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Thursday, March 10, 2005Colorism - Is this the rebirth of an old problem?
On March 4th, the ABC show 20/20 did a short segment (5 - 10 minutes at the most) on this topic, colorism, the open secret in the African American community. The host of the show interviewed Tony Browder, I guess as the resident expert concerning this topic and several teenagers to ascertain their thoughts.
I can only assume Tony's comments were severely edited since he didn't say anything that was too pertinent on the subject. Since I've heard Tony Browder speak on many occasions, I know he had a lot to say on this topic that would be more relevant to the African American community than what was aired on 20/20. Tony Browder is the author of several books dealing with African/African American issues, which makes the little blurb that was aired suspect.
I was surprised and disappointed to see that some African American teens were actually buying into the color class thing that is being perpetuated by Hollywood and the music industry.
What was disturbing about the show, although not surprising was the reporting on this subject. It was grossly inaccurate. The host insinuated that African Americans have this colorism (an open secret) problem when this was the first time I've ever heard this term being used to describe our community. Most people I asked about this term had never heard it before either. Some people said their children have informed them the issue is re-surfacing. They also attribute this phenomenon to Hollywood and the music industry. For instance, I read an interview a while back about Black actors and actresses experience in Hollywood. They said when it comes to getting parts in movies; people in Hollywood give those parts preferentially to their lighter skinned counterparts. In addition, these parts that are given to the lighter skinned African Americans, if they are males they are executives roles in firms and if they are females, then they are only given upward mobile parts and are never asked to play denigrating roles in any form like their darker skinned comrades. Speaking about denigrating roles, what about Denzel Washington’s winning an Oscar for playing that stupid role in Training Day?
One can clearly see that the problem doesn't originate within the African American community but is a problem that is being thrust upon us by outsiders, a created problem at best. Halle Berry is a classic example of favoritism in Hollywood, she is getting more roles because of her alleged crossover appeal (half-whiteness) although there are far better African American actresses out there than her. The question then becomes - how do we position ourselves as a group in a better position so that we do not have to accept any type of crap coming out of Hollywood or from the music industry when there are five major conglomerates controlling all the media in the U.S? Unless we find ways to put an end to the bombardment of negative images, we will never earn the respect we deserve as a people.
Since African Americans consist of a heterogeneous group, the teens that were interviewed, do their views reflect the larger community? I believe depending on where you live will dictate your outlook on lifte. Afterall, I think we are a sum total of our environment.
Since the establishment has focused on this topic, I think it worthy of us to discuss this situation to nip this in the bud if this is a problem within our community. I will discuss this topic periodically under different headings.
This type of insanity must stop!!!!