Colorism: A powerful collection of racist policies that lead to inequities between Light people and Dark people, supported by racist ideas about Light and Dark people.
Color Antiracism: A powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to equity between Light people and Dark people, supported by antiracist ideas about Light and Dark people.
- Page 112: Do some research on “are they Black enough” conversations regarding political candidates.
- Page 113: What are some current examples of the antiracist perspective of eliminating beauty standards based on skin and eye color, hair texture, facial and bodily features shared by groups.
- Page 118: If you have Netflix, watch the first season of “Dear White People”
If you have Amazon Prime watch the movies “School Daze” or “Dear White People”
Hello everyone, and welcome to today’s episode of the “How to be an Antiracist” podcast. I ask myself every week, “Why am I doing this for y’all?” Why am I subjecting myself to—other than the fact that I am learning so much—but why am I subjecting myself to the white gaze to do this? Because Chapter 9, “Color”… but I’m just going to get right on in it and get right on out, y’all know I’ll do this.
So, chapter 9 is entitled “Color.” And the definitions are two:
Colorism: a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to inequities between Light people and Dark people, supported by racist ideas about Light and Dark people.
Color antiracism: a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to equity between Light people and Dark people, supported by antiracist ideas about Light and Dark people.
So let me look at the notes that I put in the margins right at the top. I said, “This chapter begins to explain why I no longer have no fucks to give for the comfort of white people, and I will always give Back folx the benefit of the doubt.” And then I wrote, “This is the root of internalized white supremacy.” Besides respectability politics or civility politics, colorism is very much rooted in the Black community, and is a way—well not just in the Black community, but in the Black community in the US, I’ll speak about that—and how white supremacy is used as a strategy. Well, white supremacy uses colorism as a strategy for discrimination and harm.
So, on page 109, I just put a note here [on the passage] that says:
My cornrows signified an antiracist idea. My honey eyes a capitulation to assimilation. Together they braided the assimilationist and antiracist ideas of my dueling consciousness.
I wrote in my note, “Interesting duality.” Because I see it often, and I saw it in myself, so again this is why I don’t… I always when I have to sit down and do these, I’m like… I regret that I ever said I was gonna do these. Cause I know there are—it’s just like white people just—I’m in a petri dish and you’re just looking at stuff, you know? Because you always need data and you’re always just, wanna know why and blah blah and I’m just like achh… but ok, we continue.
Also on page 109:
I wanted to be Black but I didn’t want to look Black.
The dueling consciousness of antiracist pride in one’s own race and assimilationist desire to be another race stirs this paradoxical post-racial beauty ideal. “It is simultaneously inclusive, multicultural, and new, while remaining exclusive, Eurocentric, and … old-fashioned.” It is “white beauty repackaged with dark hair,” [sociologist Margaret Hunter explains].
I had no idea my light eyes embodied the latest form of “colorism,” a term coined by novelist Alice Walker in 1983. The post-racial beauty ideal hides colorism, veils it in euphemism. Colorism is a form of racism. To recognize colorism, we must first recognize that Light people and Dark people are two distinct racialized groups shaped by their own histories. Dark people—the unidentified racial group of darker skins, kinky hair, broader noses and lips—span many races, ethnicities, and nationalities. Light people sometimes pass for white and may yet be accepted into whiteness so that white people can maintain majorities in countries like the United States, where demographic trends threaten to relegate them to minority status. Some reformers project Light people as the biracial key to racial harmony, an embodiment of a post-racial future.
I had a conversation, I don’t know how many of you remember, maybe a month or so back there was—no, it was actually when I started the podcast—and there was a gentleman who posted that the only way we could be antiracist was to create a post-racial future.
He was upset when I correctly said that what he was suggesting was a breeding program, and he just was like, “No, that’s not what I mean,” but I’m thinking, how do you get a post-racial future, how do you breed out—he didn’t want to use the word breed—but how do you get to this biracial future you’re talking about if you’re not talking about breeding, if you’re not talking about white people having sex with other people? He was just having a problem with that.
Colorism is a collection of racist policies that causes inequities between Light people and Dark people, and these inequities are substantiated by racist ideas about Light and Dark people. […] Colorist ideas are also assimilationist ideas, encouraging assimilation into—or transformation into something close to—the white body.
To be an antiracist is to focus on color lines as much as racial lines, knowing that color lines are especially harmful for Dark people. When the gains of a multicolored race disproportionately flow to Light people and the losses disproportionately flow to Dark people, inequities between the races mirror inequities within the races. But because inequities between the races overshadow inequities within the races, Dark people often fail to see colorism as they regularly experience it. Therefore, Dark people rarely protest policies that benefit Light people, a “skin color paradox,” [as termed by political scientists Jennifer L. Hochschild and Vesla Weaver.]
