Huey Newton Complexes

23 Aug

A Different World character Freddie Brooks sits in the Lap of her boyfriend Shazza Zulu in Afrocentric attire. They are both biracial and light skinned.

Whatever does one mean by the phrase, “Huey Newton Complex(es)”?  So glad you asked.  A Huey Newton Complex is a rather snarky, yet awesomely witty way of describing a light skinned person crunk about (their) blackness in ways that, perhaps, obscure other realities that may indeed inflect (their) blackness–like gender identification, sexuality, economic class, or skin color. The one drop rule notwithstanding, Huey Newton Complexes goad light skinned Negroes into stringently proving and deploying their blackness just in case one raises an eyebrow around the melanin content of their skin; hence, The Black Panther Party and Shazza Zulu (aka Freddie Brooks’ boyfriend), for example. Just in case you haven’t perused the colored section of the blogosphere lately, know Huey lives–and not just through a cartoon character: light skinned girls are not having the best week ever. Apparently their blackness is perpetually being questioned, and they’re fed up.  A few blog entries posted last week by light skinned black women struck us as particularly emblematic of light skinned women being “sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

It has always been fun for me to experience the myriad ways disability “whitens” me as I go about life in the mainstream (i.e., white, non-disabled) world. Essentially, the way this works is that the cultural perception that disabled peeps are childlike, always in need of charity and/or help usually overcomes the threat posed by my race. I’ve always thought of it as a kind of “fuck you — your racism deserves to be subverted by my disability.” I’ve never had the experience where disability whitens me in/before an African-American eye.

I emerged from the whatever it is in Philadelphia — metro? subway? SEPTA? — and pushed past the bus stop. An older African-American woman reached out to me: “You white?” I was so shocked that I stopped and told her how rude that was. In so doing, I was, of course, rude myself. She got irate, because she thought she was giving me a compliment. [breathes.] This pissed me off. So, I stopped to tell her what I thought of that perspective. Bad idea, yes.

And another:

I tried my damndest not to join Alpha Kappa Alpha because of the stigmas attached to it. But, you can’t run from who you are. I feel like a neo defending my honor when I say this but I joined because of the women who lifted me up – and they were light and dark complected…and about their business.

For one of our townhall meeting conversations, I helped organize a panel to talk about the role of intra-racial relations and identity. We opened with the notorious “paper bag test.”  I took it.  I failed. And the room was wide-eyed with amazement.   Even some of my chapter sorors gasped.  I don’t know why. I got some melanin. Chuch.

As brown skinned ladies invested in our blackness, we’re happy that our lighter sistren are not only identifying as black, but finding blackness in themselves and loving it fiercely. Light skinned black women are saying it loud and proud, “I’m Black damn it!” Still, there’s something especially perturbing about the way in which these versions of a commitment to blackness are delineated.  In other words, what we’ve tracked in these posts and other sources is a kind of “Woe is (light skinned) me,” rhetoric that implicitly negates the privilege embedded in commencing and participating in such discourse.  Such personal narratives, though valuable, seem unwilling to divulge fully the way that being light skinned traditionally works both intra- and interracially.

Being black, or simply being non-white in a world built on white supremacy, is rough. But when we ignore the ways that difference inflects our own relationship to marginal status, we miss nuances that are important in shaping our individual realities. It’s a similar rhetorical move we implicitly employ when we use the term “people of color” without acknowledging the realities of involuntary immigration, language, model minority status, alienation from land and traditional practices, ability, sexuality, class, and yes of course, skin color. The vagueness of a term such as “people of color,” although ostensibly an effort to semantically unite those who must endure white supremacy in various forms, simultaneously jettisons the inherent differences upon which white supremacy is based, namely racial/ethnic/skin hierarchies, under the guise of “unity.”  The term “people of color,” then, is covertly dishonest, and inevitably forecloses the space wherein we might discuss the hierarchy within the hierarchy.  Woe is hypodescent!

To be sure, amplifying the differences in discussions of the ways that folks are oppressed does not play into the master’s hands, but rather compels us to be diligent and rigorous in our critique of (intra)racial strata and how they affect our lives.  Similarly, light skinned black women discussing their very real experiences of oppression without examining the way that (skin) privilege informs the type of marginal status they endure within and beyond the black community prevents a power analysis that is necessary for liberation. Furthermore, attempting to silence that privilege by not footnoting it at the very least is a rather indirect refusal of the agency one is granted by embodying the fact of light skinned blackness.  What further exacerbates this narrative decision is the anger projected upon the dark(er) skinned interlocutors in each of the aforementioned blog posts; the response by the storytellers suggests that questioning a light skinned person’s connection (to blackness) is somehow irrational, thereby treating the most blatant aspect of the colorism/interracial narrative–intraracial division predicated on skin tone–as a kind of imagined source of division, to say the least.

In order to further facilitate a nuanced discussion of blackness, namely as it pertains to skin privilege, we’ve started a light skin privilege list that we invite light skinned sisters to make on their own.  We all know that the real number one is admitting you have a problem–or are one. Word to DuBois, O.G. light skinned cat.

Light Skin Privilege Checklist

  1. In most situations where I am with other people of color, white people will try to communicate with me first.
  2. I am more likely to appear in the media, especially if my skin affords me the designation “omniracial.”  (Hello, Beyonce.)
  3. People will think I am pretty. full stop.
  4. I am more likely to get a promotion than my darker skinned counter parts.
  5. I can write blog pieces about my skin color and not reflect on the privileges that are associated with it.  (Wallace Thurman notwithstanding, literature, films, blogs are littered with primary and secondary textual analysis of the meanings of light skinnededness.)

… And the list goes on.

We invite all readers of (all shades) color to check out Moya and Lex’s effort last year to get skin privilege/POC diversity conversation started at the Love Harder Blog.

*”We” are Moya B. and Summer M.

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55 Responses to “Huey Newton Complexes”

  1. Carolyn August 23, 2010 at 8:51 AM #

    Light Skin Privilege Checklist? Are you serious?

    1. In most situations where I am with other people of color, said people of color ostracize me due to the so-called privileges they perceive to accompany light skin. They presume to know what my reality is while never acknowledging how problematic intraracial division actually is. They assume that I think I’m somehow better than they are while never stopping to consider what my reality is. They don’t stop to think that maybe I’m longing for them to strike up conversation with me, not because they’re black but because they seem interesting and seem to have something intelligent to say.

