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Discussion: How Many of Us Have Been Victims of Color-ism?

June 6, 2010

If you were here, you’d see my arm raised and waving, sloughing off the white residue from my deodorant, because yes, I have been a victim.

To play off of Karyn Folan’s Don’t Bring Home a White Boy, I wonder how many BLACK MOTHERS (and fathers)  told their sons “Don’t bring home a black chick whose teeth shines in the dark like the Cheshire cat from Alice in Wonderland.”  In other words, don’t bring home a darkie.

I am a dark-skinned black woman.  You know how I know?  I have been reminded of it my entire life.   Since I could remember, relatives and perspective boyfriends have told me so.  One older cousin of mine told my mother shortly after I was born, “Oh.  She’s not cute because she’s too dark.”  Which I know was a disappointment to my mom, because, being a dark woman herself and being demeaned and devalued because of it, started dating my father (in part) because he and his family were much fairer skinned.  I think she hoped, for my sake, that I would be lighter-skinned and life would be just dog-gone-diddly-dandy for me.

Some idiot I dated once told me I must be special because normally, Mr. Jackass only dates light-skinned women.  I am ashamed to admit that yes…I agreed to a second date.  But that was like, 100 years ago, when I had all sorts of insecure feelings about my color.  Oh, how I wished I could have looked like Janet Jackson, or  Halle Berry back then, how great my life would be, how open my prospects for a mate would become.  If only…

I was reminded of this whole light/skin dark skin issue when I was recently invited to a Facebook fan page titled, “I Celebrate My Dark-Skinned Black Woman Because She is My…” (and then you fill in the blank.)  I guess the moderator took one look at me said “Yep!  She’s one of us!”

Not even close.

Paper Bag–FAIL!! And not only am I OK with that, I’m honored to join.

My issues with color have been (mostly) resolved, but sadly, not because of my own people.

When I started dating my husband, I remember getting push back from black men when we were together.  Nothing crazy, just a subtle shake of head in disapproval while said black man had his tongue down the throat of a girl with the highest score on the Brown Paper Bag Test.  You know what was even more ironic?  The white boy I was dating, who would eventually become my husband never, ever, ever, never said a word about my hue, unless it was to remark how beautiful it was.  Now don’t get me wrong–I AM NOT saying that dating white men is the magic salve to cure the scourge of color-ism.   Dark-skinned women get it from both black and white people.  Don’t believe me?  Then, you must not own a television, in which case, you probably live in a cave, and are probably not dark, because you don’t get out in the sun much.  Everyone else knows what I’m talking about.

And before any of you respond with, Well the reason we have issue with color is because of slavery blah-blah-blah…, answer me this: How come we pick and choose which Euro-centric values we embrace or reject?  Consumerism is so Eurocentric, but…how many pairs of shoes do you own (with purses to match)?

I’m just saying.

UPDATE: Special thanks to CW and another poster who directed me to Kola Boof’s manifesto on this issue.  I can’t say I agree with everything she says, but she raises some valid points– as hard to face as they may be.

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39 Comments leave one →
  1. S. Martin permalink
    June 6, 2010 8:17 pm

    This as been the story of my life and still is. I’ve heard so much about the darkness of my skin and most of it has been by black men who sees it as a negative. I’m from the deep south and the whole light skin=better is still in full effect. It’s mostly people of other races that have told me how pretty and chocolaty i am. It took me a long time to accept my color. I had began to think that because other black people saw my skin as a negative that other races would to. Not so much in my experience. One day it may change but until, colorism will remain an issue.

    • randomthoughtsfromcali permalink*
      June 6, 2010 8:29 pm

      Funny how everything now has flipped on its head. Non-black people seeing the beauty of our darkness? I too find this to be true. Thanks for chiming in.

  2. June 6, 2010 10:15 pm

    This has always been an interesting topic because I was not fully aware of colourism until coming to the US. I really can’t say I have experienced colourism that I know of but then I usually don’t give a darn what people think since I passed 16 years old. I remember a penpal in the US (white) had asked me what shade of black am I. I thought that was just the most stupid question to ask a person because for me black is black (I had just moved to the US so I didn’t get it until many years later).
    Maybe I am being simplistic because I was not raised here but as adults my philosphy is I could not give a shit about a stranger’s and certain so called family/friends opinion of me. I am in control of whose words have value and meaning. If you don’t like what you see, keep it moving.