So what we’re talking about there is this is the insidiousness of it. Black people are having to deal with being at the bottom of the—when we talk about race, which we already know is made up, we’ve covered that already, but I want to put that there—we’re seen at the bottom of the hierarchy. So colorism is a way, even within Blackness, for white supremacy to divide Black people.
Anti-Dark colorism follows the logic of behavioral racism, linking behavior to color, studies show. White children attribute positivity to lighter skin and negativity to Dark skin, a colorism that grows stronger as they get older. White people usually favor lighter-skinned politicians over darker-skinned ones. Dark African Americans are disproportionately at risk for hypertension. Dark African American students receive significantly lower GPAs than Light students. Maybe because racist Americans have higher expectations for Light students, people tend to remember educated Black men as Light-skinned even when their skin is Dark. Is that why employers prefer Light Black men over Dark Black men regardless of qualifications? Even Dark Filipino men have lower incomes than their lighter peers in the United States. Dark immigrants to the United States, no matter their place of origin, tend to have less wealth and income than Light immigrants. When they arrive, Light Latinx people receive higher wages, and Dark Latinx are more likely to be employed in ethnically homogenous job sites.
So this is again about when people wanna talk about unconscious bias, many people would argue that they don’t have these biases. But the science proves, the data proves, that these biases exist.
Skin color influences perceptions of attractiveness most often for Black women. As skin tone lightens, levels of self esteem among Black women rise, especially among low- and middle-income Black women.
And I put here as a note, “Internalized anti-Blackness.” It’s so interesting because I’ve said, I’ve probably said this before, but white men have never been attracted to me. And many of my Black friends, they’ve never been attracted to us. And I know I’m cute. And it becomes a complete head fuck when society is telling you to, you know, like the new norms, “Oh, date outside your race,” you know, “You’re limiting yourself, why are you just staying with Black men?”
You know, all those things that seem benign when people say it. You see it in articles, you see it… but that’s a complete mind fuck when your person who you’re saying, you’re telling a person to date a group of people who don’t find you attractive. And then it becomes again, like most white supremacy, it becomes my issue. It’s something about me rather than the system of white supremacy, the system of whiteness that does not see me as attractive because I’m not light enough, I’m not close enough to white for them.
These are the things that I end up spending time, it takes me so much time to read these fucking chapters and create these videos because I just go into my head and I just start thinking about instances where this shit shows up in my life. And the damage it’s done, I mean the complete and utter damage this does on a person’s self esteem, on how a person sees themself as valuable even when no one is directly saying the words that “white is right,” it’s communicated in so many ways. And when the white man who is the dominant person on this fake, made up hierarchy sees you as an animal and not worth anything, it becomes really interesting.
Another interesting conversation I’ve had—and I’m digressing here—it’s been interesting and we’ve had this in our communities, Black women, that we see successful relationships among strong Black women with very wealthy white men. And you see it a lot. It’s been happening, very strong and powerful white men seem to be able to get—I don’t know if it’s around or through or—the status of having that much power and that much money, that much privilege? They’re able to see the value and the beauty in powerful, strong Black women. They’re not intimidated by it.
And it’s been an interesting thing to watch. But it’s a conversation that happens in the Black community among Black women. Because as we look around and we say, “who is our equal?” and this is not a disparaging thing to Black men, but who is not intimidated? Everybody wants us to take care of them, who has the strength, the fortitude, the I-don’t-give-a-fuck-ness, to take care of us?
And that’s fucked up to me, that’s really fucked up to me because it’s the white savior shit again. Again when I dig into stuff it’s just really interesting because on the surface it seems, OK, white men are you know the real—’scuse me, lemme be very specific—powerful, wealthy white men aren’t intimidated by our Blackness as women. And yet it’s, with everything I know about white supremacy it’s still the white savior stuff. So it’s all very gross and disgusting when I think about it, and it’s just so dehumanizing.
And it feeds into the narrative that we aren’t human, we’re not women. And it’s just… OK, I’ma keep going.
Dark African Americans receive the harshest prison sentences and more time behind bars. White male offenders with African facial features receive harsher sentences than their all-European peers. Dark female students are nearly twice as likely to be suspended as white female students, while researchers found no disparity between Light and white female students. Inequities between Light and Dark African Americans can be as wide as inequities between Black and white Americans.
And then I just wanted to bring up the good hair thing—or the nappy-headed thing that’s on page 112—because I remember—I’ve talked about this before—that my texture of hair is not the same as my cousins on my mother’s side. Now all of her sisters, my mom’s sisters, have the same basic texture hair and it’s a softer—well not softer—it’s a different kind of kink than what my cousins have. And I remember it used to get on my nerves when I was younger when people were like, “Oh you have good hair, oh you have good hair.”
