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.