    • randomthoughtsfromcali permalink*
      June 6, 2010 10:22 pm

      HarleyQ, where were you raised?

  3. June 6, 2010 10:31 pm

    I was raised in Jamaica and came to the US at 17 years old. So I had to learn quite a bit of things regarding black people here. I honestly have to say that I am still learning.

  4. randomthoughtsfromcali permalink*
    June 6, 2010 10:37 pm

    Yes, your experience sounds very different. The colorism can be reduced to utter silliness, with kids (and adults) holding their arms out to compare which one is lighter. Ridiculous. Glad you didn’t have those issues growing up.

  5. June 6, 2010 10:50 pm

    This is an issue I recently brought up at my own forum…Intraracism/colorism is a matter that has either been swept under a rug, or packaged nicely for far too long…I am determined to do the following:

    -Help other Black women call this sickness for what it is, while simultaneously and consciously taking steps to improve our own quality of lives…This includes not being ashamed or “shouted down” for pointing colorism out!

    -Find resources which elevates women who look like Chistelyn, myself & so many others…

    We’re not gonna sit around arguing with dissenters back and forth…However those with understanding are not going themselves to be convinced that colorism does not exist, or is some rare event like “Hailey’s Comment”…

    • randomthoughtsfromcali permalink*
      June 6, 2010 10:57 pm

      I’ll be right behind you, CW! The “black community” denies colorism the same way others deny racism exists. It’s the big, old black elephant in the room that everyone wants to ignore.

    • June 6, 2010 11:53 pm

      Ok…I am trying to do 15 other things at once…Not going to even TRY to correct my “Spanglish”…Just forgive me, PLEASE : )

  6. June 7, 2010 1:41 am

    I was never overtly ‘color-hated’ by my grade school friends, but I did notice that the lighter girls were considered girlfriend material by the popular ‘light’ guys. It didn’t matter to me because I liked the browner boys anyhow.
    But the Black American Phenomenon is alive and well in corporate america. I have watched the black (darker skinned) higher ups in a major communication company reward time and time again lighter skinned black women with lesser qualifications and track records with promotions and bonuses. Can you hear me now?

    • June 7, 2010 11:54 am

      @PrincessJedi

      “I was never overtly ‘color-hated’ by my grade school friends, but I did notice that the lighter girls were considered girlfriend material”……..

      And this is one of the occurrences which creates that quagmire…When BW see this and “Speak Up”, oftentimes she is made out to be “jealous”…And we know keeping silent isn’t an option either..I noticed the “light-bright” trend throughout school as well…Unfortunately, I’ve witnessed this contining well into adulthood!

  7. BlkQueenBee permalink
    June 7, 2010 7:00 am

    I’m dark. Dark enough so that a family member told me, “You’re so black you’re blue”.

    I am also not suggesting a dark sistah go out and get a white guy, but my personal experience is that skin tone doesn’t seem to matter to white guys like it does to black guys. Which is kind of weird when you think about it, but that’s the way it’s been in my own life. This has been my experience with white men in the U.S. and in Europe.

    Don’t get me wrong, they still want a pretty face and a nice body. They are men, after all, and men are visual creatures. But my two white boyfriends have loved my dark skin.

    • June 7, 2010 11:58 am

      Hey…I have observed the same thing…Plenty of Sisters who WE KNOWWWWW would not get the time of day with a good 95% of Black men, can easily date amongst White men…

      Just getting us past all of this “Politically-Correct” stuff…When seeing a darker-skinned BW with a WM, I get a sense of relief…Because she knows the time, AND her options!

  8. randomthoughtsfromcali permalink*
    June 7, 2010 7:11 am

    BlkQueenBee, I think a lot of dark-skinned women who date interracially may feel this way. I remember in high school, college and beyond, the trophy for most of the black men I was interested in was the light-skinned girl, regardless of her looks in some cases.

