Category Archives: Colorism

Chasing Destiny

One of my favorite girl groups is En Vogue. They were the quintessential 90’s girl group with their beautiful harmonies, sleek fashions, and attractive but attainable looks.

I was pleased to see Kelly Rowland give homage to the group in her new show “Chasing Destiny.”

Rowland, one of the key members of Destiny’s Child, hopes to find the next generation’s “it” girl group.

The first episode was interesting, if not tedious. You know the cliche tryouts, backstories, and repeat singers from other reality shows who are still trying to catch a break.

However, Rowland brings charm and cuteness to the show, so it’s worth tuning in. She also has a vision for the group which is appealing. I had to smile when she said “give me my chocolate” when looking over photos for potential group members. Rowland recently talked about the importance of “chocolate” black women in the music industry.

One of my pet peeves with shows like this, is that so much effort is put into finding people, but often the groups go nowhere.

Sometimes it’s because they really aren’t all that great to begin with, but a lot of the times folks are extremely talented but not properly promoted.

I hope Kelly’s group actually make it. Especially since she does seem to want to expand the images of black women in music. This is needed as black women singers have become pigeonholed if they aren’t dipped in the Rihanna or Beyonce prototype. It’s why phenomenal singers like Jazmine Sullivan, Fantasia,  and others have struggled so.

Nina

Last year, black folks were  concerned when it was announced Zoe Saldana was cast as the iconic, Nina Simone. Folks worst fears were confirmed when the trailer for “Nina” was released this past weekend.

A lot of the criticism has focused on Saldana basically engaging in black face to portray the high priestess of soul. It’s considered offensive because Simone’s music was dedicated to speaking out against the marginalization of black folks, specifically darker skinned black folks. The (hideous) makeup job makes a mockery of her life’s work.

My other issue with the trailer is the story line of an “out of control” Simone. There’s nothing wrong with acknowledging the mental health struggles of Simone. Honestly, I did not know this was something that affected her life, until recently. It’s not talked about when folks praise the legendary singer. I think mental health needs to be discussed more in the black community. Two groups I follow do an excellent job supporting black folks and mental health (No More Martyrs and Black Mental Health Alliance for Education & Consultation, Inc.)  Artist Erykah Badu recently highlighted bi-polar/depression at a fashion show. So, folks are working hard to bring more awareness to this important issue.

However, I find it interesting the writer-director decided to focus solely on this aspect of Simone’s life. It was not surprising to learn that the writer-director is a white woman (Cynthia Mort). It makes sense why she used black face to represent Simone. White women tend not to relate to the beauty struggles black women, particularly darker skinned black women, face under white supremacy. It makes sense why Mort zeroed in on the “breakdown” of Simone. She could not see the brilliance of Simone without framing it in a stereotypical “crazy” black woman caricature. Simone was regarded as a child progeny. She had to deal with harsh racism  while growing up. Imagine the pain navigating oppression when you are a gifted black child. I’m sure Simone’s mental health problems were exacerbated dealing with the daily abuse of white racism. But a film like that probably wouldn’t get the green light.

As far as Saldana, she should know better. Simone’s daughter has defended her in this role. I’m sure some of it is genuine support, but Simone’s daughter also has not found closure with her mother. She has talked about Simone being an abusive/neglectful parent.  It’s probably hard for her to look at the bigger picture of why Saldana was not a good fit for this role. Celebrities like Queen Latifah and Paula Patton have stood up for Salanda, but they are doing so in case they ever want to look ridiculous on film. You know celebrity egos.

The problem is Saldana tends to flip flop on the subject of racism (colorblind rhetoric). And yes, she’s tends to say she is a “black Latina,” but often celebrates her Latina side/declare she is more than “just black.”This is not someone who needed to represent Nina Simone, a consistently proud black woman.

 

Dark Black Beauty

Last week, my baby and I came down with serious colds. Then I found myself mixing various concoctions trying to deal with a mysterious bump that popped out on my neck.  Life is rough, y’all. But I’m back and in full effect. The little one is better too 🙂

One of the things I had planned to write about, was the video floating around of the Brazilian beauty queen who was stripped of her title for being “too dark.” I was reminded of her plight after reading about a dark skinned model whose luscious lips were subjected to racist attacks on MAC Cosmetic’s Instagram page.

Despite the increase of folks of color in America, the beauty standard hasn’t evolved all that much. Let your eyes gaze magazine covers while standing in the check-out line. It’s still mostly white women who are featured. Occasionally, a woman of color will be tossed on the front page for the “diversity” issue. And that’s only if they fit the white standard somehow (light, skinny,  narrow nose, etc.).