And I was like, any hair is good that you can figure out something to do with it ‘cause even though I had “good hair,” my mom was not good at combing my hair, so I had two ponytails all the damn time. I didn’t have the fancy styles, I couldn’t wear braids ‘cause if I wear braids, like the microbraids, I can’t even wear weaves and stuff now because my hair is so soft that they pull out, they don’t stay in. So I saw it as a disadvantage ’cause I couldn’t be as creative with my hair as other people could be as creative with their hair.
But I always got the “Oh you have good hair,” and that was the whole thing about, “What are you? You can’t be all Black. What you mixed with, Indian?” That’s what they’d say, “What you mixed with, what you mixed with?” And so I really remember times where I thought, as much as I was outwardly saying—and it goes back to when he said he wanted to be Black but didn’t want to look Black, it goes to—I wouldn’t have articulated that at that time, but I can say that’s what it was.
Because I, although I was like, every time someone asked me that question I was like, you know, the eye roll. But to get asked that question, ‘cause that meant my hair was better than everybody else. So I internalized that shit.
And then at the bottom of 112:
I hardly realized my own racist hypocrisy: I was turning the color hierarchy upside down, but the color hierarchy remained. Dark people degraded and alienated Light people with names: light bright, high yellow, redbone. “You’re never Black enough,” [a Light woman told Oprah about her feelings of rejection.]
And so this goes into your first assignment for today. Because it talks about how, you know, Dark-skinned people in their way of owning their own value, turned on Light-skinned people. So you have this Light and you have this Dark thing going on within the Black community. So the first question for you on page 112 is:
Do some research on “are they Black enough?” conversations regarding our current political candidates for president.
And I know you’ve seen it on Twitter, I know you’ve seen it elsewhere. I want you to think about and look at those conversations through the lens of what we’re talking about here in Colorism.
So that’s your first assignment. And then on page 113 I highlighted this one statement, it says:
No racial group was pure.
What’s pure? So I’m gonna go back to read this whole paragraph now, it says:
White and Dark people reject and envy Light people. White people have historically employed the one-drop rule—that even one drop of Black blood makes you Black—to bar Light people from pure whiteness. Dark people employ the two-drop rule, as I call it—two drops of white blood makes you less Black—to bar Light people from pure Blackness. Light people employ the three-drop rule, as I call it—three drops of Black blood means you’re too dark—to bar Dark people from pure Lightness. The “drop” rules of racial purity were mirages, just like the races themselves and the idea of racial blood. No racial group was pure.
To be an antiracist is not to reverse the beauty standard. To be an antiracist is to eliminate any beauty standard based on skin and eye color, hair texture, facial and bodily features shared by groups. To be an antiracist is to diversify our standards of beauty like our standards of culture or intelligence, to see beauty equally in all skin colors, broad and thin noses, kinky and straight hair, light and dark eyes. To be an antiracist is to build and live in a beauty culture that accentuates instead of erases our natural beauty.
So your homework question number two is from page 113:
What are some current examples of the antiracist perspective of eliminating beauty standards based on skin, eye color, hair texture, facial and body features shared by groups? What are some current examples of this happening now?
[Johann Joachim Winckelmann wrote,] “A beautiful body will be the more beautiful the whiter it is.”
The slaveholder’s philosophy extended this further: a body will be all the more superior the whiter it is—an enslaved body will be closer to the slaveholder the whiter it is. […]
Some enslavers considered Dark people more perfect than the so-called human mule, or mulatto. The biracial “hybrid” is “a degenerate, unnatural offspring, doomed by nature to work out its own destruction,” [wrote Josiah Nott.]
And I put a note here because it’s so—and this is from 1843—and I said, “My question here is how did these biracial hybrids come to be? This is a product of rape.”
So it’s again Black women not owning their bodies in this whole Sally Hemings myth that she was his lover. She was his property, she could not say no. And so you have slaveholders and their, you know, sons or whatever raping Black women and their offsprings being seen as unnatural, “doomed by nature to work out its own destruction.”
As if these women had a choice, as if these children had a choice. Again white supremacy puts the onus not on—because whiteness is always the hero or the victim, it is never the villain—so when you have these mulatto children, these biracial children that are the result of being raped, then it is not the slaveholder who is the villain, he is the victim. And these black and brown, these mulatto children are the issue.
Some abolitionists framed biracial light people as “tragic mulattos,” imprisoned by their “one drop” of “Black blood.”
And then goes into these different like, Harriet Beecher Stowe, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”… I mean, this stuff has been in our faces and been indoctrinated in us in what is considered—because “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” I’m sure everybody read that, but then you have books by Black authors that are banned. So this takes you to a whole ‘nother conversation about—again—who gets to determine what is valuable, who gets to determine what narrative gets to move forward.
