Sunday, April 24, 2005

The African-American Dilemma: Colorism - Real or Imaginary?

The African-American Dilemma: Real or Imaginary

Here we go again. Black Americans are still looking for an identity. Pick combs, Kwanzaa - or maybe Kanesha, Lavetta, Latonda, Lashonda - you name it. Offspring branded for life – and what a damn shame at that. From “boy” to “colored” to “black” to “Negro” to “Afro” to “African-American” and so on, it’s all become a sad joke – just hype and more African-American jive. Unless a substantial majority of one’s ancestry is from a “black” African country along with other qualifying characteristics, they’ll never be considered to be an “African-anything”, much to the delight of those who hail from the vast continent of Africa itself, and to the chagrin of many an unknown wannabe.

One Drop…

Just as in the old 1/32 rule (i.e., White America’s haunting but misguided attempt at racial purity), many black Americans have been unceremoniously sucked into the endless void of distinct colorization championed by nothing more than a bunch of hypocritical self-anointed “think tank” talking heads who themselves proclaim to be the defacto leaders of a non-existent black psyche. What is African American? Is the jury still out?

World View…

Funny thing - when U.S. residents of nationalities from abroad hyphenate themselves as in British-American, Jamaican-American, Chinese-American, etc., at least they have an actual country to identify with. The so-called U.S.-born “African-Americans” (i.e., blacks) in general can’t even trace their heritage to any single country in Africa, thus it seems as if they’ve hijacked “African” as a pathetic moniker for their own delusional misgivings about being a person of color more closely associated with the indigenous “black” peoples of the African continent. In other words, they don’t like the connotations associated with the color “black”. Last time I looked, black was just a color and theoretically, it simply represents the absence of light. That’s about it.


Isn’t it interesting that even though “black America” as a whole seems to be desperately trying to African-Americanize virtually everything in its domain from media to business to food, etc., skin color still is and will continue to be the defining factor within the black community when it comes to beauty, success, trustworthiness, aptitude and much more. Forget the hair, forget the nose, blue veins are where it goes, or at least they say – colorism, that is. And don’t think for a hot minute that white America isn’t satisfied with watching black Americans aggressively reaffirm themselves as African-Americans. As W.C. Fields put it, “there’s a sucker born every minute”.


Just think what life must be like for those of mixed race (i.e., in this case, black and whatever). Despite a longing for their own unique and perhaps justified identity, they’ve been dragged down into the African-American quagmire. Is this simply a ploy by their elected “African-American” leaders to “pump up” the numbers and inflate the census, or is it something more sinister as in denying an entire group of people the intrinsic right to correctly self-identify themselves without fear of persecution from the “black” masses?

TV Time…

A brief look at the media – mainstream, cable, print, etc. Last time I watched BET, virtually every music video featured nothing more than a bunch of big-lipped dark-skinned non-singing jewelry-dripping “black English-speaking (Blinglish – is it language, or is it bling?)” “peasy-head looking” “brothers” parading around with a harem of long-haired fine-featured high-yellow ass sisters, white girls and island-hopping Buddha heads. Didn’t see Aunt Jemima in that crowd, huh? Nothing wrong with sporting a little high-yellow booty on your arm, now is it fellas? Brothers just kill me when they walk by – and you can just hear them saying, “look what I got!” I’ve “arrived. How insane. The only thing they’ve got is low self-esteem. Many of these guys are nothing more than “trophy hunters”, and many of the high-yellow honeys they conquer (i.e., as in “not appreciate”) don’t even realize just how short the end of the stick they’re getting really is. And by the way, lest our ears deceive us, will we ever see a “black” burger commercial without some kind of “black-themed” buffoonish hip-hop jingle tune dreamed up by some white guy who thinks the “hood” is in his pants? You know, it just amazes me how much advertisers struggle to depict the “African-American”. They get it wrong almost every time, because “we’re’ not African-American, and never will be.

On television, numerous “black” actors who are comedians, or who portray high-profile lawyers, prominent doctors, influential business executives, cutting-edge technologists, superior athletes and so forth are all sporting either a piece of high-yellow ass, or something close to it. Most if not all of them profess to be “African-American”. However, it will likely snow in hell before you’ll find a genuine “African-American” (i.e., person of significant African lineage) that is high-yellow, partly yellow, or anything in that neighborhood, to say the least. Niggas, puhleeze! Talk about – light-skinned blacks will date virtually anyone, but dark-skinned blacks will aim straight for the yellow, or the “cream” as some put it. Hypocritical, or what?