As a darker black woman in her 40’s, I have had to fight “all my life” to love my skin tone/fuller lips. I find it fascinating that folks think it’s perfectly okay to treat darker people with such disdain. Anti-darkness is a sickness that needs to be treated in this country. We need to call out folks who engage in this behavior. All day, everyday. We don’t want a color caste system like Brazil. Brazil is a great example of what happens when white supremacy/internalized racism regarding beauty/social status is allowed to run amok.

It’s important we provide younger black folks with positives images of darker skin/”ethnic” looks. And be willing to challenge ourselves if/when black beauty standards also become stagnant.

Photo from:  jezebel.com

‘Skinned’

LisaRaye McCoy looks at the issue of  colorism in her new film ‘Skinned.’

“For her directorial debut “Skinned,” LisaRaye McCoy is pulling out the punches tackling a controversial subject that is plaguing people of color: skin lightening. In a world where people are preaching self-love and not holding to the media’s standard of beauty, colorism is still an underlying issue in the black community. The movie is about a woman named Jolie (Jasmine Burke) who was always ruthlessly teased when she was younger for being dark-skinned. Jolie believes the only thing that will make her more beautiful is if she bleaches her skin to snag the perfect man, but years later, when she does get married, the skin bleaching comes back to haunt her.”  http://www.accra.io/blogs/p/129591/trailer-lisaraye-mccoy-tackles-colorism-skin-bleaching-in-new-movie-skinned

What’s interesting about colorism is how clueless white people tend to be about this issue. Yet, it is because of white supremacy/the push of whiteness as the ideal why it’s so pervasive.  White folks created colorism. Regarding the Black community, what’s frustrating to me is that this issue tends to be framed only as a problem with darker-skinned Black women.  If we would just love ourselves more rhetoric. It’s more complex than that. Also, these types of films (like Bill Duke and D. Channsin Berry’s “Dark Girls”), tend to gloss over the fact that Black men have been harshly affected by white supremacist thought regarding beauty. When we look at the current entertainment world, it has been Black men who have pushed light/biracial/non-black women into the spotlight. I’m sure LisaRaye herself has benefited greatly from colorstruck Black men in the industry.

I’m waiting for someone to make that film. Anyway, good for LisaRaye and her venture into directing.

 

Laverne Cox and bell hooks Talk About Feminism and Pop Culture

Whoa! bell hooks has been KILLING it these last couple of days, as she does another week-long residency at The New School. She’s had some great discussions with white feminist icon Gloria Steinman and fellow black intellectual, Cornel West (the two of them had me rolling).  My favorite conversation was the one between her and Laverne Cox.

Cox stars on the television show “Orange is the New Black.” I have not watched the show. It hasn’t really interested me (and in their talk) hooks articulated some of my concerns about the show.  However, it’s been great to see Cox get mainstream shine. It’s rare you see contemporary black celebrities knowledgeable about politics/social injustices. Particularly, the work Cox does around transgender rights.

Enjoy their fun and thoughtful discussion by clicking the link 🙂

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Photo from: http://colorlines.com/

http://new.livestream.com/TheNewSchool/bell-hooks-Laverne-Cox/videos/64265837

 

Raven-Symoné and Anti-Blackness

The That’s So Raven star pissed everyone off with her interview on Oprah’s “Where Are They Now?” show.  Symoné passionately rejected the term ‘African-American.’

“I’m tired of being labeled,” Symoné said. “I’m an American. I’m not an African-American. I’m an American.” Symoné told Oprah she wasn’t sure “what country in Africa” she was from but that she did know her family’s roots are in “Louisiana.” “What I really mean by that is I’m an American,” Symoné said. “That’s what I really mean. I have darker skin. I have a nice, interesting grade of hair. I connect with Caucasian. I connect with Asian. I connect with Black. I connect with Indian. I connect with each culture.” http://thegrio.com/2014/10/06/raven-symone-not-african-american/

Eh…Symoné told on herself.

To a certain extent, I get what Symoné was trying to say. She just wants to be her.  However, her comments lacked a deeper consciousness about the ways white supremacy and anti-blackness operate in American culture. I mean. I guess she missed the whole Ferguson thing this summer?

