Guest Post from Renee of Womanist Musings, who is all that and four bags of ketchup flavored potato chips.
To advocate passionately as a womanist means
confronting issues in the black community that we have long been
resistant to speak publicly about. Hueism continues to be an ongoing
issue and it affects both light skinned and dark skinned women
Often our light skinned sisters will receive undeserved privilege by
whiteness, simply because of the color of their skin. One need look no
further than at the models that are promoted by the fashion industry to
discern that to even have the smallest chance of being considered
beautiful, if one is of color, it is necessary to be born with light
skin. There are rare exceptions like the stunning Alek Wek however,
beauty is still measured by how closely one manages to match the ideal
femininity that has been constructed for white women.
To be a dark skinned black woman in a world that values whiteness, is to be
daily “othered” and otherwise ignored. From a very early age the dark
skin girl learns that she is not beautiful regardless of how supportive
her family may be and in a world where beauty is one of the few ways in
which women express and or wield power, this can lead to feelings of
anger and resentment. To actually rise above the anger that is created
by discovering that through an accident of birth one is deemed socially
irrelevant, is work that for some women takes a lifetime.
This anger often manifests itself by challenging the worth and or the
blackness of lighter skinned women. Light skinned women may find more
acceptability around whiteness but when they must relate to members of
the African American community, issues of undeserved privilege will
arise. They will be asked to prove their allegiance to POC and black
men will actively seek them out as trophy wives.
I cannot imagine how difficult it is to identify as a WOC, only to have that identity
challenged repeatedly. Some will become extremely militant as a way to
counter act the exclusion that they face.
we do battle amongst ourselves to maintain a sense of self worth, the
issues that plague us most deeply are not of our creation. It is
whiteness that began this divide and whiteness that continues it with
the aid of our collusion in the form of internalized racism. We know
that light skinned blacks were often treated better during slavery.
The very first blacks that were able to achieve higher education were
also light skinned. To look at images from the first black sororities,
is to see a historical record of those that would become the first
blacks to achieve social mobility and a degree of prestige. Some
families so valued the lightness of their skin, they purposefully denied
their children the right to marry a darker skinned person.
places like New Orleans blood quotient was studiously counted. Blacks
would announce whether they were octoroons or quadroons, loudly
proclaiming their proximity to whiteness. Some families worked
diligently to ensure that each generation they became lighter, until
they were barely recognizable as black. The ability to pass as white
meant that one would not have to deal with the ugliness of racism. The
darker skinned amongst us watched as light skinned blacks either were
granted privileges or disappeared into white society never to be heard
Today though we have had a civil
rights movement and have elected the first black president hue continues
to divide us. One of the reasons openly stated for loving Michelle
Obama is the darkness of her skin. Not only is she embraced for being
black but for being visibly black.
As I read the commentary of praise, I
cannot help but wonder how it makes our lighter skinned sisters feel.
Yes, some have become accustomed to privilege due to the lightness of
their skin however, bringing balance to the community cannot be achieved
by falsely praising darker skin.
We need to move
beyond gradations in color and finally acknowledge that whether dark or
light skinned, black is black. We only see difference because we have
been taught to do so by whiteness. When we continue to argue amongst
ourselves over who is legitimately black or who is worthy to advance
based in hue, we are distracted from battling the racism that we all
Whiteness does not want us to actively assert our humanity and
therefore; any method that they can employ to ensure that our focus is
not on the systemic ways in which racism hurts us will be encouraged.
This is not a new tactic, simply looking at the Tutsi’s and Hutu’s is a
perfect example of what happens when we allow whiteness to decide what
constitutes value amongst black people.
conquer is a game that whiteness plays well and when we foolishly
consent to engage as though we are powerless to resist the grading of
color, we cede what little power we have. There are many situations in
life in which we are presented with options that lead to negative
consequences however, deciding to love all of the manifestations of
blackness is asserting a power that whiteness would love us to
abdicate. In the 60’s we rallied around the phrase that black is
beautiful and the time has finally come for us to live it.