Recent controversy about race and now, an Oprah-sponsored dialogue about the crippling conception of colorism, led to this response. Sometime, somewhere as a generation, we have reveled in the comfort of a simple aspiration. We are lost in the desire to promote the fight for what is right and what it wrong, but not stand on the front lines. A defining moment in time has come where we are more satisfied with the propanda of a promise rather than fulfilling its divine purpose.
Firstly, issues of race, specifically Paula Deen's recent controversy surrounding her admitted use of racially insensitive language, are nothing new. To assume that nobody, whether a celebrity or not, uses inappropriate or marginalizing language is irrational. The truth is as a nation we do not have a progressive enough grasp on the truths and ideals of diversity. Individually? Yes. Concentrated communities? Perhaps. But as a nation, the notion of diversity and equality is polluted by popular culture, social media and inadequate advocacy. One of the more striking aspects of her controversy is what it suggests about how the black experience is perceived
In a clip from "Times Talks" a NY Times-sponsored dialogue on race relations from last year, Deen spoke about a black man who was a part of her life (she did not specify in what way) was "as black as that board" as if to suggest friendship and interaction with blacks, or any minority race, is proof of non-prejudice beliefs. Her remarks alone were problematic.
As a country, we need to stop thinking that having a diverse friendship palette is enough to blur the lines of racism. As a young girl, some of my first friends were not black. I was surrounded by White and many Asian children. Although I was able to recognize cultural and social differences between us, I was never encouraged to separate myself from them in order to safely be understood as black. There is no doubt about it, I spent much of my time defending myself to white friends who thought I was the social exception to what they saw on TV based on their understanding of my socio-economic background and education. I had no problem letting them know that what they were recognizing was a major class difference that they wanted to label as a racial difference.
Embracing racially insensitive 'compliments' about the grade of my hair, style of dress and my ability to speak with proof of adequate education was not something I was comfortable with, and as a young black woman surrounded by white authority, I absolutely let that be known. Getting to know someone and engaging in their life experiences is how we can the endless journey to transcend the ignorant perceptions about race.
Nonetheless, somewhere along the way, we became satisfied with just trying. What began as a fight for justice in all senses, not just race, has somehow become settled and reached a platform of lifeless aspirations.
Marrying the idea of racial controversy with Oprah's premiere of Dark Girls on OWN last night sparked another deep dialogue on this country and the black community's perception of race. I encourage you to view the documentary for yourself and shape your own opinion of the stories that were shared about the harshness of colorism. But my main response is to the response to this documentary via social media.
Most of the responses I read came from black people viewing the documentary and few who were not. The most striking tweets were actually simplifying the dialogue to make it seem as if it was more about who was attractive and who was not, without regard to color. The problem with that simplification is that is completely dismisses the historical valuation and effects of colorism and its detriments. There are millions of women who, without the pressure to be one complexion or another, who are secure with themselves. The comments that limited the documentary to being simply about who is pretty and who is not, only furthered the stereotype for exclusivity.
You're either in or out. Without the proper space to promote what I call "the good stuff," the things that make up a person's interior self, there will never be room for popular culture to process that Tika Sumpter is just as worthy an actress as Zoe Saldana.
The pop culture hemisphere only responds to what to we consume. If we are what we eat socially, what exactly are you digesting?
Security and self-esteem, however, in no way eliminate the residue of racism, colorism or discrimination. What we have to remember is that the truth that Gabrielle Union exposed in the interview before Dark Girls aired on Oprah's Next Chapter (along with Phylicia Rashad, Alfre Woodard, and Viola Davis) is the issue of lighter skin women and darker skin women is not only perpetuated but celebrated. Perhaps the only escape really is self-love and being your sister's keeper. Because without sustaining the next woman, without acknowledging her beauty from the inside out, we have no space to create a dialogue for progression because we will be too preoccupied with tearing one another down.
The truth is, unless you are willing to engage, unless you have shared in the pain of anyone -- not just blacks, who have been socially assaulted by such thoughts and words, the conversation about race will seem as redundant as Black History Month. In which case, you have assisted in the status quo of racism and social injustice, worldwide.
How I ended my social media engagement on the topic? "I'm brown and beautiful and proud, period."