Monday, June 30, 2008

Light "Skinneded" vs. Dark "Skinneded" (and No it ain't misspelled!)

I ran across this post by Diary of an Anxious Black Woman, where she addressed the debate on whether or not light "skinneded" people benefit from certain types of privilege over dark "skinneded" folks. While acknowledging the ways in which the lighter sistas may have done their darker sistas wrong (she really doesn't say anything about how this applies to light and dark "skinneded" men), she basically concludes:
In other words, this "privilege" is entrenched in a system that values and empowers those with white skin, and those who are "near white" or "not quite," must know their place and never challenge the hierarchy in which whites remain on top. It's why lighter-skinned blacks bear their own scars of racism. All that yellow wasted indeed.

For those who didn't accept the racial hierarchy, they do make great movers and shakers, some even great revolutionaries (think Frederick Douglass, William Wells Brown, Mary Ellen Pleasant, Ellen Craft, Harriet Jacobs, W.E.B. DuBois, Malcolm X, Huey Newton, Kathleen Cleaver). If we have ever been wrong or done wrong, it's in not pushing hard enough to break down this racial hierarchy, for the illusory promise of power was too distracting.
Let me first stay that I agree completely with my sista here -- that light or dark skin really don't matter that much when racists laws and policies are passed down. I'd also draw on another part of her post (not included here) where she discusses how she was successful academically
perhaps because of her light skin or because she was an American attending schools in the Caribbean and thus, wore better clothes. Her light skin may or may not be the reason why she was successful in school, and as she argues, she's not quite sure to what extend this played a part. In short, although racist policies are irrespective of hue, as a light "skinneded" sista, she acknowledges ways she may have been privileged because of her complexion.

Here's what bothers me about the whole light vs. dark debate though: Why are we (black folk) so hung up on a hue when we expect other folk not to be ( particularly as this relates to racial oppression, racist policies, etc.)? My sista addresses hue as it may relate to academic achievement, when I can think a lot more other thangs that Black folk need to discuss in relationship to academic achievement besides someone being light skinneded. I'm not criticizing Diary of an Anxious Black Women for posting this topic on her blog; after all, she ain't the one who brought the topic up. But, when it really comes down to our schools and the underperformance of Black children, a hue will not determine if they pass standardized tests or graduate from high school. And when we speak of linguistic prejudice, light skinneded Ebonics speakers won't be prevented from being placed in remedial composition just because they hue is a lil' bit yellower. C'mon people! We got bigger fish to fry.


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