    2. Is appearing in the media more often really a privilege?

    3. Just how important is it that people think I’m pretty? It doesn’t mean a damn thing if I don’t see myself as beautiful. It doesn’t mean a damn thing if I’m unable to accept myself as I am, positive and negative traits alike, because of my skin color, skinny legs, big ears, big feet. Consider this: if what you’re proposing in point 2 is true, then I am far more likely to be the target of unwanted, unsolicited, embarrassing attention from men who feel like they have the right to undress me with their eyes, whistle at me like I’m an animal or make untoward remarks because they find me attractive. Where’s the privilege in that?

    4. I am more likely to get a promotion maybe because I’ve worked for it, have the skills for it, am confident, have networked and have therefore earned it.

    This is the type of divisive thinking that made me doubt myself and my blackness all through my teenage and adolescent years. I don’t happen to be light-skinned but I suppose I wasn’t quite dark-skinned enough to really feel like I was accepted. Perhaps I was too smart or my hair was too curly (because it surely wasn’t straight) or because I had white friends (because, see number 1). Who gets to decide when someone is dark-skinned enough. Tell me, the last time you sat down and had dialogue with light-skinned women, did they share with you the costs of their skin color? Their oppression may not be the same as the oppression dark-skinned women may have experienced, but it can’t be dismissed. Obviously the light-skinned women who were quoted in this piece are anxious to prove their blackness. But, have you stopped to consider why?

    • crunktastic August 23, 2010 at 9:41 AM #

      What strikes me here Carolyn is that your post has demonstrated light-skinned privilege primarily by the extent to which you center your own experiences and assume that dark-skinned women are supposed to reach out to you. Having taught classes of Black women about this issue, I agree that we often make assumptions about each other’s experiences that are wholly problematic. However, several times in your comment you ask for dark-skinned women to consider the reason’s for defensiveness on the part of light-skinned women. Why don’t you reciprocate? Have you ever considered the ACTUAL, rather than merely perceived, reasons for dark-skinned women’s distrust of light-skinned women?

      Points number 2 and 3 are the height of dismissiveness. “Being pretty isn’t a privilege, because it makes me vulnerable.” Huh? And then number 4 is based on a myth of meritocracy the likes of which I have only seen exhibited among white kids I teach. I tell you like my light-skinned mother told me, (I’m a dark-skinned woman) –“there are struggles that you will have that I will never have because you’re dark and I’m light.” My mother has worked in corporate America for 30 years. I appreciate her honesty, and her willingness to acknowledge that while the road hasn’t been easy, she has not had the added burden of dark-skin to contend with.

      • editor-in-chief August 27, 2010 at 4:30 PM #

        I have a real problem with the way dialogue is discussed on this site. the Crunkistas have a tendency to state their own personal experiences/takes as informed feminist fact, often times to the detriment of other black women/people. then when other black women/people try to offer anything to counter your claims based on THEIR personal experiences you pull from your bag a couple of strategies 1) said person isn’t aware of their own experience 2) said person is conspiratorial with systems of oppression 3) both 1 and 2.

        that’s messed up. you can’t build a movement on this. I’m tired of this site pretending to be the gatekeepers of all that is right and progressive and authentically feminist and telling all others that they are somehow non-right, not-progressive and not-authentic feminists because their experience/knowledge/politics run counter to your own.

        get a grip.

      • nola darling August 27, 2010 at 4:58 PM #

        But you can’t call Carolyn dismissive without addressing the ways you have dismissed the validity of her personal experience by basically telling her she got her own experience wrong. You all tend to do that a lot. It’s extremely unsophisticated. “have a personal experience that counters the claims of our personal experiences? Well, you just don’t understand your own life and are wrong”

  2. Carolyn August 23, 2010 at 8:53 AM #

    I need to make a correction to number 3: If what you’re proposing in point 2 is true…that should be in point 3, the current point!

    • Yolo August 23, 2010 at 10:15 AM #

      I’d like to express my challenges with the ideas presented in the aforementioned post by Carolyn. As someone who receives skin color privilege daily throughout the context of my social and healing justice work, I am troubled that it is being presented that somehow the myriad of other ways we experience marginalized identities means that we do not have to be accountable to the ways in which we receive privilege.

      Response to 2.) It is a privilege when you recognize that the media system in this country, for millions of people, serves as the site through which social validation occurs. To watch television and see constantly that those of your hue (or identity for that matter) are demeaned, degraded,narrowly represented or all to often absent as opossed to seeing those of your hue celebrated “beyonc’ed” and pedastilized has an impact on the spirit. An impact that as a lite skinned person, I’ve not felt the negative brunt of because I have always seen from the media that my hue is desirable and attractive. Yes, the media is screwed up, yet many still see media uncounsciously or consciously as the authoritative site where social value and validation occurs. The daily assault on the spirit that those of lighter hue are often oblivious too is why its a privilege and it impacts us all, intellectual academics or not.

      3. What does it mean to be pretty? I have to admit, this comment makes my stomach turn. I want to invite you to look beyond your own challenges for a moment and think what it must be like to be told and constantly affirmed that you are less desirable, or “cute for a dark skinned person”. While the consequences you speak of are true for many, what I am experiencing from this post is reactive denial and minimizing the cultural subjugation many experience because of your privilege.

      4. This sounds entitled. And something that I have heard from many white people who are unconscious, oblivious or just unwilling to acknowledge their privilege. There’s a pattern here I’d like to invite you to see.

      Finally; have you stopped to consider that never once in your response did you validate the concepts presented here but instead just attacked them? What does that mean in the context of solidarity or in even facilitating the space for the dialogue that you desire to happen to come to pass? And where do you think your reactivity comes from? Eons of lite skinned women and men ignoring their privilege and instead invoking the “tragic mulato” narrative so that we have don’t have to be present with our issues and privilege? There’s something to learn here:

      “Guilt is not a response to anger; it is a response to one’s own actions or lack of action. If it leads to change then it can be useful, since it is then no longer guilt but the beginning of knowledge. Yet all too often, guilt is just another name for impotence, for defensiveness destructive of communication; it becomes a device to protect ignorance and the continuation of things the way they are, the ultimate protection for changelessness.”— Audre Lorde

  3. erika August 23, 2010 at 9:44 AM #

    Interesting post! Definitely something to think about, and it brings up the discussion of what we experience when we aren’t quite light enough or quite dark enough, and we’re actually some place in between; along with the commentary, conversations, and nuances wrapped in that brown paper bag!