We tend to think because celebrities are amazingly talented at singing/dancing/acting that they must be brilliant in other aspects of their lives. 9 times out of 10 (when you take them off stage) you realize they actually tend to be pretty clueless about the world around them.  I guess the fame monster does that to you. Particularity, black celebrities who now have the protection of wealth. It gives them the false illusion racism doesn’t matter anymore. I find it interesting even those who grew up in extreme poverty/oppression and who have sung/rapped/talked about it, still tend to sell out pretty quickly/become apologists for white racism/are now “colorblind.”

The new blacks are going to be the death of us yet.

In any case, Symoné basically believes her light skin and “good hair” exclude her from being a “plain old African-American.” Okay, well she’s going to start turning down African-American roles, right?

 

Kevin Hart is anti-black woman

The unfunny “comedian” Kevin Hart continues to show his disdain for black women, particularly those of the darker hue. In a recent interview with Playboy he tried to justify his disparaging remarks about black women:

“I’m not a political guy. I don’t really deal with Democrats or Republicans. I don’t find that funny. And I don’t talk about the gay community, be it male or female. No thank you! It’s such a sensitive subject. I’ve seen comics get into serious trouble by joking about gay people. It’s too dangerous. Whatever you say, any joke you make about the gay community, it’s going to be misconstrued. It’s not worth it.

Listen, that was just me being silly on Twitter, playing on a trending topic. Some people were offended by it, but that’s always a risk with comedy. Nobody’s going to find everything funny. I didn’t feel I had to apologize for something that was misconstrued and taken out of context. I have no ill will toward women, not dark-skinned women, not light-skinned women. I was just being silly. I’m a comedian. Being silly is my job; it’s how I pay my bills.”

Obviously, I don’t think he should start insulting the gay community. However, he contradicts himself with his statement.  Basically, he is saying that humor should not be politically correct and black women should learn to take their “lumps.” BUT the gay community is off-limits because he doesn’t want to get into trouble. But shouldn’t all folks be fair in love and war, since that is what he is arguing?  Also, he doesn’t think he will get into trouble insulting black women?  I find that interesting. I think a lot of black male celebrities know they can get away being offensive towards black women, because of our status in this racist/sexist society.

Sadly, some black women agree with him:

“One has to wonder if black women should chalk up his comments as comedy, especially when we’re being used as the subject matter. Would people be happy if he started to tell jokes about gay people and stopped telling ones about dark-skinned women? Or, better yet, should Hart tell jokes about dark-skinned LGBT women and men? Thankfully we live in a world where free will exists. If people truly find Hart offensive, it’s just as easy to stop supporting what offends you.” Kevin Hart Claps Back Against Allegations of Hating Dark-Skinned Women

I think a lot of black women have absorbed the anti-black woman/anti-black racism that is currently dominating the entertainment industry.  Also, looking at the writer’s picture, she is not a very dark-skinned black woman. I think people do not understand the abuse and hostility very dark-skinned black women receive in this country. We don’t need an unfunny “comedian” trying to get his fame/project his low-self esteem on us too.

Black women should not let unfunny Kevin Hart continue to think it’s okay to drag us in mainstream media. Even our black girl children aren’t safe:

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Hart mocks actress Quvenzhané Wallis on Saturday Night Live.

Things black women can do:

Boycott “Think Like A Man Too” (it will probably be on bootleg soon, anyway)

Let BET know you are upset Kevin Kart has a show on their network
(I know, I know BET the prototype for degrading black women, but give it a shot):
Black Entertainment Television
BET Networks
1235 W Street, NE
Washington, D.C. 20018-1211
202-608-2000
Hart is also on twitter,
so you can let your displeasure be know personally: @KevinHart4real

Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone

So, Zoe Salanda decided to go ahead and look foolish in a new movie based on Nina Simone’s life. Yesterday, For Harriet posted this new image of Zoe from the film:

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😦

It’s bizarre that Zoe doesn’t seem to get why it’s wrong to dress up in blackface to portray a dark-skinned Black American woman icon:

“I know who I am and I know what Nina Simone means to me,” Saldana said. “I can only rely on that and maintain as much humility as possible, so that when I have to face the world and we have to then give the movie to the world to see, and share it with them, that if it comes back in … a negative fashion or positive, I’m gonna keep my chin up. … And Nina was like that too.”–http://www.ibtimes.com/zoe-saldana-defends-nina-simone-role-says-im-doing-it-my-sisters-video-1107937

Umm, okay. The irony is that Nina Simone had to keep her chin up in the face of the colorism/marginalization of Black women’s voices that Zoe is participating in. She really should have passed on this role. As a friend said, why would all the folks involved in this film waste time having to “transform” someone to resemble Nina(blackface, prosthetic nose, and such) when they could just have hired someone who genuinely looked like her.

