By Joye D. Epps
The purported indoctrination allegedly adapted by slave owner Willie Lynch was used divisively to perpetuate the oppression of black people. Sadly, this ideology has been ingrained and imprinted on the minds and in the hearts of our people. I think it is safe to conclude that Willie Lynch accomplished and far surpassed his mission of teaching black people self-hatred. I am certain that most African Americans are familiar with the Black Panther movement and/or other initiatives that fought for our civil rights. I can remember watching an immeasurable number of documentaries, biographies, and movies that demonstrated this struggle. I can also recall the sense of pride that I felt when I would hear my black people proclaim, “Say it loud, I’m Black and I’m proud!” But, are you really?
Is this proclamation a hope or an aspiration? Is it an ideal that we feverishly strive for? I am aware that black people have a history of struggling financially, (i.e., robbing Peter to pay Paul), but the real struggle is self-love and acceptance. Why do black people view it as a compliment when another person from a different ethnic background tells us that we look mixed? And why do black people always try to convince others that they are mixed with Indian, Creole, etc. ? Is your black not beautiful? And why does the word “black” seem to be synonymous with ghetto, hood, poor, ugly, and dirty?
What’s even more disheartening is that this ignorance and filth has seeped its way through the cracked foundation of the black community. Colorism has been defined as a prejudice or discrimination against individuals with a dark skin tone, typically among people of the same ethnic or racial group. Sadly, the prevalence of Colorism, specifically in the black community is at an all time high. We unfortunately live in a world where being light-skinned is worn as a badge of honor and where darker melanated skin is viewed as a deformity, disability, or even sub-par.
This same ignorance has made its way in our school systems, seeping into our children’s classrooms. Dark-skinned children are often taunted, being called names like darkie, charcoal bliss, tar baby, etc.. Children and adults deliver these venomous adjectives not fully knowing the lasting emotional damage that the recipients of these insults will suffer for years to come. In fact, a lot of magically melanated men and women reported that they felt invisible growing up. Women reported that they were never liked by the guys in their schools and if they were given attention it was usually because the guy thought that they were “easy.” Dark-skinned men reported that they experienced rejection on a whole other level than the norm. Being around their light-skinned counterparts manifested a level of insecurity that made them feel undeserving. Light-skinned men or “pretty boys” as they have been so affectionately named, had their pick of the litter. They always had the prettiest girlfriends and wives and were always first choice.
Light-skinned women were always synonymous with the word pretty and never really have to do much to be noticed, while some dark-skinned women would receive degrading, half-assed compliments like, “hey, you’re pretty for a dark-skinned girl.” This same self-loathing, disgusting behavior has become an issue in the entertainment industry as well. Wale reported that his complexion hurt his career. He attributed his stunted success to being Nigerian. Other rappers like Drake, Logic, and J. Cole, who all have fair complexions, have experienced significant success. Whether or not it was talent or light skin that catapulted these artists to fame is arguable. But, music executives have admitted that it is easier to market a light-skinned artist as opposed to an artist with a darker complexion. Artists with lighter complexions seem to be more palatable to the world.
The fact of the matter is, Colorism is a real issue within the black community but the question is, what will it take to end it? Given that colorism is a social issue, the first step to healing and ending this hatred is to acknowledge that it is a real problem. No one can end anything unless there is acknowledgement that it exists. Secondly, self-love and affirmations must start at home. Adoration and acceptance must be shown to children of all complexions, not just to those with lighter skin. Such behaviors perpetuate the idea that lighter is better and darker is dirty. Sarah Webb, a contributing author of Colorism Healing said that this issue must be addressed at the community level and not centralized to individual occurrences.
It is going to take a concerted effort of all members in the black community to truly put an end to colorism. Of course this issue will not be resolved overnight but with taking the necessary steps listed above, I am hopeful that this poisonous mentality will become a thing of the past. I think movements like Black Girls Rock and the demonstration of Black Excellence are just remedies to cure this sickness. Black people have had a history of divisiveness and separation. I think it is time for us to all band together and make a change. There is strength in numbers and power in a united front. The time has come for us to embrace the skin that we are in (no matter what shade) and give the world a taste of brown sugar.