    • June 7, 2010 8:34 pm

      And regardless of weight in others 😉

  9. Hodan permalink
    June 7, 2010 10:55 am

    what a tragically stupid and self hating dogma we in the black community still practice. Then again, I also learned within the South Asian and Arab community, any shade darker than white is considered less than. I remember one of my friend’s future in laws happy with her not because she was an amazing person who would make their son happy, but because for a Pakistani she was really ‘fair/pale’.

    Even in my own community, for men its ok to be dark, but God help you if you are a female and dark. Like WTF, last time I checked we are all of African descents and will have all shades of dark colors due to our various heritage and history.

  10. Hodan permalink
    June 7, 2010 10:58 am

    Also, to add to BLKQueenBee, in Europe, the darker the skin, the sweeter the the white guy is on you. I know so many ladies from sub-sahara Africa married to the whitest men in Europe, many are from rich and so-called aristocratic background. Its like having a blond chick in the Middle East, she’ll be hunted like a rare trophy, while in Italy, Ireland, France, men go after the black girls ignoring their ‘white’ girls. It really comes down to what’s rare and termed ‘exotic’ at the end of the day.

    • randomthoughtsfromcali permalink*
      June 7, 2010 1:46 pm

      Petition! All dark-skinned women MUST pick up and move to Europe. 🙂

      • June 7, 2010 8:33 pm

        Can us brown-skinned ones come with you????

    • BlkQueenBee permalink
      June 7, 2010 3:41 pm

      Yes, indeed, Hodan. Those Irish men love American black women, I can vouch for that. I don’t think I’ve ever paid for a drink in Ireland, and I’ve been there 3 times. Those lads will follow you down the street, just trying to have a word with you.

      Nothing like spending time in a pub with a bunch of big, friendly, good-looking Irish guys. They don’t care if you’re dark. They don’t care whether you have a damn weave. It’s just lovely and enchanting and wonderful. You are the center of attention. You’re dark? Doesn’t matter, a foine Irishman will be purring in your ear if you so desire.

      The only fly in the ointment here is weight. No matter what color you are, all Europeans look askance at the avoirdupois that Americans carry around. You have to be in reasonable shape.

      What is called “big” here is called fat there. Forty pounds over a normal weight for your height will get you sympathy, but no dates…

  11. June 7, 2010 12:02 pm

    This “overweight/darkskinned” BW seems to have landed herself a husband….

    http://www.blackfemaleinterracialmarriage.com/2010/06/roomadoor-press-vacation-on-my-mind-bws-learned-helplessness-.html

    • randomthoughtsfromcali permalink*
      June 7, 2010 1:56 pm

      Yes! She looks so happy. That said, the author is correct in that BW need to do better about staying a healthy weight.

      • June 7, 2010 8:23 pm

        Absolutely…But no BW should be “BigConManned” into thinking that is the reason why she’s alone!

      • BlkQueenBee permalink
        June 8, 2010 8:29 am

        She looks very happy, in fact, she looks radiant! And I’m happy for her.

        BUT, and I don’t want to put too fine a point on it here, most (not all) white men, in my experience, do not have same tolerance for extra weight that black men do. For most white guys, obesity is a complete deal-breaker. I don’t know about asian or hispanic guys, so I’ll just leave that alone.

        I struggle with my weight all the time; it’s a never-ending battle, but at least it’s something I can control (even though it KILLS me to pass up ice cream). I can’t control my skin tone, which is why I appreciate the fact that it doesn’t seem to matter to white guys what shade of black I am. It would be foolish, however, to say that white guys don’t have physical preferences in a woman; they do, and one of those preferences for most of them is a girl that is not overweight.

        White men are not perfect, non-judgemental men. They’re still men, which means flawed, and they like what they like in terms of appearance.

        Are there exceptions? Sure, there are always exceptions. It happens: where love conquers all, where love truly is blind, and some fit, active white guy in his 20’s or 30’s commits to a relationship with a really overweight sister.

