Guide Skin Color: The Shame of Silence

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The term does not appear until It is significant that an attempt to define this phenomenon came from black womanist theory, a field of scholarship that attempts to link the knotty legacies of race, gender, exploitation and self-actualization. And it makes sense that Walker would deem colorism worthy of study since its effect is keenly felt by black women due to its ties to perceived attractiveness, femininity and sexuality.

But what had kept black people from naming it for so long, and what keeps us from talking about it now? The history of this denial was a driving question for me. Colorism is not just an American phenomenon. Skin bleaching cream is sold in majority-black or people of color countries throughout the world. In text chains that started as check-ins about how to navigate life as writers, we talked about the expectations of performing gratitude and overworking, and we each began to link this to our experiences as dark-skinned women in our respective communities.

We talked about who was respected for their craft, who was deemed a literary darling, and who was not. If white people disappeared from the planet tomorrow, colorism would still exist in our communities, and that is maybe the most painful part. To try to answer this question, I began to research the roots of colorism in the US. As far as I can tell, it starts, like so much of our culture, in the system of chattel slavery. In the US, unlike in other systems of slavery in other time periods, to be a slave meant you were legally a nonperson — unable to enter into legal contracts like marriage or land ownership, and not considered a citizen.

Whiteness meant that blackness meant a person was property. Slavery was inherited, and whether or not you were considered a slave was dependent on the status of your mother. This system ensured that white male slave owners who had children with the black women they enslaved contributed to their own wealth. Under this system, proximity to whiteness could increase your chances for freedom. In the US, our current understanding of colorism, though, stems from the decades directly after slavery, when everyone was theoretically free and a citizen regardless of race.

This meant the amount of color in skin, not just skin color, became paramount for whites to maintain social and economic control. This is not to suggest that during slavery there was some sort of pan-racial understanding of color. The most famous example of this is the history of the creole communities of New Orleans, Louisiana , and Charleston, South Carolina — spaces where the descendants of black enslaved women and white slave owners could establish their own communities as free people of color.

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This leeway gradually disappeared in the latter half of the 19th century, as legalized segregation hardened into the daily realities of every American. As more black people obtained freedom after the civil war, and began establishing newspapers — vibrant spaces to define and keep record of what it meant to be this new thing, a black citizen of the US — some of the African American newspapers struggled to call colorism exactly what it was.

In Aristocrats of Color: The Black Elite, , released in , author Willard B Gatewood notes that darker-skinned reporters pointed out that black churches were often divided by color and that political positions and government positions were won based on complexion. In contrast, those in the upper classes insisted that there was no preference at play, pointing to the existence of working-class and poor light-skinned people as proof that color did not directly correlate to an unfair advantage.

The debate, mired in frustration and denial, mirrors conversations around colorism and privilege today. Both Burroughs and Nelson were schoolteachers, but Burroughs was denied a place in DC public schools because she was dark-skinned, while Nelson flourished. Famous for marrying the much darker-skinned poet Paul Laurence Dunbar, Dunbar Nelson identified as both an African American author and activist and was deeply conflicted around the subject of color. She did attempt to write about her complicated feelings; in her essay Brass Ankles she described the persecution she believed she experienced from other children growing up and from dark-skinned teachers in her workplace.

But the essay was unpublished — Dunbar Nelson did not want to publish it under her own name and black journals refused to publish it under a pseudonym.

I’m Darker Than My Daughter. Here’s Why It Matters.

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Why black people discriminate among ourselves: the toxic legacy of colorism

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Not ours, but His. For these "glimpses" I wait.

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What I carry that is hidden and is a gift to others is any of my perception, experience, and wisdom that I don't express and openly share with others. The urgency of expressing those hidden gifts is that my perception, experience, and wisdom don't last, they typically have a dream like quality to them in that they evaporate quickly, so it is important for me to express and share them when they are present.

Another urgency of expressing those hidden gifts is that they are special in that I am the only one who has and ever had and ever will have my specific unique viewpoint, and my life is short, and the opportunity to express and share my viewpoint is brief. Coming to learn what I have just said results in my appreciating my unique gifts and realizing the urgency in expressing them rather than hiding them.

I've hidden too much for too long and it is important that I express and share rather than hide my gifts. That is my responsibility and my privilege. So imagine when you wake. Instead of relying on the alarm clock to frighten the more secret honest world away, begin to wake naturally by connecting to the biological circadian rhythm, especially in the first few moments of the very grey light of the northern hemispheric winter day off.

There is this glorious sense of gratefulness upon waking. After a night of sleep, for most of us, we can wake slowly and become aware, albeit fleetingly, in that suspended state of wonder and thrill, hopefully within a cozy safe now physical space. Most of our glimpses of enlightenment poof into the atmosphere, though, as soon as we enter into this dream of experience, here. The moments of waking are the mind, body, spirit connection that can be accessed in an extraordinary Savasana experience the pose of rest after a yoga practice.

Of course, is my response, and when pressed to use words to describe what they mean, they have none. The brilliant radiance from their true essence, however, reveals all. Ah, bliss.

What a wonderful journey for them. Young people hunger for connection with what they experienced when they were little ones, and open. They want to talk about this.

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They delight in remembering, and crave validation of their intuition. Many times they comment I haven't felt like this since I was five. They require silent quiet moments to connect again which can be hard to find in the world that is increasingly technologically distracting, and in many parts of the world, dangerous. Thank you for sharing the writing. I look forward to waking in the morning…one more time. No country in the world today shows any but patronizing regard for the weak. Western democracy, as it functions today, is diluted to fascism. True democracy cannot be worked by 20 men sitting at the center.

It has to be worked from below by the people of every village. I have not had felt it deeply even though I strongly think I am a part of the universe that needs to be expressed.. I have recently written about: skin color: the shame of silence. I am white. My parents were born in Germany and I have strong anti-fascist feelings.

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The Nazis killed 6 million Jews. I believe my relatives in Germany at the time could do little about it because of the coercive troops of Hitler. I also have not felt it deeply but I have strong thoughts about a threat to justice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, as Martin Luther King has said. I also believe our country is moving closer to fascism. Our schools and universities have become so enmeshed and specialized in training for jobs that we often graduate with many blind spots to our growing fascism. Thank you for the opportunity to respond to this excellent work.

Warm and kind regards to everyone..