All chiefs, but no Indians…

Last time I looked, the genuine African-American U.N. Secretary General, the only living U.S. African-American Supreme Court Justice, the most well-known U.S. African-American entertainment promoter, and a who’s who of U.S. African-American business leaders, sports figures and entertainers are either married to or have a main squeeze that is so far from “The Color Purple” that the ink hit the floor before the book went to print. My, oh my.

Same old Jive…

Come on - give me a break. What is this African-American bullshit? Damn near every “black” person I know will be the first to tell you that their ancestors were from some American Indian tribe or from Europe or Asia well before they’ll tell you that their other ancestors from ten, twenty and thirty generations ago were African kings, queens and people of nobility. Yes, those niggers are full of shit and “The Last Poets” go it right. Good luck if you can still find that release on the shelf.

Damn, that hurts!

Well, well, well. The hair thing - big, isn’t it? Not that big, really. If you haven’t noticed, long flowing hair is in, or should I say hair weaves? Guess those famous tennis sisters had better look out for the rain folks. It’s just damn shame that blacks, mulattos, 50/50’s and the like are still hung up on the African-American crutch when as a whole, “African-American” really constitutes a wide and ethnically diverse group of people in their minds; but in reality – only the African-Americans from Africa justly claim that right. Too bad it’s not recognized and admired as such. Interesting enough, the term African-American seems to be “played on” more often when 1) there is an attempt to marginalize, 2) there is an injustice, 3) there is an effort to isolate or 4) it’s time to complain.

Rant & Rave…

We could go on and on and on, but you get the point, or maybe you don’t. African-American’s we’re not. Black Americans we’re not. Proud Americans we definitely are, with our own great culture that rivals the most renowned of the breed. Mixed Americans virtually all of us are. Of course, if we identified with that category, we’d certainly rob other groups of their opportunity to not be white, and definitely not be black, or African-American. Who’s being fooled here? Last time I looked, even the Asians were dying their hair blonde, surgically changing their eye shape, getting blue colored contact lenses, and just about everything else that could fit on a credit card.

Lights Out…

And yes, for all y’all black “blacks” out there (and I don’t mean yellow or cinnamon brown - you know what I mean), unless you’ve got MJ’s (skin color changing) type of money – you’re going to black and maybe even purple black (i.e., real black) for the rest of your God Damn black lives, so get used to it. And what exactly “is” an African-American?

People might not say it, but most of them play it. “The color game.” Don’t take it too seriously.

And So It Goes…

p.s., Oh, and by the way... For all of you intellectually-gifted thesis-professing scholarly-leaning movement-gathering folks and the like who by now might feel a burning urge to respond to this article with venom: “been there, heard that, seen that, blah, blah, blah”. I’ve already heard the retorts, and yes - B.S and M.S. and PhD – “Bull(Shit) and Mule(Shit) Pile Higher and Deeper”. I plead the 5th. All said.


Blogger Cynthia said...

This is quite interesting. I have to admit, we do have a problem.

9:04 PM  
Blogger The Desert Warrior said...

Thanx for linking this on my blog.
Great read and I so agree. Welcome back and let our like minds run amok :)

8:49 AM  
Blogger Lumarie said...

I am hearing everything you said and feel strongly that the way forward lies in the media: role models, rebalancing stereotypes, recasting stereotypes, creting the future. My question is thugh, you feel this way about the situation, what are you going to do about it????!


2:24 AM  
Blogger Lumarie said...

oops, bad spelling....

2:25 AM  
Blogger FromTheHip said...


This blog contains much of what many "black" Americans don't want to see, hear or admit. However, to really address colorism, both the media (i.e., the entity) and the black elite (e.g., not necessarily the bourgeoisie) need to be put in the crosshairs, and on notice.

This requires a concerted and focused campaign by those most affected to write, e-mail and deluge mass media, movie and production companies of all persuasions with their gripes, and more. To expose the hypocrisy of it all, one only needs to target the prevailing black media machine for what it is: an opportunistic double standard.

In my opinion, if you're going to be colorist, at least be honest about it. But don't profess a pro-black platform and then ride the high-yellow booty to the altar. No joke intended. Yes, the issue of colorism is very deep and serious, and media exposure is exactly what it needs. How ironic that one might need to access the white/Jewish media framework to address the wrongs of the media-savvy black elite.

As long as black “black” America continues to accept the plethora of denigration heaped upon it, it will suffer “A Thousand Cuts” of indignity, and worse. With respect to the African-American equation, just think for a minute. Some would say that Black America itself chose to be African American, but it did not choose to be black. However, others still insist that the “talking-head” leadership of the black constituency selected that term, for better use of other “words”, indeed.