    I would comment on sorority, but that could be lengthy…. : )

  4. teresz August 23, 2010 at 10:22 AM #

    “Tell me, the last time you sat down and had dialogue with light-skinned women, did they share with you the costs of their skin color? Their oppression may not be the same as the oppression dark-skinned women may have experienced, but it can’t be dismissed.”
    Yeah, that’s true. I remember actually having a discussion about race and color with a girlfriend of mine. And she would explain that she does have her own hardships. She discussed while growing up she was always too light for black ppl, and of course to black for whites. She discussed the difficulty having to make friends. And even as a woman in her late 40’s she is still discriminated against in the workplace. She still gets subtle ignorant comments from co-workers. I would hear this constantly when she came home. It was frustrating and heartbreaking.
    Having a cousin who is mixed with black and white, she also dealt with the same thing. Not black enough not white enough. Blah,blah. When she had mostly white friends she was considered a ‘sell-out.’ Vice versa she constantly had to prove how black she was. And ‘act black.’ What a mess. Even though those are just two ppl’s stories I know, I have a feeling that light-skinned individuals are not these priviledged people like we think they are. Everyone has their personal battles. It may not be my battle that I deal with as a brown-skinned African American. But they are battles none the less.

    Maybe I’m off point and strayed away from the post, I guess my comments are based more upon the Light-skinned privileged list and Carolyn’s response. Still good post though. Definitly made me think.

  5. wheelchairdancer August 23, 2010 at 10:53 AM #

    “Still, there’s something especially perturbing about the way in which these versions of a commitment to blackness are delineated. In other words, what we’ve tracked in these posts and other sources is a kind of “Woe is (light skinned) me,” rhetoric that implicitly negates the privilege embedded in commencing and participating in such discourse.”

    Hmmm. I’m not sure about the “woe is light skinned me” part. My post is an attempt to get into the complex effects of an intersection of disability and race. It is an attempt to speak to the whiteness of the disability rights world while maintaining my ground as a mixed race woman. It is also an attempt to speak to the complex swirl of medical understandings of disability in a non-white world, while maintaining my ground as a disabled woman of colour.

    To the extent that those are complicated, conflicting and tense projects, I am glad to talk more about the implications.

    A starting point. I have never had the experience being mistaken as anything other than who I am. Light skinned I may be, but I have never had to navigate the world of passing; it is not an option that a white world could possibly allow for me. Given that passing is not available to me, I have become fascinated by the way that, in a white world, disability “neutralizes” the dangerous stereotypes associated with people of colour. I call this “whitening.” I don’t see it as an effect of my actual skin colour; I see it as an effect of the dangerous stereotypes of disability. And, though it is not my experience, I am in community with people from a variety of different racial and ethnic backgrounds (with a diversity of skin colours) who share that experience.

    To my mind then, disability is a powerful lens that acts upon stereotypes of race and ethnicity INDEPENDENT of actual hue of skin colour. (and it is literally physically painful to write this)

    Up until that day, I had thought that these effects of disability were limited to the world of whiteness. That is why it was so shocking to be asked by a woman of colour.

    I wanted to investigate that. “Woe is me?” I certainly hope not. “Crikey, can disability be at work here, too?” was more my take. How are you handling the implications of disability in my post?

    WCD

    • tiffany August 27, 2010 at 9:51 AM #

      “My post is an attempt to get into the complex effects of an intersection of disability and race. It is an attempt to speak to the whiteness of the disability rights world while maintaining my ground as a mixed race woman.”

      This. My impression was that having a wheelchair suggested to the other woman a class privilege that is usually associated with whiteness. An intersection of race, color, class, and disability — now a complaint about being a member of The Oppressed and Light-skinned.

  6. Shana August 23, 2010 at 11:28 AM #

    I would like to begin my response by saying that I absolutely agree that the ability for these women to recount their experiences without including an analysis of their own skin color privilege is in fact a benefit of that privilege. What I take issue with is the way in which you, the authors, chose to go about critiquing this practice. Colorism is a much more nuanced concept than what is suggested here and the line between light skinned and dark skinned is blurry at best. I also think what is missing from this post is an analysis of the ways in which other forms of privilege intersect with colorism. In my opinion, nothing on the light skinned privilege checklist can be isolated an analyzed based solely on the issue of skin color.

    • walter August 27, 2010 at 4:56 PM #

      The light skinned checklist just sounded like some bitter woe-is-jigaboo stuff to me, and didn’t make sense (beyonce=omniracial???). Maybe the CFC needs to play some india arie albums a few times over and get one of those self-realization moments that 12 year olds tend to have in their bedrooms and finally accept themselves as beautiful.

  7. LMO85 August 23, 2010 at 1:48 PM #

    This is my first time coming to this website via a post on Clutch magazine’s website. Hmmmm…what an intro.

    As a light skinned black woman, I can certainly appreciate the notion and concept of privilege. I get that I am cis-gendered, heterosexual, able bodied and of a lighter hue. So I do benefit on a short list of privilege, even while this list doesn’t negate my lack of privilege in other areas: being young-ish, black, female and single. I don’t want to sound like the scores of whiny black men in cyber world who complain about the concept of Black Male privilege as if it does not exist–but I have to say that the intra-racial colorism issue within the “black community” is not one-sided, no sir. It does not go one way.

    I don’t doubt that whites may be more comfortable AT FIRST around me as compared to my darker hued brothers and sisters but they always remind me who I am in this Society. White folk never questioned my racial identity, who I was, where my people come from–never. They knew. It was always the black folk who harassed me with that mess. With white folk, I am not allowed to see myself any other way and I don’t choose to, I am proud of my cultural identity in this US of A.

    But from my own? I cringe every time a man says I am attractive or calls me derogatory names like “redbone”-UGH I hate it with a passion-because I always have to wonder if my skin tone alone is the reason. I have to wonder if they ever see who I really am, ever fully accept all of me? As a child and even to this day, I often have to get the “you look white” b.s. or some other reminder of my skin color and I always resented it to the point of trying to catch the sun rays so lord forbid I could actually have some color and people wouldn’t feel the need to constantly refer to me as pale or otherwise be obsessed with my skin color. [NO lie I was questioned before, my credibility was called into question when I went on a brief trip to the Bahamas during January one year, by my black co-workers because to them, I wasn't tan. The hell?]

    I was often deemed snobbish or stuck up because of my skin tone alone-with no consideration that I was in actuality, a shy individual. I was always seen as different in my own community, the black community that I grew up in and still fully embrace the memories of. This is not meant to be a woe is light skinned me tale. I fully understand the impact of the racial dynamics in this country and across the globe. However, the color issue touches my doorstep just the same. This so-called Huey Newton Complex–if you were to consider where it came from–my brother suffered greatly as a light skinned male growing up in the hood–always having to prove himself and live up to this patriarchal notion of masculinity–hyper no doubt–that so many black men continue to embrace. The ramifications are very real. We know all black people have fallen victim in one way or another to racism and its cousin, colorism, on both sides–all creating a community with so many inferiority and insecurity complexes we could write 50000 books on it–but miss me with this one.