        But. let’s be truthful, it’s rare. White guys are not perfect. I’m glad they don’t have the colorism thing going on, because I’m really dark, and besides, I like white guys. Now that I’ve been dating white guys, I think this is where I’m going to stay in the dating world, and hopefully, that will transform itself into matrimony.

        But, although this set of guys doesn’t care about your skin shade or your hair, believe me, they’re still keying off your physical characteristics.

        They’re guys, right?

  12. Staci permalink
    June 7, 2010 12:09 pm

    I am 29, and not only am I dark, I wear my hair natural. I’ve never been out with any European guys, but I’ve been out with four American white guys, and believe me, they don’t care about skin shade OR your hair OR your nails, either. It’s very refreshing.

    They do care about having a conversation, your smile, your eyes, and also, your weight (hit the gym, sisters) and that you have some dreams and some ambition. Although, from my experience, they’re not looking to check every single one of these boxes on every single woman, ie. a good-looking woman with some extra pounds, or an average-looking woman with a fit body, etc. still has a good shot.

    The brothas all want the dyme sista, want her hair long and with a weave in it, and for some reason most of them want you to wear an outfit that looks like you got it from a hooker.

    I waved goodbye to that bull_____!

    I WILL say it because I ain’t afraid, hah! IF you’re a dark sister, walk towards the white light!

  13. Denise permalink
    June 7, 2010 1:22 pm

    Staci, I am digging your vibe, gurl. Tell it!

  14. BlkQueenBee permalink
    June 7, 2010 3:28 pm

    You go, Staci. I cosign completely.

  15. randomthoughtsfromcali permalink*
    June 7, 2010 10:24 pm

    CW :

    Can us brown-skinned ones come with you????

    Well……okay.

  16. randomthoughtsfromcali permalink*
    June 7, 2010 10:26 pm

    Staci :

    I am 29, and not only am I dark, I wear my hair natural. I’ve never been out with any European guys, but I’ve been out with four American white guys, and believe me, they don’t care about skin shade OR your hair OR your nails, either. It’s very refreshing.

    They do care about having a conversation, your smile, your eyes, and also, your weight (hit the gym, sisters) and that you have some dreams and some ambition. Although, from my experience, they’re not looking to check every single one of these boxes on every single woman, ie. a good-looking woman with some extra pounds, or an average-looking woman with a fit body, etc. still has a good shot.

    The brothas all want the dyme sista, want her hair long and with a weave in it, and for some reason most of them want you to wear an outfit that looks like you got it from a hooker.

    I waved goodbye to that bull_____!

    I WILL say it because I ain’t afraid, hah! IF you’re a dark sister, walk towards the white light!

    HA! @ the white light!

  17. randomthoughtsfromcali permalink*
    June 8, 2010 8:54 am

    BlkQueenBee :

    She looks very happy, in fact, she looks radiant! And I’m happy for her.

    BUT, and I don’t want to put too fine a point on it here, most (not all) white men, in my experience, do not have same tolerance for extra weight that black men do. For most white guys, obesity is a complete deal-breaker. I don’t know about asian or hispanic guys, so I’ll just leave that alone.

    I struggle with my weight all the time; it’s a never-ending battle, but at least it’s something I can control (even though it KILLS me to pass up ice cream). I can’t control my skin tone, which is why I appreciate the fact that it doesn’t seem to matter to white guys what shade of black I am. It would be foolish, however, to say that white guys don’t have physical preferences in a woman; they do, and one of those preferences for most of them is a girl that is not overweight.

    White men are not perfect, non-judgemental men. They’re still men, which means flawed, and they like what they like in terms of appearance.

    Are there exceptions? Sure, there are always exceptions. It happens: where love conquers all, where love truly is blind, and some fit, active white guy in his 20′s or 30′s commits to a relationship with a really overweight sister.

    But. let’s be truthful, it’s rare. White guys are not perfect. I’m glad they don’t have the colorism thing going on, because I’m really dark, and besides, I like white guys. Now that I’ve been dating white guys, I think this is where I’m going to stay in the dating world, and hopefully, that will transform itself into matrimony.

