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Why Are We Still Color-Struck

I came across an article in the NY Times a few weeks ago that featured a picture of the ever-lightening Sammy Sosa. Have you noticed that over the past few years Sosa has gone from a rich mocha-brown complexion to a pale, sallow pink? According to the NY Times article, Sosa used a cream to ‘soften’ his skin but it also bleached it. Really Sammy, really?

The article said “creams that offer lighter skin may also bring risks.” Doggone right it does. In addition to the risk of thinner, more sensitive skin, it brings the risk of perpetual ignorance. Lightening your skin perpetuates the same slave mentality that ‘light is right’ and ‘black is whack’. I really thought that line of thinking was played out. Clearly, it isn’t.

Remember when the New Yorker published a front page political caricature of Mrs. Obama as a militant, fist bumping, black panther-like, AK47-toting mama? If her complexion had been more like that of Alicia Keys, would she have been portrayed as such? Just curious... And what about President Obama? I've heard men (usually darker-skinned black men) say that if he had been darker, he never would have been elected. Think about that. If Barack Obama's complexion looked more like Wesley Snipes, would white people have felt comfortable voting for him? Probably not, huh? But what about black people? Would the espresso Barack have had to work twice as hard as the cafe' au lait Barack to get the black vote? Clearly, America, both white and black, is still color struck.

Unfortunately, it is us darker-skinned people who perpetuate that 'light is right' school of thought by altering our looks to comply with this Anglo standard of beauty. Now, Michelle and Barack Obama have not (as far as we know), but Sammy Sosa, Lil Kim, Vivica A. Fox and millions of other unnamed people have.

Here's the problem, we have been so brainwashed by our pasts as slaves and images in the media, that we now think the lighter we are, the more accepted we are. When actually, the more comfortable we are with who we are, the more accepted we are. Read that sentence again and think about it.

Back in slavery times, the house slaves were treated far better than the field hands. They also had a tendency to be lighter. The conclusion was drawn that house slaves were treated better because of their lighter complexion. This caused a great divide among the slaves on the plantation widely based on skin tone. While the field slaves got scraps, poorer living conditions and more frequent whippings, the house slaves got better food, better clothes, better housing and more respect. But the real reason house slaves were treated better was not because of the fairness of their skin, but because they were probably Massa’s children. And quite naturally, people treat their own a little better than they do others. (Is your light bulb going off?)

Needless to say, the better treatment of house Negros caused a chasm among the slaves; a chasm that still exists today even after the ‘Black is Beautiful’ and fist-pumping ‘Black Power’ rally cries of the 60’s and 70’s. And now today, we are resorting to harsh skin-lightening, nose jobs, relaxers, weaves and wigs trying to be something we are not; trying to be more like them and less like us. Why can’t we just be happy with who we are? Round noses, kinky hair, rich deep skin hues and all.

On Monday, January 18th, many of us observed Martin Luther King Jr. Day. It has been almost 50 years since King delivered his famous “I Have Dream” speech in which he fancied a world in which people were judged on the content of their character and not the color of their skin. Forty-seven years later, we still are not there.

Instead of working to build a more positive character, we are changing the color of our skin. What if instead of fighting for equality, King just lightened his skin so he could be more accepted? What if instead of marching, he just got a relaxer and a thinner nose? Don’t you see, when you change your features to match the world, you are not changing the world… just the world’s response to you. That may make things a little easier for you, but it does nothing for your children and others like you.

My challenge to you is to take bold defining steps to change the world, instead of merely changing yourself to be of world. (And I guess I can do the same since someone had no problem pointing out to me that I probably wasn't born with this golden blond hair.)

Wise up dark-skinned people. Accept and love yourself for who you are. The rest of the world will follow. Edit


How is making your skin color lighter any different than dying hair blond or lighter or wearing blue or green contacts?

We question the skin color but don't blink at the others, not realizing who were are emulating or trying to become. Long flowing hair that blows in the breeze, really? Delete Reply

My hair is naturally blond, thank you very much! Delete Reply

I didn't call any names or point any fingers. I am simply saying it doesn't stop with skin color.