And I want to speak to this quickly because this also, I see, we see this on Twitter a lot where we are moving forward, we are challenging people’s perspectives. And when there are consequences, the narrative changes. The consequences, the narrative, it becomes, “Oh, it’s because we didn’t like this person’s political views.” I don’t even know this person’s political views, I could care less about this person’s political views. At this moment they’re on Twitter espousing something that’s harmful, their views have nothing to do with their pol—well, it’s rooted in white supremacy and their political views are usually rooted in white supremacy, so it’s all connected.
But at this moment they’re saying or doing something in the tech community that we’re calling and we’re challenging. So let’s not allow these individuals to change, shift the narrative like that, to water these things down to these one instances as if we’re hysterical and just nonsensical, and we’re just being over the top.
On page 116:
[Edward Byron Reuter made] Light people a sort of racial middle class, below white people and above Dark people.
On page 117:
Either racist policies or Dark inferiority explains why Light people were wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Dark people were in 1920.
We’re talking—this is talking about W.E.B. DuBois, ‘cause his “Talented Tenth” were all light-skinned people except for one, and he shifted his, and saw inherent white supremacist backing on segregationist backings behind what he was doing, or his beliefs at the time.
And then on page 118:
In his 1988 film School Daze, Spike Lee satirized his experiences in the late 1970s at historically Black Moorhouse College as a battle between Dark-skinned “jigaboos” and the Light-skinned “wannabes.”
In the 1980s, Light children were adopted first, had higher incomes, and were less likely to be trapped in public housing and prisons. “The lighter the skin, the lighter the sentence” became a popular antiracist saying as the era of mass incarcerations surged in the 1990s.
So this is your assignment—number 3—from page 118. So:
If you have Netflix, I need you to watch the first season of the “Dear White People” series that’s on Netflix. And just sit back and watch.
And this, I should have had, I wanted to have a content warning at the beginning of this episode because—or definitely at this point—because when I want you to watch, it’s definitely not to pass judgement on Black culture. I’m not having you watch it for that. I’m having you watch it so that you can see how we’re not having the same experiences, and how you are complicit in the creation of these systems. You benefit from the creation of these systems.
So understand why you are watching these movies, these shows and these movies. It’s not to pass judgement or to think you’ve become some expert on the Black experience, which you will never have, it is so you can see that we are not having the same experience, that you are complicit, and that you benefit unfairly from this colorism that is within the Black community.
So, if you have Netflix, watch the first season of Dear White People. If you have Amazon, watch either the movie “School Daze” or “Dear White People,” I think they’re both $2.99 and $3.99 on Amazon Prime. But watch those—watch one, both, I don’t care—but watch one of these shows. And you know why you’re watching ’em. OK.
So, on page 119 I highlighted:
Skin-bleaching products were raking in millions for U.S. companies. In India, “fairness” creams topped $200 million in 2014. Today, skin lighteners are used by 70 percent of women in Nigeria; 35 percent in South Africa; 59 percent in Tongo; and 40 percent in China, Malaysia, the Philippines, and South Korea.
And my note is, “No, anti-Blackness isn’t just in the US,” ‘cause I get that all the time. People are like, “Oh, what are you talking about?” because this is in our companies, tech companies, in our tech communities, in our tech events worldwide. Anti-Blackness has been a global export.
Some white people have their own skincare “addiction” to reach a post racial ideal: tanning. […] Surveys show that people consider tanned skin—the replica color of Light people—more attractive than naturally pale skin and Dark skin.
And we’re gonna end there because that tells you something about the psyche of white supremacy. It is damned if you do, damned if you don’t. So white people are tanning themselves because they want to replicate Light skin, but these Light-skinned individuals are considered to be “human mules,” “mulatos,” “denigrated, unnatural offspring.”
So all of it is fucked up. Not… it’s like, white supremacy is designed to have everyone hate themselves. Whites, Lights, Darks; it’s… there’s no person in white supremacy, even the white men who sit atop of it, they are always anxious and angry and worried about who’s the next white man who’s gonna take their place, or where they fit in the hierarchy of whiteness among white men.
This system is fuckin’ fucked for all of us. No one is getting out of this shit unscathed. We’re all harmed by this, so it takes all of us to do the work to dismantle this shit so that generations from now they won’t be dealing with this shit. And it’s not through fuckin’ inbreeding—I mean breeding out the races. It’s because—and biracial people will tell you they still deal with white supremacy, so that is not gonna save us. We need to deal with the systems of white supremacy so that we all can fucking breathe.
So that’s the show for the day, have a wonderful day, goodbye.
How to Be An Antiracist Ep. 9
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