When Amara La Negra (from VH-1’s Love and Hip Hop Miami) went to the Breakfast Club to share her experience and shed some light on the issue of Colorism in the music industry, she was probably expecting to be received by a sympathetic crowd. Instead, She got grilled by the two male hosts of the radio show (Charlamagne tha God and DJ envy). Charlamagne and Envy pretty much did everything from calling her a liar to just labeling her as crazy. In their minds, the idea of Colorism was just some made up fantasy oozing from the mind of a wannabe reality star/singer.
After the interview aired on Monday, the backlash against the two DJ’s was quick and unrelenting. People seemed to be really upset that these two brothers would be completely clueless to the idea of colorism in America...or even in the world. Charlamagne and Envy did offer some sort of half baked apology, or should I say they tried to explain their behavior towards Amara by pointing out that they had no idea that the issue of colorism was prevalent in Latin America, and that their skepticism of her was based on what they have seen and experienced in America. According to Charlamagne, the dark skinned girls in the states are everywhere(as in every segment of society), and they are winning, so he thought Amara was bringing up a subject that had no bearing in the united states. He did go on to admit that he doesn’t watch Telemundo or Univision, so he really cant talk about colorism in the Latin countries.
The entire exchange was just disappointing because I listened to these two DJ’s do exactly what “conservative” white America has been doing to the black community for decades. When we scream racism, they call us crazy.”What racism? We ended slavery, banned segregation and elected a black president. Racism doesn’t exist anymore”, they often claim. But we know the truth, and the election of Donald Trump and the rise of the radical right only proved us right. So in that same regard, I want to put in front of you my case that proves that colorism is alive and well in America. For that, I would like to submit exhibit A: the documentary Dark Girls.
Dark Girls is a fascinating and controversial documentary film, released in 2011, that analyzes the prejudices faced by dark-skinned women in the world: in the United States, in the Dominican Republic, in Korea... It allows us to understand this concept of colorism by explaining the origins of a classification made according to skin color. It also shows how this concept is causing the lack of esteem in some cultures, from the United States to the most remote regions in the world.
Women share their stories. They evoke deeply rooted beliefs in the consciousness and behaviors observed in society. But these women do not just help us understand color. They also teach us to love each other for what we are, so that the wounds of several generations can finally heal.
Colorism is therefore one of the main themes discussed in the documentary Dark Girls. The term "colorism" refers to a set of prejudices or discrimination based on the fact that a skin is more or less dark. An individual will generally observe this phenomenon within one's own ethnic group.
I recently watched several extracts of the documentary, since it is not found in full on YouTube (question of rights, it is normal). Here are some testimonies, words, stories that marked me, but I highly recommend you watch this documentary in its entirety.
These testimonies are given in order of appearance of the person in the documentary:
A black child interviewed by a member of the film crew
"When you hear someone say about you, Oh! What a pretty little black! ", what do you think? Do you like this word?
- Because I do not like people to say that I'm black.
- Okay. But why? Tell me.
- Because I'm not black. "
Dr. Cheryl Grills, President of the National Association of Black American Psychologists:
"From 1619 to 1865, we were mainly slaves in this country, in the United States. We were not more than animals or animals. It lasted 246 years. [...] Forget the beauty! We were not even considered human beings. Then, it is the time of an improvised emancipation, from 1865 to 1964. It was the period post-slavery; we were men without any concrete right. Then comes the Movement of Civil Rights, from 1965 to today. [...] Before 1965, forget the beauty! We were not people in the eyes of the law, nor in the eyes of our neighbors, nor for the country, nor for the rest of the world. […]
When we talk about racism, people think about everyone's racism. But there is a bigger problem that is institutional or structural racism: this set of everyday principles and practices that perpetuate colorism. You can see it anywhere: in the media, advertisements, in magazines when you look at the choice of models, in the movies by seeing who plays the main character, who plays the good, etc. So you see, society perpetuates colorism. Society has the responsibility to react against that and correct itself. "
Matthew Shenoda, member of several board of directors of artistic and educational associations in the United States:
"I think [colorism] comes from colonialism, that colonialism was the first stone. How different countries have been colonized over the years, largely, but not only, by European armies that did not invade these countries only from a physical, territorial, but also culturally changing point of view the vision of colonized peoples, and by inculcating in them very specific concepts of beauty, identity, and superiority. And of course, in the history of colonization, colonized people learn that the colonizer is superior. If this superior has a certain appearance, and you wish to rise, then you will seek to approach him, to resemble him. [...]
If a child hears all the time that Europe is the pinnacle of civilization, that all great ideas have come from England, France, Germany, he will not seek greatness in his community or in himself., neither child nor adult. He will seek greatness in another community and aspire to be like him. "
Hence the importance of remembering that many great advances come from the eastern world! The list of areas in which we find these advanced and small revolutions is long: mathematics, astronomy, medicine, beauty, hygiene ... And Cheick Anta Diop taught us in these books what Africa has brought to the rest of the world.
It's interesting to see that colorism does not only exist in formerly colonized countries. I watched a video in which two young Chinese Americans (a man and a woman) explain to us, with humor, why the Chinese want to have the whitest skin. It was a sign of nobility, the sign that you did not need to work (in the fields) and that you stay at home (away from the sun). This ideal (and the resulting colorism) is perpetuated as that transmitted by the colonizers.
This documentary made a weird but positive impression on me. A bizarre effect because these testimonials make me question everyday situations and how I intend on reacting to them. Some have allowed me to understand why many (myself included) could react on facts that seem completely trivial for others, sometimes without being able to really say something about what disturbs us in what we see or hear. Why does it bother us to see very few blacks with dark skin valued in commercials, magazines and movies, while other seem to be completely oblivious to a glaring problem? I think by acknowledging it, the problem of colorism becomes real. It becomes our own little shame, because we (African Americans) have perpetuated it.
But on the flip side, if you understand a problem, you can more easily solve it. By being aware and pointing it out when it rears its ugly head Of course, we can begin the slow process of overcoming colorism. It’s not going to happen over night, but with each small step we can move in a positive direction.