The three women of “Red Table Talk,” tackled colorism within the Black community on the latest episode of the Facebook Watch show. Jada, Willow and Adrienne Banfield Norris (aka Gammy) discussed everything from skin tone, hair texture, bullying and bleaching in this episode, which featured Jada Pinkett Smith’s lifelong friend, Mia Pitts and her daughter Madison.
The episode opens with Willow, Jada and Gammy in the kitchen speaking about their personal experiences with colorism—even though the rest of the episode centered around dark skinned Black women specifically.
Jada said, “I remember having plenty of conversations with you and Aunt Karen about not revealing other heritage in my blood. It was like, ‘You’re Black and that’s it.’
Gammy: It wasn’t so much about not revealing. It was like, ‘Don’t get it twisted.’
Jada: Listen, Karen was like, ‘Don’t talk about It because it means absolutely nothing. You’re Black. Don’t let me hear you talkin’ bout you got this in your blood, you got that in your blood. It doesn’t matter you’re Black,”
Gammy: Back in the day, we would always hear Black people, ‘Oh I got Indian in me and all of this.’ Still not owning our own Blackness. And that’s just a result of all the brain washing that has happened over the years. That perpetuation of White supremacy.
Jada: Or lighter skin supremacy.
Willow: It’s true.
When they finally sat down at the table, they jumped right in.
Mia said that she realized there was a certain persona she adopted to cope with certain feelings she had about her skin complexion.
Mia: Listen, when I was getting myself together, I thought, ‘Oo this is kind of a plunging neckline here. But it’s also a part of a character I created, a part of my colorism issues that I had. Because I never considered myself beautiful I always would go to the other side of the spectrum of being sexy. That was one of the ways I could sell myself in another way, outside of my skin color. I think it was a camouflage not being told, from men primarily, that you’re beautiful.
Mia shared that her issues with colorism came to the forefront when she was a dancer in the NBA. And again when she had her daughter who was also dark skinned. She said in an attempt to shield Madison from some of the pain she experienced, she over compensated, complimenting her skin tone to the point where it could cause her to have a complex.
Unfortunately, Madison wasn’t able to avoid colorism.
Madison: Going to a predominately Black elementary school that was my first experience. I got bullied. One Black kid in particular, he would always say, ‘Your skin looks like poop.’ And call me Blackie. I remember running home to my mom of course, crying. ‘Why would he do that? Why would he say that?’ And that was my first introduction to it.
And when I transitioned to a predominately White school, I was scared because if I’m getting this from my own community, what am I going to get from this. And I didn’t have any issues. So that was really shocking to me.
When I liked Black boys, they never really liked me back.
Madison said Black guys would tell her outright that they didn’t date Black women. But when Madison began dating men of other races, she received backlash from Black men.
Madison: I’m like you guys don’t even like us anyway so what’s the point. It hurt of course. You have those little bit of feelings like, ‘I’m not good enough.’ Now, I’m dating Black guys again and now I’m getting that appreciation that I’ve always wanted. I don’t know what changed in their minds. Or it could be me, being more confident. That’s probably a factor.
Later, they had colorism expert, Chika Okoro speak about the history of colorism, including featurism and hair type.
Chika: We talk about the different tests we still see the aftermaths of. There was the brown paper bag test, where if you’re darker than a paper bag, you’re not in the club. There was the pencil test. They run a pencil through your hair, it can’t get stuck then you’re in the club.
Mia: I would have failed that.
Willow: Yeah, me too. That was one of the issues for me growing up was my hair. It was always a struggle. I was always looking. Even like my cousins and my friends. I would look at her and be like, ‘Oh my God, I would be so much prettier if my hair wasn’t so kinky or if I had longer hair. It would always be such an issue.
Gammy: The approximation to White is what is valued around the world. It’s global.
The most profound portion of the episode came when Stacey Summers, a woman of Haitian descent, spoke about bleaching her skin from the time she was eight years old until she was 25. She did so to counteract the bullying she suffered in school and to achieve what she thought would be a better life for herself.
But one day in a conversation with her now-husband something shifted.
Jada: What made you decide to stop?
Stacey: My husband. When I was engaged, I decided to show him my photo album when I was a younger girl, a baby. And he was like, ‘Wow, you are beautiful. You’re so gorgeous.’ Deep down in my heart, I was so sad. I’m like, ‘Eewww how can you call that girl in the picture beautiful?’ And he didn’t tell me to stop but because he found beauty in that girl, in my mind I’m like, ‘You know what I have to stop.’ There’s no way for me to treat myself this way if my husband loves me. He found beauty in this little chocolate muffin. I have to stop.
So when he left, I went to the bathroom and I cried. And I believe that’s when my deliverance happened. I went to church all my life but my deliverance didn’t happen at church, it happened in a bathroom. My one on one. I cried and I’m like, ‘God, how can I be in church and I’m so insecure. I have such low self esteem and I feel so depressed all the time?’ But that day, God literally removed that hurt inside of me.”
You can watch the full episode in the video below.
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