Going back to colorism, the sad part is that those of darker skin color hues are forever punished through no fault of their own. Additionally, some would also argue that that segment is the last segment of the black constituency that still rigorously opposes any efforts to abolish the dreaded One-Drop Rule (i.e., ODR). In that context, those individuals must stand up themselves for what they believe in, not being detrimental to others unlike themselves. At that point, they can pose a solid argument to the black elite and ask the question: “What side of the fence are you on? My cab is waiting. ”

4:28 PM  
Blogger shemika said...

I agree with the concept of what he’s saying, African Americans are hypocritical and least proud of being African over any thing else. However, we need to wise up as a people and not limit ourselves to geography. For example, the Chinese are so connected to their ancestry that no matter how many generations ago their parents came to America they don’t question or shun their Chinese identity. Nor do the various people of European ancestry (i.e. Italian, Irish, etc.), although many ‘whites’ also have black ancestry, if it isn’t recognizable they’re not going to claim in most cases. We need to build a bound as African people no matter what nation we happen to reside or be born in, because it is to our benefit and the redeeming of our self respect as a people that we should never deny.

Genetically and physically we are the same as Africans and need to embrace that fact. Although most blacks born in America over the past number of generations since slavery don’t appreciate that, their outlook results from a mind steeped in pro whiteness. If we are going to survive and resist committing genetic suicide and acting just like the fake azz parasites that have plundered our minds and stolen our heritage, we must take control of our outlook concerning blackness. Africans are our people, and we should see each as the same people and work together to empower ourselves globally. Otherwise, divided we fall…forever relegated to remaining vain, pathetic, cracker copiers…Vying for their approval…..When we could set our own beauty standards by exalting our African-ness in our everyday actions and styles rather than looking like foolish white worshiping hypocrites. Or even worse, turn into flat out shameless self-haters (too late!). Once we can love ourselves in all our African-ness, we can conquer the world.

Look at the era in the 60’s when black Americans for the first time embraced their African-ness, wore their hair natural…it was the most inventive, unique height of our creativity and self respect as well as world wide admiration for our people for the first time since our enslavement. I believe embracing our African-ness symbolizes relinquishing our enslavement. Let’s not tighten the chains but cast them off instead.

3:50 PM  
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Blogger FromTheHip said...

Thought I'd drop in and let everyone know that I will have some more writings coming forth soon. In the mean time, drop by for some outrageously brutal commentary from a wide audience.

1:48 PM  
Blogger Agyeiwaah said...

This response is to FromtheHip. I agree with the statements you made about brothers collecting sistas as trophies. It's whack.

On the other hand, your lack of knowledge about your heritage is understandable, but perplexing. I haven't been in direct contact with this kind of self-hatred and self-negation in a long time. Suffice it to say that our history and culture as African-Americans is not 'out there' somewhere. It's a legacy that we carry with us every day. We don't recognize it, though, because we never studied African culture, Native American culture, or any other culture that we may be the descendants of, except of course Caucasians. We get white folks' version of their history and culture shoved down our throats every day. Our children learn about Black history during the month of February, and most of what they hear is about Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, and 'things' from Africa, like animals. Never any mention of the people. Likewise with Native Americans. We learn about how they got their asses kicked by the US, and were lead on the Trail of Tears to reservations, but that's it.

No wonder our history and culture SEEM like a mystery, and maybe even a myth, to us.

Culture is what we do every day. It's how we think, how we act and interact with each other. I can recognize the African roots in our culture, because I've studied indigenous African tradition for the past 20 years. For example, the tradition of using instrumental music, dance, sacred songs and stories is an African tradition. These things, we brought to the church, (a religion used to oppress all conquered people) with us. Christianity wasn't forced on us, because we had no religion. We love to worship, and modified our worship to include these parts of our culture. Rest assured that if you go to a white church, you'll witness the difference in the use of language (intonation), music, and even the spirit of the service. The message in white churches is that "God does not want you to suffer", while in Black churches, it's "suffer now and you'll be rewarded later." How do I know? I've been to both.

Culture is what we eat. Black-eye peas, collard greens, rice, sweet potatoes, and chicken. All of these come from Africa. The Gullah people of South Carolina are of African and Native American descent. Their language can traced directly to Sierre Leone. Even some of the stories they tell can be traced back there.

My grand parents were from South Carolina, and my great grandmother was a full-blooded Seminole princess. I'm 43 years old, and I just found that out, and I'm just beginning to identify that culture, in my life. I've identified the ideology, values, and beliefs of the fighting Seminoles (a name given to a society of "untamed" Africans, and "renegade" Indians who fought domination by the white man. I can identify this spirit, and now know more of it's origins, in my family.

