November 10, 2009

Brief thoughts about colorism

So, I was talking/thinking about this briefly with Chally over twitter and it got me thinking about colorism/hueism some more.

You see, in my slave narratives class, we just finished up talking about Clotel by William Wells Brown, which in addition to being slave fiction is also one of the forerunners of the "tragic mulatto" trope. Throughout the novel there is a heavy emphasis on Clotel and her family's light, nearly white skin even though they're still black and they're still, thus, slaves. And then, you know, terrible things happen to her.

Now...the book isn't so much about "passing" as it is miscegenation though I may make it seem, but it was interesting that I would think about this on the heels of that. For you see, it's a simple fact that light skin is far more valued in society than dark. It ties to race and it does tie to class, but I think more of the racial aspect being a black woman.

You see, I'm in a strange position. My father's side of the family is pretty dark. My mom, pretty light. Me, I err towards the darker side even though I'd consider myself "mid tone". It seems for this simple fact I've been on the end of hueism. I feel less valued than white or lighter skinned people, I feel like I contribute less. I feel worth less. Not even simple things such as make up really cater to my skin tone, and I have to search mighty hard. I am simply seen as "dark".

This has been pretty frustrating all my life though I've never particularly wished I was lighter. I actually used to be very light skinned as a child. Let me give you a story:

When I was about 13, puberty hit me full on. Pimples and everything, and being in the sun made me tan a lot. I still remember my mother lamenting--actually crying now--about how clear my skin used to be. The question here is, was she really crying over my acne?

I think I've talked about my mom being pretty color struck. Every now and then she'll lament about being of darker skin although she's actually lighter than me. She'll complain about me being dark or envision me as lighter than I am. Sometimes it's accidental but sometimes...why?

Light skin is better, that's all.

So if dark skin is bad light skin is good yes? I've also noticed that light skin folks have a stigma as well--they're uppity & too good for anyone, or they're crazy because they're biracial. Dark folks don't want them and the dominant class pretends they don't exist. Or they're naturally good natured FOR being light of complexion.

I find it all interesting myself, running it over figuring out where I fit in if at all, after all I'm merely black myself.

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