Yesha Callahan

“So, What Are You?” The Question Light-Skinned Black Women Say They’re Always Asked

 

There’s a safety in being able to categorize you or categorize a person” “You can assign all of your preconceived ideas about who this person is: the type of person they are, what kind of behavior you can expect from them — only if they know what you are.” — Tatyana Ali

“Before they ask my name, the question was: ‘So, what are you?” — Nova Browning Rutherford

“”African-American. I don’t discuss it. I’m not one to talk about ‘Oh, my grandmother and my grandfather’ — I don’t do that.” — Angelique Francis

“What are you?” When O’Brien responded that she is black, she says the sales person refused to believe her. “She said, ‘No, no, you’re not black. Because black people are thieves. So, what are you?'” “I remember thinking, ‘Wow, I love this coat,'” O’Brien says. “And now I have to put this coat back.” — Soledad O’Brien

Check out Bill Duke talking ‘Light Girls’ and skin color bias in the Black community:

Source: Huffington Post

Will you be tuning in to “Light Girls” Documentary tonight at 9 pm est on OWN?

  1. January 19, 2015 - Reply

    Excuse me for saying this but, I never considered comedian Kim Whitley to be light-skinned. Why is she in this documentary? Light in comparison to whom?

    • January 19, 2015 - Reply

      @K.C.

      @K.C.: I know right, i don’t get that either and Tatiyana Ali i never considered her light skinned and Diahnne Carroll. I am not getting light skinned from any of these women.

      • January 19, 2015 - Reply

        @Mary Burrell

        I agree with you.

      • January 19, 2015 - Reply

        @Mary Burrell

        Also, we have to always promote love in our consciousness. Love is a very powerful, righteous force. Irrespective of our hues, we are one black people. In order for us to end the evil of colorism, then we have to have honest discussions and dialogues. Also, we have stand up for the beauty of blackness in general. Our blackness is beautiful.

        • January 19, 2015 - Reply

          @truthseeker2436577@yahoo.com

          Let the church say, “AMEN!” brother.

          • January 19, 2015 - Reply

            @Noirluv45

            Thank you Sister.

          • January 20, 2015 - Reply

            @Noirluv45

            Amen!

      • January 20, 2015 - Reply

        @Mary Burrell

        I agree, I was confused when I saw Diahann Carroll because I always thought she looked like my brown aunties. Tatiana Ali was always darker to me, with straight hair. She came off as a dark Indian girl more than a light-skinned black girl to me. I thought the documentary was a bit of a mess. I appreciate the dialogue but I thought it was all over the place. Also, I noticed in the Dark Girl documentary, they did not discuss light girls picking on dark girls but in this one, it was all about the violence from dark girls onto light girls. Anyway, I guess Bill Duke found his calling.

        • January 20, 2015 - Reply

          @K.C.

          I think you just hit on something! Straight dark hair gives the overall perception of Indian. Therefore, when a person who could be considered on the lighter shade of brown side has dark silky hair, we assign them to another race altogether.
          [not trying to shoot here, but shots might accidentally get fired]
          Is this the reason for the fascination behind lace wigs? It’s a way to escape the perception of being a black woman? If your hair texture is not discernible, then, your race becomes ambiguous…and so do the stereotypes that people have at first glance.
          The downfall of not being perceived as Black:
          Soledad O’Brien doesn’t HAVE to tell people she’s Black. She doesn’t HAVE to be stereotyped at all. It seems as if because she doesn’t get perceived as Black, she escapes the initial racism. However, not looking Black is a curse too, because people say racist things in your presence that they might not say if they knew you were Black.

          • January 20, 2015 - Reply

            @Love.tweet.joi

            Black people know Black people when we see them.
            It does not matter how light the skin, how silky the hair, how blue the eye, how perfect the diction. There’s always something Black about Black people.

            When I see a Black woman wearing a wig, my first thought is that she’s bald underneath…not that she’s of another ethnicity.

            • January 20, 2015 - Reply

              @fancycoils

              Yeah…you’re right.

            • January 21, 2015 - Reply

              @fancycoils

              Word. I have seen some very white looking Negroes and it was only after shooting a second look that I realized it. Especially after they gave me that look of acknowledgement back.