    I identify as a black-raced woman but I am NOT my skin tone. I really wish that considering all that is occurring in the world and our godforsaken country today, that in the so-called ‘black community’-because it is in shambles no question–but I wish that for once and all in 2010 and beyond, that we could FINALLY GET OVER THIS COLOR THING. We need to heal ourselves, white folk won’t be the ones to do it. We need to put our diverse selves out there in the media, and quit looking for others to embrace or uplift us, for once and all we need to come together on this thing and DEAD This concept period.

  8. crunktastic August 23, 2010 at 2:00 PM #

    I hear the light-skinned women in this dialogue richly complicating and challenging the assumptions that undergird Moya’s and Summer’s pieces. I think those challenges are legitimate and I’m thankful for the dialogue. At the same time, I’m struck by the defensiveness of the comments, and by the fact, that none of these comments ever even purports to consider what it must mean to live inside a darker-skinned body. Instead, these comments are redirect the conversation to talk about the ways in which dark-skinned women routinely vilify light-skinned women, which has the subtle effect of making dark-skinned women the deviant ones yet again. I would challenge all commenters to read the comment by Yolo above. I think it speaks to what light-skinned privilege means. Last, my position is not that light-skinned women have easy lives, that they escape the claws of racism or sexism, or that they are not victimized by black folks who have very narrow definitions of blackness. This does not undercut the existence of light-skinned privilege, which honest Black folks have been acknowledging exists since the beginning of time. And I do think light-skinned sisters have a responsibility to acknowledge perhaps that the hate they get from dark-skinned women has everything to do with dark-skinned women’s experiences of being underprivileged by skin tone. Failure to acknowledge this reality makes light-skinned women absolutely complicit in the privilege they seek to deny exists.

  9. LMO85 August 23, 2010 at 2:17 PM #

    @crunktastic, Speaking for myself, I have and do acknowledge it, I am more for the spirit of what it means to identify and be labeled as black than a lot of browner brothers and sisters–HOWEVER you all, darker women, have made your story clear, we see it in the blogs and the magazines, I see it in the Afram Fiction sections of the bookstores whose protagonists are always beautiful, dark-skinned women, who often have evil light-skinned men and women playing the anti-hero. I get it and I applaud it. What you think is defensiveness is perhaps another side to the story. I don’t see defensiveness. I acknowledge that my skin tone is deemed a privilege even while it hasn’t really netted me a lot of positive results on a personal level. I know its real. All throughout black history we have been subjected to what it feels like to be brown and frowned upon. That the lighter you are the better for you. I was even in China and saw how the women used umbrellas to prevent the rays from darkening their skin. But no one ever heard OUR SIDE of the story. Perhaps we need to start our own blogs as well. Maybe we can’t come together on this afterall.

    • crunktastic August 23, 2010 at 3:36 PM #

      @LMO85, I appreciate your point of view. I do find it ludicrous that you are arguing that the stories of light-skinned women are marginalized. Light-skinned women have had access to media, positions of power [the few that Black folks are given] for decades and decades. Surely, an occasional story in Essence Mag and some blogs are not comparable to the level of media dominance that light-skinned women have had for decades. I’m a Black women’s historian, and I can tell you that it’s not dark-skinned sisters who’ve been telling our histories, or who are the predominant folks to tell our stories now. And that’s the height of light-skinned privilege: to assume that when dark-skinned women speak up that this represents a total eclipsing of light-skinned women’s otherwise unchallenged dominance in narrating the lives and experiences of Black women, from a global perspective. I think your urban lit example is condescending, patronizing, and dismissive, although I don’t think you intend it to be. So if you need to start your own blog, so be it, but in my estimation it will just be an example of your refusal to truly engage the implications of your privilege.

  10. Carolyn August 23, 2010 at 2:50 PM #

    I have no problems or issues reaching out to other black women – regardless of skin tone – nor do I “expect” anyone to reach out to me.

    By equating my comments in point number 4 to “the myth of meritocracy the likes of which you’ve only seen exhibited among the white kids you teach”, you dismiss the years of studying, the tens of thousands of dollars I’m still paying on my student loans, the crap jobs I’ve worked to get experience, the books I’ve read, the research I’ve done, etc. to achieve something in my life. Should I believe that I got into a state university only because I’m the right shade of brown? That my high school guidance counselor approved of my application (or whatever the process was in those days) because I was attractive? That I didn’t earn my good grades, because my teachers surely didn’t give them to me because of my family’s connections? I worked my butt off every step of the way to get to where I am today.

    Luckily, I had a mother who, like yours, was honest with me. She was also light-skinned, several shades lighter than me. She made sure I realized that because I was black (she didn’t specify my particular shade of brown), female and smart I was going to have it hard. I wasn’t allowed to be as good as anyone else, least of all white people, I had to be better. Most importantly, my mother taught me that I wasn’t a victim.

    Tell me about the light-skinned privilege that my beautiful, not pretty, mother had. Was she told that she was “better than other blacks” before or after darker-skinned girls who distrusted her because she was light-skinned chased her home from school and slapped her in the face? How did it help her when she was forced to desegregate her high school? How, pray tell, did her light skin and pretty face help her to keep her kids safe, fed and educated on a secretary’s salary in section 8 housing, right next door to our darker-skinned neighbors?

    No, I don’t know what it’s like to be called “cute for a dark-skinned girl” but, believe me, I can imagine how deeply that cuts. I have been called a n****r and dismissed, by whites and blacks, because of the color of my skin. That cut leaves a nasty scar. And when, as a pre-teen, some man, not boy, man, asks me if he can screw me for 25 minutes (I’m assuming because he found me attractive), am I supposed to feel privileged? When some man, not boy, man, lifts my skirt so he can see my underwear, am I supposed to feel flattered instead of vulnerable? Do I assume that any decency extended to me is based on the fact that people find me attractive and that they find me attractive only because I’m not dark-skinned? The self-confidence and self-acceptance that I’ve spent years cultivating don’t contribute anything?

    I understand the implications of the intersections between race/ skin-tone, gender, class and nationality. Just because I don’t agree with your Light-Skin Privilege Checklist doesn’t mean I’m dismissing the experiences that darker-skinned women have had in America nor the deep impact of those experiences. I am not blind to the particular obstacles placed before darker-skinned Americans. I do, however, believe that there is a place for individual agency, no matter how impossible it may seem.