    But, although this set of guys doesn’t care about your skin shade or your hair, believe me, they’re still keying off your physical characteristics.

    They’re guys, right?

    This is a very valid point. I also watch my weight, first to be healthy, and second because I know my husband likes me svelte. I don’t think this is something we should fault WM for, because they are men first, and men are VERY visual. Just like BM tend to like big booties ( I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard from a BW who was dating a BM that he didn’t want her to work out too hard for fear she’d loose that bootie!), white men tend to favor women on the thinner side of the spectrum.

  18. June 8, 2010 9:36 pm

    I have learnt to stop worrying about things we cannot change. Racism, colourism and all the other “isms” are here to stay. Women this my recommendations to you. Keep your head and selfimage and esteem high. Go for the men who find you to be the most beautify and precious thing on this earth. The saying is the best revenge is to live well. It’s one thing to discuss the “black elephant” but it is another thing to become consumed by it. I identify as black when it comes to race but more specifically 100% Jamaican 🙂 (anyone who wants to break me down into: hair type, beauty type, colour palette type, passible bla bla bla it’s their problem). At the end of the day, all we want is a good man and a happy family.

  19. Leah permalink
    June 9, 2010 8:19 pm

    Yes, thing that all black men have no trouble discussing with other black men, but will swear on a bible that they never engage in if anyone else asks them about it. Every brother wants a woman lighter than he is, preferably much lighter, and with light eyes, too.

    Jasmine Guy, Halle Berry, etc. that’s who the brothas want if they get a white woman. And then, of course, there are the guys that go the Dominican or Puerto Rican route, or something similar.

    We “dark-butts” are at the very bottom of their wish lists here in America.

    It’s a good thing my Danish boyfriend never talked to any of my “brothas” before he met me. He might have somehow gotten the idea that I was unattractive and not to be desired.

    My brothers, always bragging on us black women, right?

  20. Leah permalink
    June 9, 2010 8:33 pm

    Should have read:

    Jasmine Guy, Halle Berry, etc. that’s who the brothas want if they CANNOT get a white woman. And then, of course, there are the guys that go the Dominican or Puerto Rican route, or something similar”.

    I was kind of irritated when I was typing it, so I wasn’t paying attention very well.

    • randomthoughtsfromcali permalink*
      June 9, 2010 8:37 pm

      Don’t worry, Leah, I got your point!

  21. A.C. permalink
    June 10, 2010 3:43 pm

    Hello All,

    It was quite interesting to read your posts. As I said in another post, I am mixed race (half Black, half Hispanic) and I would have been considered a good choice because of the hair and skin. However, due to some weight and health issues (Sickle Cell), naturally I got the shaft by the Black men around me. They will always be picky and bow to the “isms” that society endorses. But to me that is unimportant. What is important for me is knowing who I am and taking care of myself physically, mentally and emotionally and spiritually. Being a Trinidadian, I am very much aware of the latent effects of Colonialism. I could let them overtake my mentality, or I could just progress and teach those around me to progress as well. I will end this with the common-sense words spoken by HarleyQ: “I have learnt to stop worrying about things we cannot change. Racism, colourism and all the other “isms” are here to stay. Women this my recommendations to you. Keep your head and selfimage and esteem high. Go for the men who find you to be the most beautify and precious thing on this earth. The saying is the best revenge is to live well. It’s one thing to discuss the “black elephant” but it is another thing to become consumed by it.”

  22. randomthoughtsfromcali permalink*
    June 10, 2010 3:48 pm

    A.C., good advice. Please come and share with us anytime. Love all the wisdom. Take good care with the Sickle Cell–I have family member living with this disease.

  23. Leah permalink
    June 11, 2010 1:54 pm

    For those of you that are interested in this topic, you MUST read Kola Boof’s fiery essay that mentions colorism..

    There’s a link to it on the Black Women Deserve Better site.

    Wow! She lays it down, and hard!

    • randomthoughtsfromcali permalink*
      June 11, 2010 3:23 pm

      Leah, can you please reply with the link? I went on CW’s site and couldn’t find it. Thanks!

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