              • January 27, 2015 - Reply

                @D1Mind

                LOL @ the nod 😉

          • January 20, 2015 - Reply

            @Love.tweet.joi

            Ding ding ding ding ding!!! Pushing back my chair and clapping. Yes. Btw, Soledad looks like a lot of black girls with two black parents I grew up with. I would not necessarily call her biracial if I met her. Just saying. So many variations in our gene pool. We are some fascinating people. You should see my family. Oh lawd, so many different looks and shades, it’s crazy. Black is beautiful 🙂

        • January 20, 2015 - Reply

          @K.C.

          ‘I noticed in the Dark Girl documentary, they did not discuss light girls
          picking on dark girls but in this one, it was all about the violence
          from dark girls onto light girls.’

          Figures. Does he even realise he’s playing right into the devil’s (as it were) hands, here? Way to re-affirm and re-inscribe stereotypes, there.

          • January 21, 2015 - Reply

            @Jo 'Mama' Besser

            @Jo’Mama’Besser: I know that’s what I thought

        • January 22, 2015 - Reply

          @K.C.

          Bill needs to be stopped. His documentaries both lack substance (historical context, future hopes, etc).

          • January 22, 2015 - Reply

            @Ejira Films

            I haven’t seen either of the films, so I can’t give a full assessment, but having read what I’ve read and having heard what I’ve heard, his films seem pretty facile and anodyne. He seems to be totally unaware of his own biases and so (as per my statement above) he ends up showing that he passively accepts the white supremacist praise and condemn pattern as it pertains to interpreting the dynamics between women and girls of different hues: praise the light, chide the dark. He has boxed in lighter-skinned women as delicate damsels in distress and more damagingly, completely accepted the Bitter, Angry, Irrational, Mean, Ignorant and Jealous Dark Women narrative. Perhaps, light-skinned women are unfortunately ‘helpless’ within that dated framework, but the problem isn’t just about a case of light needing to be protected, but of it being deserving of protection, which is a consideration simply not extended to darker-skinned women–as his work illustrates since he’s following suit. So, dark-skinned women are so hateful that they won’t even support other black women is the message, but it makes sense that they they’re so crummy in their attitudes: dark skin is ugly and they are condemned to it forever. He doesn’t need to say it, I don’t think he even knows that he’s saying it, but he is absolutely saying it. He may personally like dark skin, but he lives in a society that doesn’t and that corrosive influence shows unconsciously.

            Does he explore any of the reasons as to why some dark girls have, or now do mistreat light girls beyond the general awfulness assumed to be driving the very existence of dark girls stereotypes? How are you going to criticise The Man when (unbeknownst to you, likely) you’re his right hand man? All black is beautiful, but he surely isn’t going to ignore the incontrovertible fact that there is still light skin privilege, is he? In speaking about the way that dark girls gang up (so to speak) on light girls, he’s not going to ignore the history of self-segregation practised and encouraged by some light girls, a self-importance learned from cradle days on, is he? He’s not going to ignore the scorn that some light girls have shown other girls for looking ‘too black’, is he? He’s not going to forget about paper bags and an emphasis placed on the Creole part of someone’s heritage, is he? He’s not going to ignore the praise heaped upon the ‘lucky’ light girls (if she has ‘good hair’ that’s a double jackpot) or the practise of ‘passing’, is he? He’s not going to ignore the masculinity that has been ascribed to dark skin, is he? He’s not going to overlook the masses of men of all races who have been taught to flock to light skin and mock dark skin and how these men too have damaged the self-perception of dark girls while reinforcing the hatred of it to each other, is he?

            Look, my mum never bought into the ‘fairer is better’ (even though that’s exactly what ‘fairer’ means) lie, but she’s ‘high yellow’ and that was all it took to make her popular in high school, so he can’t act like the ‘she won the lottery and I want be next to a winner’ attitude doesn’t doesn’t exist, right? If he doesn’t explore the ways in which BOTH light girls and dark girls have hurt each other, his work is rubbish, potentially harmful and fit for the bin. The sad truth is that all thing being equal, all things aren’t equal, and it’s intellectually, culturally, politically, economically socially and historically dishonest to pretend that they are. I hope I’m wrong about him, but it sounds like he botched it, which doesn’t surprise me even slightly.

            Whew!