    Can I trust that future comments I may have are welcome because I find that it’s one of the more thought-provoking spaces on the internet?

    • crunktastic August 23, 2010 at 3:31 PM #

      Thoughtful comments like yours are always welcome even if we disagree. And I do disagree; but I’ve spoken my piece and am happy to let others way in on this issue. And I would also urge you to respond to Yolo who specifically responded to you above.

  11. Effie August 23, 2010 at 4:12 PM #

    As a light-skinned African American woman, I dug the original post. It had me uncomfortable… definitely the most fertile ground for reflection and learning. Nevertheless, I realized I was holding my breath, hoping for a dialogue that reached beyond thoughtful acknowledgements and critiques of light-skinned privilege, beyond the familiar you-don’t-know-essentialization/subjugation-like-I-know-it stance.

    And then I breathed deeply, and listened a little bit harder. What I found, both in the original post in the responses to it, is a desire to be heard. A desire to be seen and understood, in all of our complexity. I heard a hope that we would be acknowledged in ways that validate both the reality of our diverse experiences of living in and through a white patriarchal society, and the reality that this same society DOES shape our experience in particular ways that relate to the color(s) of our skin. The posts and the responses also helped remind me to “see” myself in a more politically nuanced way, and to see the way that many of my own life choices have been made out of an attempt to be seen/heard outside of “the good negro” mask that I fought against, even while I benefitted from it.

    Anyway. For what it’s worth, I guess I’d just like to say thank you. I feel that the sentiments in the post and responses have to be voiced, interrogated, and refined so that we can begin emerging as a community of women of many colors who are not afraid to be vulnerable, and who revel in the ability to truly hear and see one another. It is out of spaces like this, that we can be our fullest selves.

  12. dantresomi August 23, 2010 at 4:17 PM #

    dope post
    it’s something my wife and colleagues challenge me about all the time. I had to read this twice and then talk to the wife about it…
    it says so much…

    thank you so much…

  13. LMO85 August 23, 2010 at 4:30 PM #

    Crunktastic-Ha! If anything lighter skinned black women don’t tell their stories because they are very much aware of the so-called privilege attached to them. With all due respect you are attempting to minimize me and said other light skinned women’s stories in an attempt to validate your own. I have been on the frontline of Black causes, I very much know your story. You hardly know mine. You know the story of someone who was placed on a pedestal- put there mostly by other black people if you want to keep it really real. What I am suggesting to you is that there are two sides to that coin when it comes to colorism. As a lighter skinned black woman, I am human too, and being objectified, and held with contempt solely based on a color that I did not create is just as dehumanizing-there really is no privilege there at all. And the Black community did good with the phrase, ‘the blacker the berry’–something for which brown folks could feel a sense of pride about, but for those of us who were just as black but not in color, not so much.
    Yes, you will see historically speaking, lighter skinned women be embraced by mainstream media to a certain extent moreso than brown, yes, that does exist–but TODAY, that does not negate the success Oprah Winfrey, Naomi Campbell, Angela Basset, etc. etc. It doesn’t negate the fact that black women in general still don’t get the movie roles overall. Funny how we have this infighting and meanwhile the men who really perpetuate this shyt get off scott free.

    When Halle accepted her Oscar, she did it on behalf of all black women, not just the paper bag chicks. Yes, lighter skinned women may be three rungs higher on the ladder than darker skinned women, but there are at least 1000 steps on the ladder. Playing Oppression Olympics is not a good look and in this case–you can cry your pain, but just note that there are plenty of others who can do the same.

    • crunktastic August 23, 2010 at 6:28 PM #

      ” You know my story?” Do you even know my name? You should back up on that one. I said that light-skinned women have had access to structures of power to tell Black women’s stories; you gave the best possible example. Halle Berry. Yes, she spoke for us during the Oscars, and clearly her light-skinned privilege, and not her acting skills, gave her the access to do so. It is inexplicable that her acting career has triumphed over the likes of Angela Bassett, Alfre Woodard, and earlier than her Cicely Tyson, actresses that she can’t even hold a candle to. If I remember correctly Angela Bassett was offered the Monster’s Ball role and turned it down, because it was exploitative. So let’s talk about the ways in which Halle’s light-skinned privilege works for her all.the.time.

      Moreover, it is so interesting that you highlight the concept of “the blacker the berry” as evidence of oppression. Do you also think that “Black is beautiful” is evidence that Blackness has trumped the dominance of whiteness? Because when I hear folks deploying “the blacker the berry” it is precisely to counter the stereotypes that “lighter” is inherently and automatically prettier and more valuable, the same ways in which Black is beautiful was used to counter dominant white stereotypes. Perhaps you should actually read Wallace Thurman’s novel for some context on that one. And let’s be clear, that my argument nor the argument of the writers has never been that light-skinned women have it so good. In fact, I think I’ve acknowledged in multiple comments today the fact that racism is hard on all of us. But as a straight Black women, I can also acknowledge the ways in which I benefit from heterosexual privilege and able-bodied privilege, without that at all diminishing my right to speak to the ways in which I’m subjugated because of my blackness, femaleness, dark-skinned features, etc. Acknowledging your privilege is about being honest and about doing the work for a more cohesion and community, not less. This notion that denying real phenomena in our communities–dishonesty if you will–is a prerequisite to unity or progress is simply ludicrous.

  14. Tasha Fierce August 23, 2010 at 5:39 PM #

    I like this post. I’ve noted that us light skinned folks tend to go the supermilitant route often, or the Afram studies route, if only subconsciously trying to pump up the blackness. I’m guilty of having a Huey Newton complex in the past, I’ll admit. This has definitely given me something to write about in terms of deconstructing my own privilege, so thanks for that.

    I think the natural tendency for light skinned women is to feel defensive while reading this. When I first started reading, I immediately felt defensive too, but settled in to comfort as I found myself agreeing with your points. It’s hard to listen to the other side of the coin sometimes. Yeah it sucks to be discriminated against within the black community and also have to deal with bullshit from white people, but we do have it better in the dominant culture the lighter we are. My sister is dark skinned and white people we both know are always cozying up to me to talk smack about her thinking I’ll be more sympathetic because I’m less threatening — i.e. I’m closer to white. Little do they know my angry Negro factor is higher than hers and I’m not having that shit. Ha.

    Anyway, great post, y’all.

  15. jalylah August 23, 2010 at 6:32 PM #

    First thanks to the both of you for engaging a subject most folks sidestep!

