Friday, May 27, 2011

The Color Complex - Is it Just for Black Girls?

Happy Friday Meltingpot Readers,

I don't want to ruin everybody's holiday weekend with more 'bad news' but I feel compelled to share the preview for this new movie called Dark Girls. The documentary, which will be released this fall explores "the deep-seated biases and attitudes about skin color---particularly dark skinned women, outside of and within the Black American culture."

Here's a sneak peek.

Dark Girls: Preview from Bradinn French on Vimeo.

Now, this preview seems to only feature the issues of skin color within the Black community, but I am intrigued to see how the 'color complex' manifests in other cultures. I mean clearly it's not just a 'Black thing.' Can anyone else say Sammy Sosa? Do we not read the papers and know that bleaching creams are still big business in India and Jamaica? My Korean friend once told me that her mother would yell at her for getting a tan during her childhood in SoCal because then she'd look like a peasant. So, let's see if we can get the conversation going here before the film comes out.

Besides the Black community, where does the color complex reign supreme? Do you think if more people outside of the Black community discussed this issue openly it would diminish the importance of lightness? I'd like to hear from people on this. I'm so listening.



Marona said...

I don't think that just by talking about it we can diminish it's affect on people as well as the system of privilege and power wrapped up in this phenomenon. Colorism is a widespread global issue. You know, you'd have girls in India and Indian girls in the US experiencing similar things. Being told they look dirty and that they need to wash off their skin. I also notice that Mexico, like the nations in the rest of the American continent and even places like Japan and China, had a large native population at one time. Many people reflect that physically either among native peoples, Mestizos, groups with black, white and even native admixture and so on. But most of the telenovelas and movies I see feature Mexicans with very white phenotypes. I wonder why that is? And yes, there is racism is Mexico just like in the US. But it's different. You'd find people saying things based on someone's skin color, likening them to some stereotype of native people. And there is prejudice and ignorance directed at Asians, blacks and so on in Mexico and most of Latin America.

Back in the day, and perhaps even now, these issues of color could determine whether or not people could pass in white society in the US. If you looked the part no one would really care if you were black, Indian, native and so on. I'd imagine it was mostly for survival and not necessarily to escape one's respective non-white communities. But it can be a dangerous enterprise if one is "found out."

From my personal experience, I could really relate to the woman whose mom lauded her for everything but her skin color. I have a mother who'd laud everything about me that seemed "white," without her explicitly saying it was about my presumed whiteness, and always get upset with me when I wanted to do things that highlighted my "blackness." I think it's part of the reason I have such a hard time exploring my natural hair. She keeps warning me about repercussions and it makes me sad that our nation hates black people so much. And in turn we hate ourselves very much.

I notice that in a lot of shows and animation women are almost always lighter than men. One example, which is actually somewhat subtle, is Shin Chan. The men appear to have a "tan" whereas the women seem to have silkier looking skin. I only noticed it in Shin's immediate family, though.

I see the same thing in Chinese imagery. I'm pretty sure this affects men, too. But for women especially, it's difficult feeling as though you have fewer options just b/c you're darker than you're "supposed" to be.

And white people have a similar "peasant" story when it comes to skin color in the US. I mean, red necks, are marked by a stereotype of low-class living and behavior. But historically they were the working people out in the fields with skin that grew red due to work under the hot sun.

And in some US white communities tanning is popular, but it's a temporary fix to supposedly unattractive skin.

Sammy Sosa, I don't know what happened to him to make him want to do all that. When we've internalized so much hatred it really can eat away at us. I feel bad for him. I hope whatever procedure he had isn't going to lead him to an early grave.

I heard about a black woman who had some procedure done so she could have blue eyes. Something went wrong though.

We may have less overt racism in the US but that doesn't mean people don't get the message implicitly. I mean, with the way the media is who wouldn't come of age feeling at least a little warped?

Marona said...

I mean't we can't diminish it's effect on people by just talking about it. It requires more than talk. We're talking generations of change. I mean, just talking about racism isn't going to get rid of racism.

lifeexplorerdiscovery said...

colorism is on a much larger scale in the Indian and Asian cultures. At least the black community has a little bit of pride in itself.

soy yo said...

Yes, it exists in Asia and Latin America!

In easte Asia, it is mostly because if a girl is darker, it means she looks like she has had to work in the firelds and get exposed to the sun, as opposed to maybe a higher class woman who has been lucky enough to not work in the fields, etc. Still, whitening creams and sunscreens are popular.

Then here is a link to a skin lightening ad in Idia for men: and there are more in the column on the right.

I had a darker Mexican friend who told me his brother was much better looking than he was because he looked white.... so it's not only African Americans.

LT said...

Thank you for your dead-on comments. It's complicated. And I agree, if talk was all it took, we'd be a healed nation by now.

Do you really think so?

Soy Yo,
Sad but true. It's everywhere.