Colorism, Coachella & Queen Bey

Image result for beyonce at coachella

There is no way around it–Beyoncé Giselle Knowles Carter is taking over the planet.

I am astounded every time I see her perform, I am amazed. Even Dr. Michael Eric Dyson in the dedication for his latest book, The Tears We Cannot Stop, mentioned her and her dynamic talent along with her stage presence. I was a Destiny’s Child fan, supportive of her solo career and with LEMONADE? I submitted my (late) application to the BeyHive.

I’m. Just. Saying.

What I have always loved about her, through her career is her unabashed blackness. Even with her fair esthetic, and her Creole-New Iberia ancestry, she has never not denied any part of her that was, is, will always be Black. The beautiful thing I saw at Coachella, and on her last world tour before the birth of her twins, was the diversity of the women of color around her. Her dancers are every hue along this magical melanin spectrum. As popular as Beyoncé is, as easy as it is to rule her Queendom by the power of money and colorism, she doesn’t. As easy as it would be to only have one hue of dancer with her, she doesn’t. As minute, as mundane as that detail is, it should be a focus. And here is why.

There is a Black woman with a Eurocentric look, and able to walk into spaces as a full economic participant, able to orchestrate any vision that she has. In that orchestration, she is able to assemble the people she wants around her.

That is powerful. It is a reminder that I am still a Black woman, and as a Black woman, I represent Black women–no matter the esthetic.

Image result for beyonce at coachella

In the midst of her April 2018 Coachella appearance, amidst all the unregretable Blackness, HBCU magic, I thought would Beyoncé be seen as this talented, this epic and this grand if she wasn’t ‘light skinned’?

The example I point to is Lena Horne and Ella Fitzgerald. Both women could sing and were drenched in talent–but because Lena was lighter, she seemed to always have an edge over Ella, who was darker. It was never about the presentation of talent, but the White acceptance of a Black talent along a melaninated spectrum:  enter the ruler straight hair-brown paper bag test.

See that here.

That question made me so sad when I ruminated on it! I began to wonder for all the amazing she had done, for all her talent, for all her power, could that have been stymied if she were darker-skinned? The thought made my heart ache.

As a Black woman, I am proud of Beyoncé. I am inspired to do more, to build, and to serve. It reminds me that colorism doesn’t define me, does not stymie me, and will not separate me from my heritage. I understand that colorism is a real system, with real consequences, and my reactions to those consequences determine how colorism will be conquered or perpetuated!

Colorism is insidious to the confidence of Black women. It strips us of any sense of self, allowing our value to be determined by something innate and uncontrollable. Our value is beyond skin deep, beyond talent and we are worthy of love, respect and personhood. Black Girl Magic transcends skin tone. From Redbone to the deepest Ebony tones, Black women are gorgeous–and we need to remember that. The world can’t stop us–only we can.

[images from Google]

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WEEK 14: STOP FALLING FOR WHITE CATFISH

In this modern era, getting over on people is an art form. In the age of #45 and other mutant tyrannical white men like him, it is easy to be deceived by those my grandmother would call the good white folk.

When things are looking horrible, even bad looks good! Remember that, family. In the portion of time we are living in, aided with the cloak of invisibility known as social media, anyone can pretend to be anything. That itself is scary and problematic. The scarier thing is those who pose as help, backup or ally.

A friend of mine, for the sake of this post I’ll call him Tony Stark, has this saying, “Trust but verify.” This translates to,”I need to know your intention before I give you full attention.” No more. No less. Everyone who wears a BLM shirt, supports social justice and believes white privilege exists oractivist lingo and safe spaces believes there for support and to push progress. Some ‘allies’ are indeed catfish—they are there to gather intel, cause confusion or disrupt the minute they are challenged or exposed.

Trust, but verify serves as your Spideysense and your verbal warning. It is a reminder to be observant for all in your melaninated and non-melaninated worlds. If you can master this concept and implement it, you won’t succumb to the trickery treachery of white catfish.

The job of a catfish is to deceive and misrepresent themselves. White catfish are no different. They are obsessed with image and access. When they are exposed and dealt with according to knowledge–which will always lead to their removal from a space–they will react by faking outrage and accusing people of color as the ones who are really racist and have a problem.

At this point, you understand because you didn’t verify, you have a chaos cleanup. In this march towards freedom and justice, you have I know who is there to help, whom is there to hinder and who is there to spy. We don’t have time for those who just wanna ride to see where we’re going.

Colorism For Dummies

In my mother’s generation, it was called being colorstuck.

There’s a entire industry dedicated to skin and the changing of its hue. But there is an element to colorism that is insidious. The fact you whole self can be discriminated against over how dark or light your skin is seem especially mean. Colorism was used, is used to further divide us as African-Americans, as black people, using a European standard of beauty. The same system of oppression that sought to buy and bind us, makes us hate the one thing uncontrollable and beautiful about ourselves.

From house negroes to field negroes or mulattos,  colorism is steeped in perceived advantages–if you are light, the closer you are to white, can you do what lighter (i.e., whiter) people do, and will you treat, can you, would you, treat people who are darker (i.e., blacker) than you the way white people do?

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Is darker skin undesirable, because it is an ancestral reminder of what we were, are and descended from? One of the tenets of colorism is self-hate! Colorism desires us as people to grade, gauge, and degrade each other on a European beauty standard. Everything about the beauty of us as a people flies in the face of that standard:  our lips, eye color, and body shape. We are a delicious anomaly! And because we are, and the gradient our melanin comes in so dope, of course the euro-ethnic standard of beauty seeks to control that and smash it into one standard to be equitable to that standard.

Last year, almost two years ago now, I came across the documentary, Dark Girls. This documentary is mandatory if you have a black daughter to raise, or black female child to influence. Dark Girl with unsparing detail, spoke to women whom dealt with colorism from the spectrum of bullying to fetish. There was one woman they interviewed–whose hue was almost ebony–reported her friend whom was lighter had a child and was told her, “Girl, I’m so glad she didn’t come out dark.” Her friend cried remembering the conversation.

The documentary depicts the roots of this phenomenon, and its perpetuation not just through African-American culture, but others as well–where was an Asian-American woman interviewed who was bullied because her skin wasn’t egg white, a cultural ideal esthetic. See? I told you it was insidious. Even to how dolls are marketed to little girls of color–there were always more white dolls growing up. I had more white Barbie dolls with ‘the pretty hair’ than I ever had black doll–if for the simple fact there just weren’t enough of them.

In looking through this lens of sociology and psychology of colorism, I sugguest lookoing at  The Doll Test , first administered by Drs. Kenneth and Mamie Clark. The test was administered in the 1940s to examine the role of segregation on African-American children. The test has been augmented and readministered since then, with similar outcomes:  the lighter/white doll is or may be seen as pretty or smart or good, while the darker/black doll is not.

In this standard, in this deception of colorism, the other tenet is to make you feel like you are ever enough–to be accepted, you must be less than–you must change. Your blackness is not immutable but malleable. In being malleable, it is subject to the whim of your oppressor–even if they are in a mirror.

 

[images from lunemagazine.com and nccj.com]