    Second, the blogs you engaged were both meandering meditations on identity and race. The first blogger, who used “whiten” inadvisedly and inappropriately, seemed to acknowledge by post’s end that the whole exchange was about her own baggage and the second makes generalizations based on her very specific personal experiences in a small Georgia town that just don’t hold water (maybe a few drops). I think the major issues with these blog posts are thought and composition not complexion although the narcissism that privilege confers probably informs both posts. That said, I would hope that there can be safe constructive dialogue between the authors of this post and those other two posts.

    Third, I really got into this post by the third full paragraph (“Being black…”). Your critique of the term “people of color” was eye opening and it will certainly be excised from my vocabulary. And your identification of the “covert dishonesty” involved in intraracial color conflicts is spot on.

    I’ll finish with a short anecdote. The other day a light skinned friend and I were walking through a party. She noticed an unattractive light skinned girl in the crowd, pointed her out to me and said “that’s a waste of a whole lotta light skin.” I was silent. She filled up the silence by informing me she had never used the phrase but recently picked it up from colleagues. What was valuable and somewhat surprising about this exchange was her willingness, in citing this old familiar saying, to acknowledge that less color adds value and the subsequent muted shame she felt which compelled her to fill up the space and claim she was quoting someone else. For a brown Black girl whose life has in part been informed by limits derivative of her color, it can make one feel like the protagonist of Ellison’s novel when light skinned folk refuse to own up to their privilege. I have sat with a diverse hued bunch of HBCU attending Black men who’ve in private conversation called dark skinned girls monkeys and expressed a disdain for them not even Bull Connor or Dan Moynihan could muster. Please believe, I checked them (and wondered what they said about me behind my back) but the point is light skinned privilege is real and resentment of the pain one has endured from resentful dark skinned folks and offensive “what are you” type invasive interrogations from folk of all races doesn’t cancel out the fact that in the case of Black women at least, most entertainers, pundits, public intellectuals etc are on the lighter end of the spectrum and shouldn’t preclude some thoughtful dialogue with dark skinned folk about this hairy situation. Damned white supremacy!

    And I type all this as a medium brown chick with big nostrils (the old folks might call it a “nigger nose”) and curly hair, that I’ve worn quite long at times, which occasionally confers some consolation privilege.

    BTW-In the Original Kings of Comedy, Cedric the Entertainer (aka my boo in the head) details how someone tried to “shh” him. His response was, “I’m a grown man. I can talk.” And I feel that way about all of us. I don’t know that I was all that sensitive to the challenges of being light skinned until a biracial friend of mine recounted a story from her childhood in Portland, Oregon. She had long Michael Michele curls and she pined for the relaxed hair of her Black classmates. She had begged them to teach her, help her, recommend someone who could perm her up as her mother was white and had no insights. They refused until one day they told her to buy some box perm and leave it on for a couple of hours. Needless to say her hair fell out except for one long strand that she gelled into a ponytail and rocked to school next day as she made her umpteenth attempt to be down with the girls who had damn near balded her. Both her desire for acceptance, her wounding, the wounded brown Black girls resentment of her privilege need to be on the floor. I don’t think that it has to be one or the other but I think as many commenters have noted, there needs to be some acknowledgment of where the power lies in this society and it is not in chestnut or blue black hues.

  16. Wheelchair dancer August 23, 2010 at 8:06 PM #

    I continue to be surprised by the discussion…. My post is about how disability is a powerful forces that triggers altered racial perception, regardless of actual skin colour. Yet the discussion has been unable to go to this place. I ask myself about the place of disability and disabled folk in such discussions: intersectionality is more than a theoretical concept. That is why I use the word “whiten” and that is why it is in quotes.

    The erasure of disability in this conversation reminds me of the necessity of writing in the first place.

    WCD

    • jalylah August 23, 2010 at 10:41 PM #

      I very much appreciated hearing about your challenging interaction with the Black woman on SEPTA and your critical reflections on your reaction but putting quotations around a word doesn’t excuse you from using it accurately and responsively responsibly. In this case it betrays a communicative languor and is one of the reasons your post didn’t lead in the direction that you may have intended ( which is still unclear to me.) Why not forego quotes around a word that has specific meaning and ARTICULATE exactly what it is you are trying to say?!

      Also that readers pick up on a thread of your piece is not problematic or evidence of an unwillingness to address other features of your piece. Your attribution of the post’s failure at initiating the discussion you intended to intersectional blind sides is a grand leap that you seem to be using to excuse yourself from reflecting and engaging the critique offered.

      Be Well,
      jb

  17. MB August 23, 2010 at 9:18 PM #

    Hello all.

    We are appreciative of the comments thus far and plan to address ALL of them in another post real soon.
    Stay tunned!

    Moya & Summer

  18. mikilikemouse August 23, 2010 at 9:24 PM #

    ahh! i wish i could read all the comments before me, but that unrealistic. even though, someone has probably already said this, i just wanna say that oppression isn’t linear. yes, generally speaking dark skinned people have it harder than light skinned people. however, light skinned people also have their own struggle and dark skinned people cannot forget that as we voice our frustrations. i can imagine, that is not all a walk in the park to be a light skinned women. oppression and marginalization does not just affect those who are oppressed, but it also affects those in the position of power. for example, light skinned people constantly have assumptions made about them thinking that they are better than a dark skinned person, they also have assumptions made about their class and education level. light skinned people are somewhat of a model minority; as perceived by blacks as well as other races; within the black race. i wrote about my thoughts here: http://hiphopcheerleader.blogspot.com/2010/01/yes-it-still-matters-light-vs-dark.html

  19. LMO85 August 24, 2010 at 7:21 AM #

    Sigh. You are purposely putting words in my post Crunktastic. That is not what I am saying at all. I do note how you mentioned that Angela B turned down the Monster’s Ball role, which would indicate that she was asked first, so what was Halle’s privilege in that scenario again–being second choice? It sounds like you sistas here want to wallow in your own victim hood. My bad, I thought this was a feminist site which was about empowerment. The one sister whose blog was mentioned in the OP, was talking about her disability–yet another way some people lack privilege in this society. If the collective you who are so adamant about this piece are heterosexual, ci-gendered, and able-bodied, then guess what? You have other privileges as well. We can acknowledge this and still work together to end oppression, or we can wallow, have self-pity and stay complaining about our own perceived lack of attention.

    All I am saying at the end of the day is we all have pain and been pained by the White Supremacist Society that we live in and one that has infiltrated the world. At the end of the day where does the infighting get us? Nowhere, but it keeps the white man on top that is for dam sure. Shout out to Mikilikemouse, thank you for your comment.