Normally, I like Zoe. However, she’s a fail here.

Any who, I definitely plan to see this film. I want to get my laugh on…

bell hooks and Beyonce

bell hooks pissed off a lot of folks last week when she criticized pop singer Beyoncé:

“I see a part of Beyoncé that is anti-feminist–that is assaulting,” she said. “That is a terrorist in terms of impact on young girls.”–bell hooks

I don’t have a problem with what hooks said. She is a cultural critic and that’s what cultural critics do…deconstruct popular images. “Cultural critics define the (often political) reasons why a certain aesthetic or cultural product is more valued than others. In doing so, they examine value hierarchies that have been established within such categories as class, race, national origin, gender, sexuality, feminism.”–dictionary definition.  bell hooks critique of Beyoncé is no different from her views on Tina Turner (who Beyoncé borrows heavily from) and Madonna, back in the day.

Plus, if you really are a fan of bell hooks, you would know she speaks in hyperbole.  She is purposely trying to make you angry. She is trying to get you to think about how these images affect our lives in an Imperialist White Supremacist Capitalist Patriarchy.”

I’m sure it’s hard to grow older as a woman in the Entertainment Industrial Complex. It’s probably why Beyoncé pushes so hard to stay around. Even Madonna (the queen of reinvention) eventually was weeded out.  And we see what they did to Janet. Beyoncé’s new music would be interesting to me, if she genuinely tackled these issues. Instead we  get lines like “eat the cake, Anna Mae” in her quest to stay relevant. She really needs to take some time off and reevaluate her image/music. Her urgent desire to stay popular is making her put out all kind of bizarre images that are inadvertently affecting young black girls. They are the collateral for her to stay rich and famous, I think that what hooks was trying to say.

Also, all of this focus on Beyoncé is causing confusion/hostility between black feminists. Probably what they want as it distracts us from other issues…

What do you think?

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Photo from: colorlines.com

 

Mother’s Day/Passionate Present: Protecting Black Girlhood

My mom passed away a few years ago (RIP), so I’m ho-hum about Mother’s Day this upcoming Sunday.  My mom and I had our battles (typical parent/child stuff), but we got along well for the most part . She was my friend. Plus, my mom didn’t play. Heh.  I remember being shocked out of my socks, when my mom’s partner called to tell me that she had passed away. He had found her in the shower. I remember throwing down the phone and screaming/crying.  I had just saw her the week before.  At the time, my mom was living in Arizona and I visited for a short vacation.  I remember she had cooked a huge pot of gumbo and she tried to get me to take some home with me. I didn’t want to have to carry it on the plane, so I declined. I figured I would get a bowl next time…

The following days were surreal. I had to fly back to Arizona to pack up her things. Then I flew back home to make arrangements.  Then I flew to our  original hometown to have the funeral with our family. Finally, I flew back home to…sadness. They say time heals all wounds, and it does make things a little easier. I still miss my mom everyday and wish she was here. Happy Mother’s Day, mom 🙂

Sexy mama...I miss you.
Sexy mama…

I don’t have children of my own, so I won’t be getting a box of chocolates on Sunday. I have to admit this is the one day I’m envious of folks with children. I want a free meal too! I have never wanted to have kids. Even when I was a child, I told folks I didn’t want children. Of course, folks said I would change my mind when I got older. Well, I am older and if anything, it has reinforced my stance.

I don’t know why having children has never appealed to me. Maybe it’s because I’m always on the go. I like movement and freedom.  Also, despite popular belief, motherhood is not universal. Motherhood is much more complex for black women. We live in a society that hates our children. We have to worry if our children will come back home after walking to the corner store or seeking help after they’ve had a car accident. Will the police shot our children, just because they see a black kid running? Will another black child shoot our child because of internalized racism/misguided priorities?

It can be stressful combined with all the regular parent worries. That’s why I give props to black moms/parents/caregivers who have decided to go down that road. It’s not easy to raise black children in this society. So, much love this Mother’s Day.

The reason why I’m being  reflective on the issue of black motherhood, is because I watched bell hooks recent lecture at New School.  hooks and Salamishah Tillet tackled the difficulty of raising empowered black daughters. It’s a good discussion…

Photo from: http://shine.forharriet.com/
Click to watch the video: http://new.livestream.com/TheNewSchool/PassionatePresent/videos