What Colorism And Anti-Blackness Looks Like Throughout The African Diaspora Through The Lens Of A Bicultural Diasporan

colorism

Being black is dope but navigating blackness can be difficult. Colorism and anti-blackness are alive and well in 2017 and a recent article on Sammy Sosa gave me pause. It’s no secret that Sosa has been bleaching his skin. He spoke about it on Primer Impacto – a Spanish-language news magazine television show on Univision in 2009.

His photo resurfaced and heads went in. Previously, I was guilty of laughing at the ridiculousness of his new skin color. This time- the images saddened me. I’ve been in a pensive mood lately. The crux of the matter is that colorism was birthed from white supremacy. As black diasporans, we have all been affected by it in some way. However, colorism is inherently different depending on from which country we originate.

Meghan, whose mother is black, seems to exclusively date and marry white men. And that’s fine but I’m reluctant to jump on the sister girl bandwagon when upon superficially looking at her history, she appears to covet whiteness. Regardless, scores of black women are singing the praises of the future “Princess” although she won’t be a princess.
Cardi has said some problematic shit regarding darkskinned black women in the past referring to them as “roaches”. She brushed it off as term used in the Bronx to reference being poor. I’ve been all up and through the BX and have never heard that word used. I’ve heard other terms never “roach”. But okay, Becalis.
colorism

In contrast, Princess Ariana Austin (Makonnen), a sister from DC, married Prince Joel Makonnen of Ethiopia. He is the great-grandson of Haile Selassie. That’s a big fucking deal but there was virtually no online mention let alone any social media fanfare about the fairytale nuptials.

 Azealia Banks was “cancelled” by the black community a little while ago. The rapper/ singer, whose promising career has been overshadowed by a series of problematic statements, wasn’t given the same grace or revelry as Cardi. She was dragged throughout social media. She is still dragged and it seems like no matter how hard she attempts to redeem herself; black folks still aren’t entertaining her.

We will give a number of excuses of why Cardi and Meghan deserve our best wishes but will fail to be honest about Princess Ariana’s and Banks’ exclusion from the black joy party here in these United States of America.

But that’s what colorism looks like here.

*Note: I use the terms “regular black” and “exotic black” to establish an aesthetic for blackness which we know already exists*

 Again, there is an overt preference for lighter skinned blacks that shifts depending on which part of the US we live. Living in Connecticut and Detroit, it’s not as blatant as it is here in the South or even the West Coast. In fact, my own daughter had never experienced colorism until we moved to Florida. She isn’t what folks would call an “exotic black”. For all intents and purposes, she’s a “regular looking” light-skinned (not mixed looking but what Americans would call “high yellow” sans the soft, curly hair) black girl. She rocks a bushy afro. Nobody would assume one of her parents to be white.

In the 7th grade, a group of her classmates or “friends” were taking photos and when she tried to join in, she was told that this was a “darkie only” picture. Her peers excluded her because she didn’t pass their complexion test. Needless to say, she was pissed and understandably so. She hadn’t ever experienced this in any other place.

And as her mother, I couldn’t relate. Among U.S. blacks, I fall smack dab in the middle. I’m literally on the bottom rung of light-skinned and at the top rung of brown on down. Hell, even my dark-skinned sister has not been affected by colorism here because she has long hair, a fine nose and slanted eyes. All I could do was expound on the effects of white supremacy in this country. Oh- and I told her to find new “friends”. I’m not about to tolerate other folks’ chirren mistreating mine. Sounds shitty but it is what it is.

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Colorism among black diasporans outside of North America looks completely different.

Unlike the US, where black people and our various complexions are still seen and heard; there is a complete erasure of blackness primarily in Spanish-speaking Caribbean countries and Latin America and each country has its own color caste system. Countries like Cuba, Colombia, Dominican Republic and Brazil ,which has THE highest population of black folks in this hemisphere, house the largest number of Africans brought here for slave labor. Yet in almost every outlet la gente negra is nowhere to be found. Although these cultures are steeped in blackness in almost every aspect including music, language, religion and food, you will rarely see a black face in the spotlight.

Also note- 95% of the Africans brought here via the Transatlantic Slave Trade were dispersed throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.