    Peace.

    • nola darling August 27, 2010 at 4:51 PM #

      “It sounds like you sistas here want to wallow in your own victim hood. My bad, I thought this was a feminist site which was about empowerment. ”

      PREACH.

    • nola darling August 27, 2010 at 5:01 PM #

      “Sigh. You are purposely putting words in my post Crunktastic”

      CFC does a lot of that.

  20. susiemaye August 24, 2010 at 9:24 AM #

    I am really grateful for this discussion and am so glad that Moya and Summer posted this. To quote fellow CF, Ashon: “post-racial world, my ass!” Clearly, this is something that has struck a nerve with many and we need to be able to about it.

    Simply talking about our frustrations is not whining. Talking about our frustrations and even the moments where we feel defensive (sometimes rightfully so, sometimes not) is a very necessary part of healing and coming together to challenge and dismantle the systems and practices that seek to maintain or reinscribe white supremacy at all costs. Calling each other out on our stuff–our colorism, ableism, classism, homophobia, transphobia, and general tomfoolery–is absolutely necessary and is not going to be easy. Mostly, it is very painful to admit the ways in which our hegemonic society privileges certain aspects of our subject positions, while devaluing others. This social schism is not only internally divisive but certainly creates rifts between individuals and communities. And I’m glad we can talk about that.

    Mentioning these divisions is not necessarily divisive in and of themselves, however. So, what I find unappealing and unproductive is the tone with which this conversation has taken. Personal attacks and back and forths are not getting us anywhere as we profess to be committed to transformative change. That doesn’t mean we need to sit around a circle holding hands and singing, but it does mean that we can read something, agree or disagree, engage in vigorous debate without giving someone the side eye (yes, I can sense it through the computer) or, even worse, dismissing their experience. It’s just not a good look.

    Right now, I’m more interested in going back to the original spirit of the piece and thinking about ways in which folks of color can talk about the persisting issues with complexion (and its intersections with issues of ability, class, gender, sexual orientation, and so on) in a way that helps us to more skillfully negotiate the world and our interactions with each other in ways that are affirmative, productive, and feminist.

    In solidarity,
    Susie Maye

    • nola darling August 27, 2010 at 4:50 PM #

      this entire article was a personal attack. it was an attempt once again by the CFC to say who is and who is not victimized by oppression and it SUCKS.

  21. John August 24, 2010 at 1:08 PM #

    Interesting post. I think some of the posts from the blogs excerpted were probably overanalyzed…which I see happen many times. I have a strong feeling that the excerpts from Red Clay Scholar’s Blog falls into the overanalysis, since I know the blogger was being mainly sarcastic and giving a basic account as to her experience. Probably not that deep.

    The light skinned checklist, however, seems like a projection of dark-skinned disdain for lighter skinned counterparts.

    • tressiemcphd September 2, 2010 at 11:41 PM #

      Red Clay Scholar’s was just a poorly written personal narrative. I, too, thought that elevating it to a counterpoint in this type of serious, nuanced debate probably wasn’t fair.

  22. crunktastic August 24, 2010 at 1:49 PM #

    As the tenor of many of the comments demonstrate, privilege is tough to overcome because the party who lacks privilege in the pairing is always forced to prove that such privilege exists, and by their very lack of privilege in the situation, their authority to name certain experiences as privileged is already called into question. White folks are loathe to acknowledge privilege, and make Black folks work extra hard to prove it exists. Men do the same to women. Able bodied folks do the same to disabled folks. Straight folks do the same to queer folks. And light-skinned folks and their uncritical allies do the same to dark-skinned folks. The privileged person in the pairing always begins by denying the validity of the claims made by the less privileged party, pointing to copious ways in which they are victims of their own privilege etc. The problem is that these insistent acts of denial constitute another form of violence to the person without privilege in the pairing, and discredits the very real experiences that attest to the privilege they’ve experienced. So to say that this is merely “dark-skinned projection” is tantamount to white’s calling blacks “hypersensitive” on race and men calling women over-emotional about sexism.

    • nola darling August 27, 2010 at 5:07 PM #

      but this is not just ‘dark skinned projection”– it’s an active and hurtful attack on the authenticity of light hued folk in the struggle. that doesnt have to be projection to be hurtful.

    • tressiemcphd September 2, 2010 at 11:39 PM #

      This is quite possibly one of the best comments I’ve read, not that I think it will matter any at all to those responding from emotion.

      As I read the comments I found myself stripping racial and gendered identifications from them. When you do that some of the wounded “me, too” comments could well be those of liberal whites proving that they are not recipients of a structural system that gives them privilege WHETHER THEY WANT IT OR NOT. No one is saying that light skin privilege is a choice some black women are making. It is yours by birth right into a culture that values what you have and what someone else does not have. Denying it, mitigating it with personal tales of woe — no matter how tragic or valuable — does not return the privilege to sender.

  23. John August 24, 2010 at 2:12 PM #

    Or it could just be projection. We know that insensitivity does exist amongst some members of the privileged in those scenarios, but we also can’t be naive to think that some of those same sensitivities are counteractively used by those “not in privilege” to assuage feelings and, in many case, guilt those who are perceived to be in privilege.

    Sometimes Blacks have a valid point about racism, sometimes the card gets thrown just to have leverage. Same goes for women and men. It is all about perspective.

    • crunktastic August 24, 2010 at 4:52 PM #

      Or it could just be a gross form of dismissiveness and unproductive colorblindness and malicious denial of the realities of dark-skinned women. We, at the CFC, are not the first Black folks to talk about colorblindness. In fact, Black folks have been writing about it for over a century. Charles Chestnutt and Wallace Thurman come to mind. We aren’t writing in a cultural vacuum over here. These observations are historically grounded and backed up by the writings of many of our key thinkers, who’ve been talking about the politics of color at least since passing was in vogue. Perhaps a little eye-opening is in order here.

      • John August 24, 2010 at 5:05 PM #

        “Perhaps a little eye-opening is in order here.”

        Indeed…in both directions. That about sums up my sentiment. Sure, you aren’t the first to write about it, and I am sure I am not the first to challenge how it is discussed in the larger context. Once again, it is about perspective.

      • John August 24, 2010 at 5:13 PM #

        And if I am, let me know so I can coin some terms and be famous.

  24. eeshap August 24, 2010 at 8:23 PM #

    Thanks to Moya and Summer for a great post. And thanks to several of the commenters for adding illuminating and nuanced ideas to the conversation.

