Sunday, 05 September 2010
There is so much about this pending presidential election that inspires deep reflection. Colorism is perhaps the most repulsive ingredient in the recipe that flavors this exciting political season. The very same sexist media that slew Hillary Clinton now prey upon Michelle Obama. The same racist media that slandered Bill Clinton as a clone of Jesse Helms, now degrade Barack Obama as "Curious George", from Georgia to Japan.
I have always liked Obama much more than I do most of his sexist and colorist fans. I revere Obama’s choice of a beautiful and brilliant spouse who happens to be darker skinned than him. Like Malcolm X/El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz chose to love the ebony Dr. Betty Shabazz, Obama chose his chocolate queen Michelle. I feel the same sense of pride when I look at photos of both regal black couples. I cherish visions of their black embrace in the White House.
All of the “–isms” are on full display during this presidential campaign, as glaringly so as flag pins upon lapels. Colorism sparkles most brightly in the frenetic frays. Its shine urged me to revisit an old book list.
As a busy educator and eternal scholar, I read droves of academic books. Reading for pleasure is a rare and sporadic luxury. When I am mired in professional literary toil, I compulsively list books that I eventually intend to read for pleasure. From one of those very long book lists, I recently retrieved a gem. It is a classic book on colorism entitled “Don’t Play in the Sun: One Woman’s Journey Through the Color Complex” by professor and author Marita Golden.
This book is healing as I watch droves of black voters worship a bi-racial yellow skinned Barack Obama. It soothes me as as I wonder why racist Amerikkkan media inundate us with many images of Obama’s white mother and white grandparents, as they simultaneously erase his beautiful black Kenyan relatives by omission. It calms me as Republikkkan racists demonize and dog Michelle Obama solely because she is visibly blacker than her yellow skinned husband.
Some books transcend literary roles. This book is spiritual medicine for what ails us all. It is triage for the fatal wounds left by countless BET videos that never feature even one woman as brown or black as most of the male video stars.
Marita Golden is a word singer. She sings a song to all of her sisters in this tribute to psychic slayings and survivals. She praises the regal roles of Cicely Tyson, Regina Taylor, Venus Williams, and Zora Neale Hurston. She laments tormented black men who torture women who reflect their very own faces. She closes this classic book with a powerful “Letter to a Young Black Girl I Know."
Just as racism is equally toxic to the hater and the hated, colorism poisons persons of every hue. This book is therapy for collective invisibility. It is a balm for emotional pain. And it is a salve for scarred sister spirits in every corner of the global African Diaspora.
Colorism is a universal reality. This book documents the psychic wounds that know no geographic boundaries. It stems the flow of emotional bleeding.
Golden eloquently describes her lifelong battles with colorism. From her mother’s colorist admonitions as a young child, to the pathologies of global white supremacy that she encounters in her international travels, she allows us to navigate the depths of racial wounds.
Golden interviews a vast array of persons who share intimate variations on a single theme: skin color and its power to poison minds and destroy spirits. This brave book is a quilt of afrocentric consciousness. It illustrates the angst of eternally important colorist issues that are typically censored by cowardly silences.
Read this powerful, therapeutic, and eternally relevant book today. Here are a few excerpts from “Don’t Play in the Sun: One Woman’s Journey Through the Color Complex” by Marita Golden:
"I would have to write myself into being visible in a world dedicated to turning me into a phantom.
“Oscar told me tonight that he really liked me a lot, but that I was too dark for him to ever take home to his family as anything other than just a friend.”
Colorism knows no class boundaries in the Black community.
I am reeling with a sense of déjà vu as I recognize the kind of courtly contempt that I have sensed on other occasions, especially from older, colorist, class-conscious Blacks, who, finding themselves in social situations with a short Afro-wearing, brown-skinned woman like me, can barely contain their disappointment that a woman of my achievements (as an author and a professor) looks the way I do.
The young men would readily admit that they rarely used the word “pretty” to describe even the most attractive dark girl.
“Black women are now heavily into plastic surgery…we’ve launched a frenzy of lightening and whitening that I don’t understand…I woke up one morning and suddenly half the Black women I know are blondes.”
Black men and women still often choose their mates to ensure that their offspring will have “good hair”.
Hair is history. Hair is religion. Hair is politics.
You do not have to have braids down to your hips to be a pretty girl.
But the near rapturous anointing of [Halle] Berry as a safe and acceptable symbol of beauty and sexuality is rooted in Whites’ perception of her as much more White than Black.
Brothers everywhere, it seemed, were jumping into bed with Miss Anne.
“I think it is symbolically very significant that Michael Jackson, after introducing a vehicle, the music video, that promotes colorism and the supremacy of White standards of beauty, proceeds to remove any and all vestiges of his identity as a Black man.”
We are always alone when we find the truth.
Dark skinned Black girls had better have attitude. That’s the only thing that saves them in a world that pretends they’re not there or tries to erase them.
I love this anger that has driven me to write this book as a prayer, a scream, and a poem to my sisters dark and light…for every book that I have ever written has sprung from a question or a wound."