Our view of self is damaged. Delete Reply

ThatTeowonna! said in her column: "...Why can’t we just be happy with who we are? Round noses, kinky hair, rich deep skin hues and all..."

If it is self damaged as Derek says, then turn off the TV, throw away all the magazines, quit thinking about all the small things in life and be who you are.

Jeff Delete Reply

One thing that trumps skin color as far as white people are concerned is intelligence mixed with non-conformity. Even though I am light skinned, I have never received special treatment from whites or blacks. I do see many people who are blinded by the skin color syndrome. I don't even joke about picking on the darkness of one's skin. Some black people try to make excuses by saying that they are just joking, like "not very funny" comedian Kevin Hart, who joked that light skinned women have better credit than dark skinned women. Who fed that garbage into his mind? It wasn't white people. The black community needs to take itself more seriously and eradicate a lot of this nonsense out of our community. Delete Reply


There is a real problem that still exist in our society and even in our culture! We don't make it much of a issue because we haven't fully embraced our unique self! The Light Skin Vs. Dark skinned issue ran in our own families so it would be easy for others to pick up on the issue and make it so that we are even having this conversation now.

The Willie Lynch Mentality still exist but there is a fear of blackness too! The fear of blackness causes those that are use to using the inferiority complex to hold us hostage, but the table is turning and there is a fear that now that we have a black administration, the fear is that we will do them like we were done by them. But they don't know that what ever they did to use was meant for evil, but God and our understanding of process worked it out for good -

I still experience the prejudice and stereotype because I'm the big black dude that you can't say, "I'm Part White!" But when it comes to Tiger, Michael Jackson, Sammy Sosa, and others that attempt to switch or soften our color - when life strikes we will be reminded that they are black.. Might as well embrace it!

My Thoughts... Delete Reply

Thank you guys for your comments. You all make very good points. Three quick thoughts - Jeff: If only it were that easy! Anon: The Willie Lynch paper is a hoax and Plain Talk: How do you know you've never received preferential treatment because of your lighter complexion? Delete Reply

First, we need to address our president correctly when speaking and when typing. President and Mrs Obama are who they are and we are blessed by them. If color is an issue for anyone then it is any ONE issue. In order to change some things, we have to change some things. Talking about, writing about it allow "IT" to live just that much longer..... CHANGE THIS THING. Delete Reply

First, we need to address our president correctly when speaking and when typing. President and Mrs Obama are who they are and we are blessed by them. If color is an issue for anyone then it is any ONE issue. In order to change some things, we have to change some things. Talking about, writing about it allow "IT" to live just that much longer..... CHANGE THIS THING. Delete Reply

You know Sista V, it amazes me how important decorum and proper titles are all of a sudden now that we have a black president. How many times have you referred to President Bush as George Bush? And President Clinton as Bill Clinton? And now that we have a black president all of a sudden every black person is obligated to correct every other black person who may not put the proper handle on the name. I agree that we should refer to the president with all the respect that the office is due, but ALL presidents deserve that respect, not just President Obama. President George bush deserved no less respect than President Obama. Furthermore, if you look back at my blog, you will see that Michelle and Barack Obama were properly addressed. When Michelle Obama was on the magazine cover, Barack had not won the election yet, therefore I correctly referred to her as Mrs. Obama. And I referred to Mr. Obama prior to his win; so Barack is quite alright. Please continue to encourage people to give presidents the respect they are due; but not just black presidents... all presidents! Delete Reply

Interesting blog. I don't think that I ever thought the color issue had become mute. Will it ever? I seriously doubt it. Yes, I find it very unfortunate, but I used to think this was 'just a black thang' until the last few years. Having made many friends from all over the world, I found that we all battle with this color complex, even whites. Once I heard a (I want to say white friend, but I hate being the "black friend")friend give this compliment to another's new baby, "Oh, look how fair she is. She is beautiful." I mean that really threw me. All races fear blackness, and not just because of my beautiful blackness because I am not in some of those corners of this world.

As for the ever lightening hollywood community, I don't even concern myself with the eccentricities money can buy them, lol. It's all smoke and mirrors in the name of entertainment.

Thanks for posting, it's been awhile since I've blogged :-) Delete Reply

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