Considering Brazil was the last country in the “New World” to end slavery in 1888 and Puerto Rico had its first black person hit the island in 1509, you’d think these ignorant fucks would stop acting brand new when they see black folks speak Spanish or Portuguese.

Even the faces and voices of the “black struggle” among us are “black lite”. Latinos who have half a black great-grandparent and maybe a slight curl can co-opt blackness and be “afrolatino” and these payasos will eat it up. It’s the reason why “Latina Magazine” features Rosario Dawson and Mariah Carey as afrolatinas.

And these same latinas will be the most racist and anti-black ass people walking.

Based on representation in the media and entertainment, people would think that black people didn’t exist. And in the minds of the whites in these countries- we don’t. It has caused a generational, deep seated self-hatred among black citizens in these places. It’s why many of us marry white to “mejorar la raza” or to better/ improve the race. Blackness- PERIOD is not desirable.

I consider myself reasonably attractive in any place. Where as heads may flip for me in the States, I’m not the boogie this way. Literally, if there was an average white, dumpy rubia (blonde) and me on a dating show, I would not be selected. Not only would I not be selected but my negrura (blackness) would be watered down as fuck. I’m not a passable negra. I have very defined African features. Even with that said, I am a “trigueña” in Cuba and an “india oscura” in DR. Triguena is an olive-skinned person usually of indigenous descent. India oscura is a dark indigenous person. Clearly, I’m neither.

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SOY NEGRA. I’m black. In fact, I don’t have ANY indigenous blood at all. Not even a little bit. So the whole myth about all of us being a perfect trifecta of African, European, and Indigenous ancestry is complete bullshit.

Even when I refer to myself as “negra”, I am told that I’m not that dark. It’s anti-black as hell. Even prietos (super dark-skinned black folks) will cop to being “indios”.

My daughter is a light-skinned black girl in the States. In Cuba, she’s considered a mulata. A mulata has one black parent and one white parent. Both of her parents are BLACK and she has 3 black grandparents and a mixed abuelo por el lado de su papi.

In DR, mi negrita is called “jabaita” which means light with “pelo malo” and African features. Still not black though. It’s as if it’s a mystery from where her nappy hair and full lips came. And if you put her up against that same dumpy, white rubia, she will be sola. Because God forbid your children have any remnants of Africa in them.

 Imagine the number of black children in these places who hear that they are ugly, monos (monkeys) or vagos (bums) and combine that with never seeing any representation of blackness except for being a maid or a hooligan. Black folks are often referred to as vagos automatically in some of these countries.

This brings me back to Sammy Sosa. Now imagine a handsome, black Dominican man of Haitian-descent hating everything that made him dope. Think of the number of years he must have endured such cruel hatred and anti-black critiques. He married a white Dominican woman hoping to lighten up his children and they are still very much black. Sammy is even risking cancer to erase any trace of blackness he ever had. He doesn’t deserve to be dragged or ridiculed. He’s gotten that most of his life.

You see blackness is only a social construct when you are on the favorable end of the oppression or privilege. And in order to fight colorism and anti-blackness, we should know what we are up against on ALL sides. We need to become better at being more cognizant of the reasons why we are here in the first place- white supremacy. Keeping that in forefront of our minds will ensure that we won’t laugh at our brother’s self-hatred and we’ll be accountable for contributing further to the devastating effects of colonization and anti-blackness in our collective and separate communities.

K. Araújo, a native Detroiter, is a cross between Claire Huxtable, Rosie Pérez and Millie Jackson. Widow, professional dragger of filth and Mami to the dopest Ethiopian EVER, she is the Editor in Chief of “Negra With Tumbao” and a Staff Writer for “The Urban Twist”. Keka has been known to shake what her mama gave her, is the hell and high water, an expert salsera and cussologist with a penchant for the finer things in life and is and forever shall be- unapologetically black.

  • Tarik

    And none of his black teammates could help him: they were either Latino and didn’t see themselves as black, or they were US-born black and didn’t acknowledge him as black. See the comments about how there aren’t enough black players in MLB. So everyone has to do better.
    Same colorism problem with Lil Kim. Both looked better au naturel brown-skinned, but sadly couldn’t and still can’t see it.