Sunday, July 30, 2006

The Wannabes vs. The Jigaboos II - Colorism in Dating

Because last week's topic was so popular, I thought I'd continue this week, just with a different angle. As an extension of the discussion of colorism and its effects on the black community as a whole, this week we'll focus on how colorism affects the way some of us date.

I've often heard darker-skinned black men say they prefer dating light-skinned women. I've also heard light-skinned women say they prefer dating darker-skinned men -- even I have been guilty of that before, although I have dated light-skinned men in the past. I've even heard of darker-skinned women wanting to have a baby by a light-skinned man, so their baby can have "pretty skin" and "pretty hair."

As silly as all this may sound, its definitely real. As was discussed last week, black folks are known for differentiating themselves based on the tone of their skin. But it becomes something different when we start preferring a shade of skin that is not our own. To me, its a form of self-hate. A dark-skinned person who only dates light-skinned people clearly has a problem with his or her own skin color; and the same is true of light-skinned folks who only date dark-skinned folks -- although there is really no negative stigmatism attached to the latter. I guess its okay for black folks to want to be blacker, but not lighter.

I think this preference, especially dark-skinned men who only date light-skinned women, further divides the black community. Sometimes if I am out with a dark-skinned man, sistas look at me like I might as well be a white chick, taking away one of their chocolate prospects. I really take offense to that because I'm not white, I'm black, just a different shade of black than them.

To take it a step further, I think the problem is further exacerbated by black men who think that any woman who is light-skinned with long hair is cute. I've heard brothas make flattering comments about light-skinned women who were clearly not that cute (not to be hater or anything, but let's be real), and when asked what they like about these women, the answer is always that she is light-skinned with long hair. Whereas I've also heard comments like, "She's cute for a dark-skinned girl."

I realize that these issues with self-hate stem from problems that probably run deep into childhood, but again, I just think its silly that we continue to perpetuate the white man's ideology that "lighter is better," and that we allow ourselves to be divided as a result.


Sunday, July 23, 2006

The Wannabes vs. The Jigaboos: The Different Shades of Black

Remember the memorable scene from "School Daze" when the Wannabes and the Jigaboos sounded off against one another in West Side Story fashion?

"You're just a jig-a-boo, tryin' to find somethin' to do!"

"Well, you're a wanna-be, wanna be better than me!"

Classic. For those of you who have never seen "School Daze," first, where have you been? Go rent it and watch it -- it's classic black cinema. Second, the Wannabes were the pretty, light-skinned, long-haired, economically well-off women; while the Jigaboos were the dark-skinned, militant, politically and socially conscious women. That scene from "School Daze" forever memorialized the tensions that exist within the black community: light vs. dark. "Colorism," as it is called, is the practice of placing value on skin tone.

What are the origins of Colorism? There are several theories, many stemming from slavery; however, they typically reach the same conclusion -- the assumption that light-skinned folks receive better treatment than their dark-skinned counterparts. As a person from the light-skinned group, of course I have to disagree with that contention. But perhaps I'm biased.

Whatever the origin of Colorism, I often wonder why it still exists. I remember while in law school a comment was made about me that went something like this: "She's always trying to straighten her hair!" HUH? I don't get it. Was that person implying that I'm trying to be white by straightening my hair, or that I'm trying to be black? Either way, I don't understand the relevance. Being light-skinned doesn't give us some sort of "free pass" into white society. Trust me, white folks still see us as ni_ _ers.

Have you ever noticed how some of the most militant black folks are light-skinned? Most people don't understand how this happens, so let me try to explain why I think this is, at least from my perspective. We (the light-skinned folks, that is) spend our entire lives being questioned about our "blackness" by dark-skinned people. This comes about in many ways, some subtle, some not so subtle. I know growing up (and to some extent even now), dark-skinned girls assumed that because I was light-skinned I was weak. Again, those of you who know me know that I don't back down from a challenge. (That comment is in no way intended to promote using violence to solve problems!) :) Anyway, you get what I'm saying. We spend our lives defending the tone of our skin to our own people. So yes, at times we end up being more militant than the average person.

Just like the problems that exist between white and black, I think Colorism will always exist within the black community -- unfortunately. However, we have to understand that Colorism only makes it easier for white folks to divide the black community.

Part of the beauty of black people is that we come in all different shades. Embrace it, love it and stop the hate. If by chance the sista girl who made that ridiculous comment about me in law school reads this, here are my comments to you: stop encouraging division within the black community; and don't hate the playa, hate the game.


Sunday, July 16, 2006

Is School Desegregation All It Was Cracked Up To Be?

We all know that the 1954 landmark case, Brown v. Board of Education, integrated schools in this country. Prior to that decision, schools were segregated by race: white and black. White schools had more resources than black schools, which translated to the belief that white students had more opportunities than black students. Thus, leading black Americans turned to the courts, with the best of intent, to give African-Americans the same opportunities as their white counterparts.

But has desegregation really served the purpose it was intended to serve? A half a century later, are our children really reaping the benefits of integration? Sadly, I have to answer in the negative.

First, integration brought with it the loss of thousands of professional jobs for African-Americans, those of the teachers and principals of the formerly segregated black schools. Consequently, our children suffer because they do not see people who look like them in positions of power at school.

Second, the public school systems in most major metropolitan areas are still segregated, just not by legal mandate. As more and more of the white population conduct mass exodus to the suburbs, and those who do not move to the suburbs send their kids to private schools, most urban schools are filled with children whose families cannot afford to move to the suburbs or send them to private schools -- mostly black, and now, Hispanic children. And because the suburbs bring in more tax money and spend less on city services than the inner-city, suburban children end up having access to resources and opportunities that urban children do not have.

Additionally, just because a black child attends a suburban, or more privileged school, does not mean that child will do any better than their urban counterparts. Black children in mostly white suburban schools face a different set of problems than black children in urban schools, including racial and testing bias. For instance, in suburban schools that utilize "tracking" systems -- better known as advanced placement, gifted and talented, or the honors program -- black children are consistently underrepresented in the higher tracks because of a history of discrimination in education.

So what is the answer? I don't know that legally-mandated resegregation -- where black children are taught by black teachers -- is the answer to our problems, but the status quo is having a detrimental effect on our children.


Sunday, July 09, 2006

Why You Gotta Act Like That?

Have you ever been out shopping and come across some black folks who are extremely rude for no reason? Or, have you ever experienced black folks acting like they've never been anywhere before? Fresh off vacation, I came back wondering why some black folks feel the need to be rude and obnoxious to people for absolutely no reason at all.

While I was on vacation, I went shopping in an area where a lot of cruise ships dock -- which brought a large influx of black folks to the area. While in one of the stores, I saw several black folks being loud and obnoxious, and acting rude to both sales associates and other customers. It's really embarrassing to me, because inevitably, people will attribute that behavior to all of us.

For instance, I remember being in Miami some years back. The weekend prior to my being there was Memorial Day weekend, which is a huge "Black" weekend in Miami. I remember getting into cabs and the cab drivers saying things like they couldn't believe I was being nice to them, and they were so happy the Memorial Day weekend festivities had ended because the people were extremely rude to them. Sadly, the cab drivers expected that because I was black, I would be rude to them just like the others were.

Why do some black folks act like they don't have any home training? I don't get it. For whatever reason, I always thought that black folks had more home training than everyone else; but that belief is seriously in question.

Maybe I'm just holding black folks to a higher standard, or maybe some black folks really haven't been anywhere and don't realize their behavior is rude and obnoxious. Either way, it's still embarrassing to me.