PDA

View Full Version : Colorism and YA



Roly
05-20-2012, 12:40 AM
Not to revive an old topic, but I just read this article that (maybe not in the most...er... ~temperate~ terms - some of what she says I'm having trouble with) talks a bit about colorism. I think this is relevant to the way YA is today - biricial girls/brown girls, as it seems to me, are more accepted (in text and on covers) then dark skinned black girls who are closer to their African roots. I love to see brown girls of any shade getting love in the industry, but I do think there's a way we hierarchize shades in a way that teaches dark-skinned girls to hate themselves. I know I did, for a long time.

T.V, movies, music and books taught me that. And I fear they'll continue to teach our kids that.

http://www.womanist-musings.com/2011/06/rappers-and-colorism-wale-lil-wayne.html


And truly, let’s acknowledge that White Supremacy is exactly what most of the Black Diaspora has come to practice in our daily lives—from the epidemic bleaching of skin in Africa and Jamaica to the Western Black male celebrity’s intolerance for dark skinned mates to black men’s unbridled hatred for authentically Black children to the older black woman’s craving of grandbabies with “good hair” and mulatto images in place of the Black images we can’t stand—Blacks in general; worldwide—have been reduced to practicing an unspoken White Supremacy that is beyond bone deep; it’s to the soul. Yet we always want to deny it or make excuses and keep on committing the very atrocities against each other that we demonize Whites for. We are willing to kill our own mother (the image of our Black mother) just to be light skinned; just to have a perceived easier life. We are that rat-hearted and pathetic and the images in our art; our art—tell it all!



She seems to be targeting the 'black community,' and only targets our Eurocentric-society implicitly, but I think the way that society is structured in favor of whiteness not just via individual people, but structurally (ie: the gatekeepers, publishing music industry, casting directors, etc) needs to be put more into the forefront. I also don't like how she goes on to state the dark black girls who defend these type of men are the problem, because she's ignoring just how deep this learned self-hate can go. It's socialization. Blaming the victims is never a good idea. It's just wrong.

I don't know. I definitely love brown girl solidarity, but I wish we all would acknowledge that in this society, certain kind of brown girls are elevated against others. At the end of the day, the more African you are, the most disgusting; the whiter you are, the better - that's the message. Which doesn't bode well for some of us and our sense of self worth. But then, we're not even allowed to talk about it. We have to keep our mouths shut, or we're haters. It's enough to make you break down.

Most of the TV and movies I watch practice the But Not Too Black (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/ButNotTooBlack) rule (Revenge, Vampire Diaries, that one JJ Abrams Spies Show with the two half-black leads) especially for women, unless it's some stereotypical black role like the Mami. I'm glad we have Scandal and Person of Interest now this year (thank God) but we still have a long way to go. It seems like very book I've picked up that features prominent young black women, the authors always go out of their way to mention that they are biracial (Sarah R. Br3nnan, C@ssie C1@re etc) or 'brown' but not black (H0lly Bl2ck), and especially not dark black. I just don't get it.

Anyway, sorry for these incoherent ramblings. I hope I don't get pummeled because of this, as I often am when I bring up colorism. I'm not hating, I'm just stating something that I see is a problem and I hope we can address it together...a lot of young black girls like me are growing up hating themselves because their skin is too dark, and every bit of culture surrounding them tells them that they're too dark and therefore too ugly to be worth anything, to be desired, to be wanted, to matter. It hurts.

This is also a good article to read: http://bougieblackgirl.wordpress.com/2012/04/11/black-men-in-the-entertainment-industry-who-have-dissed-black-women-that-black-women-still-supportwarning-laced-with-madness-the-stupid-profanity-and-hella-colorism/



Lil Wayne
Beautiful black woman, I bet that b*tch look better red.” “…my daughter is the first and last dark skin child I’m having. The rest of my baby moms [are] light skinned chicks. I even got an Asian baby moms to make sure I have a daughter with good hair. Too bad we had a son.
Young Berg
I’m kinda racist…I don’t like dark butts…You know how some women prefer light skin men or dark skin men.It’s rare that I do dark butts – that’s what I call dark skinned women…I [don’t date women] darker than me.
I love the pool test. If you can jump in the pool exactly like you are and you don’t come out looking better than you looked before going in the pool – then that’s not a good look. Any woman that uses brown gel to set down her baby hair is not poppin.
Pilow the Don
…black women need to get their shit together, period, point black. And if you’re in denial of that, you are part of the problem.
Kanye West
Rolling with some light-skin chicks and some Kelly Rowlands.
If it wasn’t for race mixing there’d be no video girls. Me and most of our friends like mutts a lot. Yeah, in the hood they call ‘em mutts

FoamyRules
05-20-2012, 05:12 AM
Well, colorism has always been a problem within our society. Every time I hear someone bring up the issue (not you, I mean those who either complain about their skin color or complain about others) my head hurts.

It's a very complicated subject, that may never get better unless we, ourselves, do something about it.

RMG
05-20-2012, 07:20 PM
That's very interesting. I just have one or two things to say about this.

As you said, it's a rooted problem. Very complex and very politically ... delicate, shall we say?

I once met with one of my beta readers. She told her thoughts on the story, but after going through everything, I asked what she wasn't telling me. After some convincing, she reluctantly told me that maybe I should reconsider identifying one of my lead characters as black.

Now, she absolutely meant well, but come on! That's the kind of thing I refuse to do. I happen to think that we live in a multicultural society, and stories can't just happen with white people/close to white people. It's not realistic.

Now, I don't think those authors who half-incorporate ethnic characters into their works should be blamed. (and I say ethnic because the problem isn't limited to characters of African descent...) They're trying. It's something. Not enough, maybe, but something all the same. We all grew up seeing white heroes and heroines on TV, in movies, and in books.

This won't be changed overnight. But it'll change. Keep your head up. We'll get there.

Lady Goddess
05-20-2012, 07:47 PM
Oh honey I feel for you. As a light-skinned black woman I get told all the time that I'm beautiful just because I'm so light. I always get "And you're light skinned too!" as if that just adds to my beauty somehow. It really doesn't. Being light doesn't make me prettier than anyone else.

I think this mentality goes back to slavery, when generally, the light slaves served in the Big House, and the dark ones were out in the fields. (My mother frequently tells me if we were still slaves I'd be in the Big House, and the rest of my family would be out in the field somewhere doing manual labor.) I think that prejudice is somehow still ingrained in everyone, that light black people are better or more presentable than dark ones, or that light-skinned black people are somehow more acceptable and not as threatening as dark black people. That is simply not true.

I have a chocolate brown MC in one of my stories that I'm outlining - she's the color of a Hershey bar. (Mmm, now I want chocolate.) Her hair is blonde though and she's - well that's her in my avatar. She's just a few shades darker than that. Very strong, beautiful woman, very curvy and voluptuous. In fact, she's a sex symbol, along the lines of Marilyn Monroe. She embraces her beauty as a woman of color and uses it to her advantage. She's very confident, and it oozes out of her. I created her because that's the sort of black woman I want to read about: the kind I grew up admiring like my aunts and my mother. My story isn't YA because she's pushing 30 but maybe it ought to be.

Raventongue
05-20-2012, 09:48 PM
She's very confident, and it oozes out of her. I created her because that's the sort of black woman I want to read about: the kind I grew up admiring like my aunts and my mother. My story isn't YA because she's pushing 30 but maybe it ought to be.

As someone who reads very little YA, I think your story can do just as much good as-is. The older markets have similar problems with colorism, IMHO, but it doesn't seem to get as much attention as in YA.

Lady Goddess
05-21-2012, 12:19 AM
As someone who reads very little YA, I think your story can do just as much good as-is. The older markets have similar problems with colorism, IMHO, but it doesn't seem to get as much attention as in YA.

Hmm. I'm wondering about this. Not that I'm doubting what you say, mind you, but I wonder if people don't complain about older markets because "that's just the way it is."

Raventongue
05-21-2012, 01:45 AM
Hmm. I'm wondering about this. Not that I'm doubting what you say, mind you, but I wonder if people don't complain about older markets because "that's just the way it is."

I'm not entirely sure why there's less attention paid to it.

It could certainly be that they're thinking, "that's just the way it is". Definitely seems plausible. I had assumed it might be because people thought younger minds being exposed to it did more damage or something, but for all I know it could be something else entirely.

Kitty27
05-23-2012, 08:38 PM
Roly,I truly feel you.

It's bad enough to know the mainstream doesn't regard our beauty as a people but we've grown used to that. But to see it practiced within our own communities,there are no words. Slavery destroyed many folks psyche's and the effect of that field hand vs the house slave continues to this day.

I spoke on this in a post on YA highway and some people got pissed. Oh,damn well. If you aren't part of the AA community then you don't understand the crazed emphasis placed on light skin and the dreadful history of colorism, so you don't know what you are talking about and for many of them,their privilege blinded them to what I saw saying. It's gotten to the point that you hardly see a brown skinned woman anymore as well.

There is nothing wrong with having light skin or being biracial. Beauty comes in ALL shades but it becomes a problem when these same women are presented as the ONLY examples of Black female beauty. It becomes a problem when authors use a Biracial character as a stand in for a Black character because of the "Not Too Black" trope. I know the authors mean well but we see it for what it is and it's nothing but this trope being acted out. It is not some great attempt at diversity in our eyes. As Roly said,we see it repeatedly in books, movies and television.

There are AA readers who want to see a character that LOOKS like them. Not all of us are light skinned with curly hair. There are teen girls who have zero interest in reading about a Biracial character because they see this kind of appearance being presented as the ONLY way to look within our community and are already uninterested in the book from the get go. I repeat,they want a girl who looks like them. I know this from my own family.

Thank God Shonda Rimes had the power to cast Kerry Washington and present a Black woman as a lead character, Taraji Henson is on that CBS show and Lancome uses Arlenis Sosa. But where are the sisters with chocolate skin representatives? Viola Davis is stunning but what did she play? A Mammy. Red Tails completely removed Black women from the movie and it flopped. One thing about BW,we WILL use our economic power with no mercy if we feel offended. At the same time,we will also use it to boost something. "Think Like A Man" soared at the box office because Steve Harvey cast Black women in a range of tones and that pleased the audience. I could go for days about this mess.

ALL shades of beauty need to be recognized from our community. But we also have to realize what we praise,the mainstream notices and emulates because they think that is what we want to see. Sadly for many,it's true.

I agree with everything you are saying. Please disregard what these men are saying. 9 times out of ten,it's their self hatred and misogyny speaking. They don't want to see the features they hate in themselves reflected back at them and this avoid/hate Black women. Young Berg's career was destroyed, Polow The Don is a nobody now,Lil Wayne has fallen all the way off(The teens on Twitter ate his ass alive for those comments) and Kanye West is a known lunatic. Making these comments backfired on ALL of them,Roly.

It's up to Black writers to make changes and if we have to,self publish. That's a daunting prospect that's looking more and more appealing for many of us. We KNOW the audience for our books exist but publishing doesn't or refuses to believe that,which plays into the stubborn belief that we don't read. That's another subject I could rant about.

Publishing often says "Black" books in the YA market fail. Look at the MC as a very viable reason. Most Black teen girls that these books are aimed at do NOT resemble the idealized standard deemed acceptable by both the mainstream and Black community. When they see yet another book with yet another MC who looks nothing like them,the book is DONE for with them and they don't buy. I quite liked Jamie Reed's book,Living Violet. My teen cousins and their friends took one look and said "no,thanks",despite my praise and recommendation.

There's nothing wrong with having a Biracial or light skinned MC. I want to emphasize that. BUT there must be adequate representation of ALL skin tones and not seeing the same thing/trope repeatedly.

FoamyRules
05-23-2012, 09:44 PM
Kitty, that was an informative and well thought out response, brava :Trophy: I couldn't have said that better myself. Now, I admit I always have a biracial MC in my stories because I'm biracial, but I do have MC's who aren't biracial as well.

One thing that a lot of people don't realize is that not all biracial people look alike. I mean, I may not be dark skinned but I'm certainly not light skinned either. I'm in the middle or what do they say, brown skinned?

Anyway, all forms of beauty should be represented because as people we are all beautiful. I truly believe that which is why I try to represent all people of all hues and shades in my writing.

And you shouldn't let people's ignorance ass comments get to you. Like Kitty said, those men have their own issues to deal with, and I'm certain no self respecting woman with a good head on her shoulders would want men who think like them anyway. Not all men feel that way.

I also noticed when discussing colorism it's always light skinned women vs dark skinned. Well, what about the women in the middle like me, or the men for that matter. Due to colorism aren't light skinned men held to a higher standard than dark skinned men? Not saying that would be right, but just curious.

thebloodfiend
05-23-2012, 11:06 PM
Hmm... the colorism issue has me thinking. I'm black, and somewhere in the middle of the tonal range. I'm in the middle of editing a YA novel where the main LI is biracial.

It's kind of intentional, though, not just because I wanted a black character who was lighter than the rest. At least, I hope so. I don't know my sub-conscious. But, then again, her mother is black, and veers towards the darker range, and she's supposed to be very attractive, so I guess I'm alright. Maybe. I don't know. I try to include characters of all colors and sexualities and ethnic backgrounds and monetary backgrounds in my work. I hate the singular token non-white character trope that most writers use to say -- Hey! Look at me! I'm being diverse!

I'd never really heard about the color-ism thing before, anyway, but it makes sense -- and I've never really lived in a black neighborhood, or had close black friends.

As a sidenote, I thought what Aaron McGruder did with his singular biracial character -- Jasmine DuBois -- was pretty funny.

Lady Goddess
05-24-2012, 05:36 AM
I agree with everything you are saying. Please disregard what these men are saying. 9 times out of ten,it's their self hatred and misogyny speaking. They don't want to see the features they hate in themselves reflected back at them and this avoid/hate Black women. Young Berg's career was destroyed, Polow The Don is a nobody now,Lil Wayne has fallen all the way off(The teens on Twitter ate his ass alive for those comments) and Kanye West is a known lunatic. Making these comments backfired on ALL of them,Roly.



Yeah, I was gonna say, I don't even know who those first two people are. I've never even heard of them. And Lil Wayne never appealed to me. Ever. As for Kanye West, well...:e2moon::e2tomato:

The more I follow this conversation, the more I want to change my other WIP to YA. I'll see about reworking it a bit, or at least creating a prequel to my current WIP where she's younger. This is a niche I really don't mind filling.

Kitty27
05-24-2012, 08:12 AM
Kitty, that was an informative and well thought out response, brava :Trophy: I couldn't have said that better myself. Now, I admit I always have a biracial MC in my stories because I'm biracial, but I do have MC's who aren't biracial as well.

One thing that a lot of people don't realize is that not all biracial people look alike. I mean, I may not be dark skinned but I'm certainly not light skinned either. I'm in the middle or what do they say, brown skinned?

Anyway, all forms of beauty should be represented because as people we are all beautiful. I truly believe that which is why I try to represent all people of all hues and shades in my writing.

And you shouldn't let people's ignorance ass comments get to you. Like Kitty said, those men have their own issues to deal with, and I'm certain no self respecting woman with a good head on her shoulders would want men who think like them anyway. Not all men feel that way.

I also noticed when discussing colorism it's always light skinned women vs dark skinned. Well, what about the women in the middle like me, or the men for that matter. Due to colorism aren't light skinned men held to a higher standard than dark skinned men? Not saying that would be right, but just curious.

There's a hilarious video on youtube where a Biracial blogger talks about while light and dark are fighting,the Caramel Crew aka you and I are running things.

It's pretty sad that colorism just won't die for Black folks. The fuckery continues when it should have BEEN eradicated.

FoamyRules
05-24-2012, 01:56 PM
There's a hilarious video on youtube where a Biracial blogger talks about while light and dark are fighting,the Caramel Crew aka you and I are running things.

It's pretty sad that colorism just won't die for Black folks. The fuckery continues when it should have BEEN eradicated.
Oh really? I'll try to look into that. I kind of divorced Youtube because I got tired of all the black men and black women bashing videos on there. Smh.

Also, now that I think about colorism doesn't just affect Black folks it affects people of all colors apparently (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Discrimination_based_on_skin_color).

Icedevimon
05-24-2012, 03:24 PM
Well for me, I don't include certain skin tones to be inclusive or to be discriminating. I think about a character for a while, and tend to settle on skin tone after deciding where the characters are from. My current WIP has a handful of people with German descent, then italian. Then there is an Asian boy and a kid I can't quite decide on a nationality, but he's on the darker side. I've even got a biracial lesbian couple with an Irish girl and an African girl. I like them a lot even though their minor characters.

I personally have no issue writing a dark skinned character, and I personally have the capacity to find such people beautiful. They are. You are. Everyone is beautiful in their own way, I think. It's too bad many people can't see that.

missesdash
05-25-2012, 08:10 AM
I've actually noticed that although my characters are different races, they all fall in the same skin tone range because they're mixed. So it's odd because I'm not likely to conjure up someone with dark skin, but I'm also not likely to conjure up someone with pale skin and blonde hair.

No idea what that says about me. But I do cover plenty of barely tracked territory with sexualty, gender identities and race. So I'm not particularly worried about not being diverse enough. But the skin color issue is interesting to consider.