wish I could just chalk this up to the misadventures of one confounded Negro, but the reality is that many people of a darker hue have been undergoing similar skin lightening treatments for years. Places such as the Middle East, Africa, Asian, the Caribbean Islands and even here in the States have helped to turn self-hatred into a multi-billion dollar industry.
Even before Kartel, other celebrities have either considered or flat out begun profiting off this once private shame. Shahrukh Khan, one of Bollywood’s biggest film stars, has starred in a series of skin-lightening cream ads, which appear in India and the UK. Most recently, Sammy Sosa, the Major League Baseball player who drastically transformed his skin tone in a matter of months, said that he would be willing to be the spokesperson for his skin lightening miracle and help to market it to people across the United States and South America.
Despite the growing concerns over the cancer-causing agents usually found in many of these skin whitening creams and serums, many people knowingly risk their lives with these products and treatments to obtain “the look.” Which begs the question—is it really wrong for celebrities to profit off the internal conflict of others when there is a demand for it?
The answer is not as simple as one might think.
Like many other “beauty” products, skin whitening products prey on the insecurity and prejudices often found in a society. In places such as India, where the color caste system coincides with the demand for skin lightening, people are bombarded with commercials that speak of a better life, career advancement and promises of marriage if only they had fairer skin. While I believe that whatever skin color insecurities and prejudices that people unfortunately have would be better served with long-term therapy, the reality is that these commercials are no different or more dysfunctional than the commercials hawking diet pills, hair straighteners and coloring for the overweight and blonde obsessed.
Let’s be clear: skin-whitening perpetuates a form of racism, which isn’t so much about changing one’s appearance to look better, so much as it is about changing one’s appearance to look more European. For reasons dating back to slavery and colonization, many people of darker hue are fixated with conforming to this narrow standard of beauty in hopes of gaining more acceptance and respect in our Anglo-Saxon culture.
While it’s both frightening and depressing that celebrities such as Kartel and Sosa appear to be very comfortable with this reality, who are we to dictate what kind of alterations one should undergo to make themselves feel better – no matter how physically and physiological harmful these changes are to one’s own body?
Charing Ball is the author of the blog People, Places & Things.