      • January 20, 2015 - Reply

        @Mary Burrell

        *Itching to bring up the paper bag test. Resists urge. Continues reading comments*

        • January 20, 2015 - Reply

          @Love.tweet.joi

          Pulling out the paper bag I got from the liquor store. You have five minutes to finish the paper bag test. When I say stop, please pull your arm out of the bag.

    • January 20, 2015 - Reply

      @K.C.

      Kim Whitley, I considered her light skinned.

      • January 20, 2015 - Reply

        @Love.tweet.joi

        Really? I know so many black women her shade who don’t call themselves light but I guess I’d have to see her in person. To me, she is not like Alicia Keys, Beyonce or Vanessa Williams light. She is more like a darker Kerry Washington. Is Kerry considered light? I guess so then. It all depends on who we are comparing them too I guess.

        • January 20, 2015 - Reply

          @K.C.

          Lol. No in my mind, Kerry is brown. Ha! My friend even asked me if Kim Whitley was in it.

          • January 21, 2015 - Reply

            @Love.tweet.joi

            Thank you. Kerry is def brown to me. Gabrielle Union is dark brown. Lupita is dark. Alek Wek is darker than Lupita. See not that simple. lol.

          • January 22, 2015 - Reply

            @Love.tweet.joi

            Whuck? I didn’t know Kerry was considered to be light. No. She’s my shade and I’ve always considered that to be quite dark.

            • January 22, 2015 - Reply

              @Jo 'Mama' Besser

              LOL not to me. LOL @whuck.

            • February 6, 2015 - Reply

              @Jo 'Mama' Besser

              You considered Kerry Washington to be “quite dark”? Really? I guess to you, actual dark-skinned girls don’t exist… Go figure.

              • February 6, 2015 - Reply

                @Rachel

                Please read my other comments on this thread, you are mistaken. I have no interest in put-downs and baiting: giving or taking.

  2. January 19, 2015 - Reply

    I will be missing this.

    • January 20, 2015 - Reply

      @Mary Burrell

      No, I wanna watch it. Dark Girls was so depressing and TRAGIC. Especially when the little girls are choosing the white dolls OVER and OVER again. After I returned from Suicide watch [okay not really], I figure I would like to see if Light Girls makes me just as sad. It probably won’t.

  3. January 20, 2015 - Reply

    So funny because there is a guy at work that Ihave chatted with a lot. I want to say he is black or bi-racial but, I refuse to ask even though I want to know.

    • January 20, 2015 - Reply

      @Brad

      I think I learned on The Cosby Show that it was rude to ask that question. I learned a lot from that show.

      Now I’m sad. Dangit Bill!!

      • January 20, 2015 - Reply

        @Love.tweet.joi

        Yeap, that was a great episode and it was actually a teaching episode.

        Not preachy but, teaching how rude that could be.

      • January 20, 2015 - Reply

        @Love.tweet.joi

        @love.tweet.joi:which episode was that on the Cosby show?

        • January 20, 2015 - Reply

          @Mary Burrell

          I cant find it! I thought it was the one with Mrs. Westlake but it wasnt. They have dinner guests over…urgh.

          • January 21, 2015 - Reply

            @Love.tweet.joi

            “@@Love.tweet.joi:Thanks

        • January 20, 2015 - Reply

          @Mary Burrell

          Season 5 ep 26
          Professor Grayson

  4. January 24, 2015 - Reply

    Black people are the most embarrassing group of people. Asians are advancing, Hispanics are advancing and Caucasians are still dominating.

    And we, well we are just making documentaries about skin color and interracial dating.

    • February 1, 2015 - Reply

      @Darrell

      I get your point, but you’re being a bit over dramatic. You can not ignore that colorism may/can/does play a part in why our communities are in the shape that it’s in (high STD rates, out of wed lock birth rates and ect). Also, our issues are far more complex in comparison to the Asian and Hispanic communites; Black people are still in mental slavery. Although it’s unclear with this documentary here, but any effort made towards eradicting/highlighting/educating black people of the damage/impact/effect of colorism should be welcomed in my book.

  5. January 25, 2015 - Reply

    It’s 2015, and people are still talking about Dark-skinned this, Light-skinned that. Davuq!

    • February 1, 2015 - Reply

      @ZORINO

      I agree! Colorism has been in style far too long. Can’t wait for the day when we as black people eradicate it in our community.

  6. March 20, 2015 - Reply

    Yep

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: