When people think of discrimination, they think in terms of blacks and whites. In reality, African-Americans — men and women — face discrimination based on the shade of their skin. The reasoning behind this is that expectations of light-skinned blacks are much higher because they appear less menacing than their darker-skinned counterparts. Thus, they’re afforded the higher status. We see this manifest in politics, showbiz, pop culture, etc. A large chunk of prominent African-Americans, from politicians to news anchors, are light-skinned enough to pass for white.
Light-skinned is positively tied to job opportunities, income, and social status. On the flip side, dark-skinned African-Americans are more likely to receive longer prison terms. It’s always been that way. It goes back to the days of slavery when light-skinned slaves were treated more kindly than dark-skinned slaves. We’re reminded again and again, even as we mark MLK Day.
But worse than the skin tone discrimination from non-blacks is the colorism battle within the African-American community. For recent proof of black-on-black bias, check out this party flier that blatantly pits light-skinned black women against dark-skinned black women. The idea originated from Twitter, following a hashtag battle between #teamlightskin and #teamdarkskin. Now club promoters have decided to turn it into a party. They’re calling it the “Most Anticipated Party Of The Year.”
It’s not enough that study after study has shown that light-skinned black job applicants enjoy a distinct advantage over their dark-skinned counterparts. It’s not enough that budding Sherlock Holmes types in Caucasian households can now decide if a kid is “good” or “bad” based on skin color. No, it’s not enough to be hated by others. We must also institute homegrown bias within our own community to spice things up.
What would Martin Luther King Jr., a prominent dark-skinned African-American, say about the colorism battle? I can’t speak for Dr. King, but he’ll probably shake his head and say that we’re our own worst enemy. As Pogo so finely put it in 1971, “we have met the enemy and he is us.”