    As someone who thinks a lot about colorism in the South Asian community, I really appreciate your thoughts. In my Desi-American cultural experience colorism is associated directly with the legacy of colonization, creating a different historical and political context than the one you share. Though, I think there are interesting parallels and areas for discussion, especially about intra-racial colorism and experiences in the US.

    And then, on a personal level: in my immediate family itself, skin color runs a very wide spectrum. There are a few family members that pass for white, a few others that are very dark-skinned, and many brown tones in between. Your post encouraged me to question what unity means in the most personal of contexts, and for that you have my deepest gratitude.

    As ever, for people to raise their voices and speak their truth has never been easy, and I commend you and our commenters who are committed to a productive and loving conversation even if we have different lived experiences, and even (especially) if we disagree.

    Yours in solidarity,
    Eesha

  25. jalylah August 25, 2010 at 12:22 PM #

    In the spirit of the humor that Summer & Moya infused into this post and Regina Bradley infused into her cited post as well as the intersections of racism and ableism wheel chair dancer was juggling, here is a clip from the Daily Show last night. Jon Stewart, Wyatt Cenac and John Oliver banter in a segment called The Hurt Talker (Wyatt and John come in 5 minutes in but I recommend watching the whole segment.)

    http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/tue-august-24-2010/the-hurt-talker

  26. MB August 27, 2010 at 7:51 AM #

    We’ve written a follow up blog post. Check it out!

  27. what's beef August 27, 2010 at 4:34 PM #

    HEY 1978 CALLED AND THEY WANT THEIR COLORISM ISSUE BACK.

  28. nola darling August 27, 2010 at 4:40 PM #

    The CFC has some of its own issues to work through. I see more venom on this site directed at other black women and men than I do at systemic racism, exploitation, bill o’reilly, or anything else. Was this article meant to be productive? It started out as some pretty hurtful claim that light skinned people are somehow imitating revolutionaries and faking the injury racism does to them… then ends up with something about light skinned women and beyonce? Beyonce is not omniracial. White people know she’s black. In fact it’s her 10000000 million side references to blackness (pat your weave, booty this booty that, etc etc etc etc) that have her playing the familiar script to white popular culture—- the sexed up black temptress.

    Sometimes yall just being making shit up and passing it off as thought. This is such a time.

  29. nola darling August 27, 2010 at 4:47 PM #

    Furthermore this post angers me. It assumes that somehow light skinned black folk carry less of the brunt of racism than darker black folk. Not only is that just asinine, elementary and stupid, it’s just untrue. Funny you labeled this the “huey newton complex” as though he had a ‘complex’. wtf?? he was a black man fighting structural racism. Is he somehow not dark enough to be so militant? Do you really want to question brother Huey’s contribution to the struggle? Adam Clayton Powell’s? Mary Church Terrell’s? Dubois? Thurgood Marshall? Anna Julia Cooper? IS THIS LIST LONG ENOUGH FOR YOU???? Why do you all just spew hurtful bullshit without thinking first? It’s almost like the CFC just became black 3 yrs ago. In most black communities you know the black folk who are the MOST militant? Who hate white folk with the MOST zeal? They are the ones who are light enough to hear what white folks say when they think we’re not around. How dare you try to discredit contributions to our struggle because of some hang-up YOU have born about YOURSELVES.

  30. aliciasanchezgill August 29, 2010 at 11:54 PM #

    first of all, thank you for the courage in telling your stories. i know that our interconnected stories as folks of color are often filled with hurt, and varying experiences. thanks moya and summer for writing. and also, i just want to ditto Yolo.

    i was really into this post, found myself doing all kinds of head nods to the points that it is making about light skinned privilege. i think, that especially as black women, our herstories have been so defined by color. jezebel vs. mammy.

    i don’t know that it is useful to try and decide which is worse. being seen as angry, or mammy, or being seen as exotic, or “uppity.” they both stem from white supremacist views that we did not create about our bodies (slavery, colonization), yet we are recycling these constantly with each other, and often with our children.

    but i think that being able to acknowledge the privilege that comes with being lighter skinned or racially ambiguous or being perceived as “mixed,” whatever that means for us, does come with some social capital from the people in power. white folks.

    that does not mean our stories as little mixed girls (or being perceived as mixed) were not hard. that does not mean that people were not cruel. but i think the difference is, when those darker skinned, shorter haired black girls put gum in my black girl hair during nap time, (and i went home crying) i was furious, and had to cut some of my long sandy brown hair off. but guess what? it grew back. it was hair. but i don’t know if our pain ever recovered. our stories were so filled with pain. my pain of wanting to be accepted, by the people i desperately needed as cohorts, and i imagine, their pain, of never being seen as “as pretty as” or “as smart as” me. whether i wanted them to experience that or not. but that’s the nature of privilege right? i sure wish it wasn’t their experience, but it was, and i own that.

    i knew that their need to put gum in my hair was not about their personal hatred for me it was about their hearts being fed up and filled with hurt, at a system that constantly reinforces my type of beauty over theirs. even at a such a young age. we should acknowledge and hold *that* pain and desperation- these are 10 year old girls, who have already gotten the message that lighter skinned girls are a threat, because they are perceived as (and may actually be) better than you. these 10 year old girls have already gotten these messages from somewhere.

    also, someone mentioned the way that class/color interconnect. yes. this. i agree. they are never mutually exclusive, intra or inter racially. but for black folks, when you think about the black folks who were first allowed access to education, access to integration, and the legacy of Fisk U, and Howard U, i would urge us to really consider the way light skin has been synonymous with upper education.

    I mean, just LOOK at the movie “precious.”

    this does not come without challenges to light skinned folks. always having to bridge, to be extra. i don’t think the authors of this post are dismissing it as easy for light skinned folks. but i think the point is that white folks will automatically give you an edge because they just “feel safer with you.” this is not to dismiss our intra racial struggles, but i don’t think those could be understood without looking at the ways white supremacy has created hierarchies “field vs house,” and designed society with these constructs.

    ok. last thing. privilege of being light skinned is not something you can give back. what we can do is not reinforce societies standards of beauty. much in the same way, that i as a queer but almost always “read as straight by straight people” person receive some privileges just for being cisgendered and “mostly looking straight.” it would be unfair of me to dismiss that my butch sisteren have different (and sometimes that means harder) life experiences.

  31. MB September 6, 2010 at 1:59 PM #

    Hey all,

    more on colorism here.

    http://www.growtheheckup.com/2010/09/majority-white-kids-in-study-say-dark.html

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