Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Color Complex

while white racists had never deemed black people beautiful before, they had a higher aesthetic regard for racially mixed black folks. when that regard took the form of granting privileges and rewards on the basis of skin color, black people began to internalize similar aesthetic values.” ~bell hooks

The color complex. Seems like a slightly trivial aspect to the struggle, but it can be, as its name suggests, complex.

Crunk Feminist Collective wrote a really interesting post about the color complex entitled the Huey Newton Complexes as well as a follow-up entitled More Musings on Melanin (or lack thereof). Very enlightening and definitely a must read. My homegirl Yvette linked me to this youtube video entitled Complexion Obsession. Marita Golden also wrote a really good book about the color complex called Don't Play in the Sun that’s definitely a must read as well.

I think it’s really important for all black people to understand the workings of the color complex because it IS racism; it is the inferiority that we have been forced into; it IS the superiority that those with lighter skin have designated themselves. If we do not understand the ways in which favoritism and preference for lighter skin can wreak havoc in our communities, then it is arguable whether we can truly understand the workings of the apartheid that has pushed us to the undesirable end of the racial spectrum. If those of us in the black and brown communities cannot admit our individual privileges, then how can we expect whites, males, and the upper class to admit their privilege?

Not only that, but how can we progress as a community unless we all admit that the color complex is perpetuated every day in our community?

how many people do you see or hear perpetuating the color complex that more and likely have no idea where it comes from? Friends on my facebook update their status all the time with comments like “ain’t nuthin better than a light-skin chick…” or “I love me a light-skin girl”. What? and rappers who only want light-skinned girls or girls of other ethnicities in their videos…and men who only date light-skinned chicks…and people who unconsciously think only dark skinned men are violent…and…and….and. yet these people have typically never asked themselves why they have this preference.

although the color complex is maintained by colored people on other colored people, it is not a cause, but a symptom of a society based on a racial hierarchy. it's not just about wanting to be white. it's about status, about wealth, about health, about nearly anything positive you can think about. for too many centuries and in too many colored nations, whites have been the ones in power, making the decisions, and making the most money. when the United States was early in it's formation, ethnic groups that weren't white or black (Asians, Middle Easterners, Pacific Islanders, etc. ) tried for years through legal means to be considered white. being white wasn't/isn't just about aesthetic preferences (nothing is ever really just about aesthetics), it was the difference between being free and being doomed to slavery; between owning land and not; between having legal rights and not.

i think we can all benefit from having a discussion about how the color complex and converse about things some of us maintain it in our sexual or relationship preferences (brothers or sisters who only date light-skinned people), our ideas of beauty (all the people you want to be with and the people you wish you looked like are all light-skinned), our speech (comparing dark skin to negative things like dirt, coal, stained, tar), our stereotypes, etc. when was the last time you heard someone say "you're pretty for a dark-skinned girl"? or heard comments about the beauty of a female that only describe her light skin? or hear a mother tell her children to stay out of the sun for fear of getting dark? i think we need to start collectively probing and questioning these manifestations of colorism.

"why can't she just be pretty AND dark-skinned?", "why are all the females you like light-skinned?", "yo i fucks with your album....but why aren't there any sistas YOUR skin tone in the video, Rick Ross? whats really good, Wale?" "i like playing in the sun, mom, what exactly are you afraid of?"

heres a video (in 3 parts) about the color complex in Southeast Asians.

and some good spoken word by a rad sister.

here is one about the notorious doll test.

and a really good video about it from some intelligent brothers (when they aren't being homophobic and anti-reproductive rights):

comment. think. criticize.

this post is kind of everywhere, but hopefully the links i provided will fill in some of the gaps.

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