There's not much that I can actually tell you in a few words. All I can say is take some time to study African culture. If you live in any major city, there are organizations that you can go to so that you can learn. But be careful. Don't rely on the propaganda and patriarchal dualistic intellectualizations of white folks, or I dare say, over-zealous African-Americas, and even indigenous Africans. (Look up patriarchal dualism on the internet.) Africa has been under attack, since long before our ancestors were brought to America. Some of their minds are even more severely colonized than ours.

I was in Senegal and saw a historial mural on the wall of the pier where I caught the boat to Goree Island, an island where enslaved Africans were held before being shipped to 'the New World', as they called it. On that mural, it said that the white men married African women, and they went off to the New World of prosperity. These women negotiated with African chiefs and leaders to send even more people with them "to paradise".

I was shocked when I saw that. PARADISE!? What a crock! But that's what happens when you depend on 'other folks' to tell you about history.

No, find a wise African-centered elder to give you guidance. And it's 2005. Slavery is over! This continued ignorance about Africa is ridiculous. Slavery is over! You can travel there on your own. See for yourself. Feel for yourself. Try to absorb the essence of the experience and notice what is familiar to you. You will be guided to greater knowledge of yourself. Don't go to the tourist traps. It's like being in New York, or any other major city. People think you have money, no matter what you tell them. The images they see of America suggests that we ALL have money. They believe that if you don't have money, you can call someone and get some ... so they'll ask you for everything!

They're mad at us, because they thought that we were going to make money and bring it back home. We're pissed off with them, because they sold us into an inhumane system of servitude and oppression. Those of us who don't know that, are sometimes angry because we think they should've come to get us. But nowhere in the world have I heard questions or debate about whether or not we actually CAME from Africa.

And if you have Native American ancestors, maybe you can trace them. The fact is that it's hard to trace our lineage whether African or Native American, because of the concerted effort to erase this kind of documentation. In the census, you won't find Native American as a category. The only folks you can trace easily is white men. That's by design. It makes it seem like the origin of man is European. Both Africans and Indians were forced to give up their names, religious practices, and their language. I found my great grand mother, and my grand parents' surnames (Peters, Smith and Brown) on the U.S. "Freedman List" of the Seminole Nation, on the internet.

It's not about 'trying' to be this or that nationality. It's not about denying and justifying. It's about self-knowledge. Culture and history get lost so quickly, from one generation to another, and it's because we're always being bombarded with bullshit mainstream politics, commercial media, the church, the educational system, and let's not forget the prison system (slavery). Poor folks are so busy struggling to survive, they don't take time to ponder questions of identity, and our young brothers are often stripped of their identities and any self-esteem early on, in the prison system.

Talk to the elders in your family and find out what they know about your family. Listen to their stories. If you've got Native Americans in your family, then you may be able to find that information a lot more easily than that of your African bloodline. There's no doubt we came from Africa. Which part of Africa? That's the question most of us have no idea how to answer.

The truth is through generations and generations, you may have the blood of Nigerians, Ghanaians, Senegalese, AND South Africans. You may have the blood of Creek, Seminole, Cherokee AND Sioux Indians. You're still African-American. My grandfather dark chocolate brown, and he was African-Native American. I put in the 'Native' part, because it suggests an ideology, value and belief system and lifestyle that is indigenous and natural. It's spiritual, not religious. It's wholistic, not linear. It's tolerant, not judgemental.

Begin to study YOU, and your vision and definition of yourself will expand, rather than diminish.

10:08 AM  
Blogger Laayah said...

Shemika, Well said

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10:00 AM  
Blogger FromTheHip said...

Agyeiwaah --

Unfortunately not. I'm quite aware and well informed about my heritage, and not lost on any part of it. Oddly enough, "black" America is still hung up on phenotype as a defining quality of success and acceptance. Therein lies the rub.

1:58 PM  
Blogger Kafiyah said...

I would like to say that I am "African" as you say although i was born here. I have cousins who could pass for white who live in Africa who are not mixed with white they are simply light-skinned. For some reason their is a belief that "true" Africans are charcoal black and that is incoorect. Africans who are mixed with nothing range from very dark to extremly light. The defining characteristic is the hair and we should be proud of our hair because we are the only people in the world with it.

7:35 PM  
Blogger Kweku said...

Hi, Mister Writer (I don't know your name so you must forgive me)

I'm African. From Ghana. Like a lot of you are (you just don't know it).

I printed your article and showed to some of my friends here in Accra, Ghana, and most people said the same thing.

For better or worse, you are all as African as we are. Whether you like it or not.Whether you have been to anyplace in Africa/speak an African language/are black-and-proud/a "coon". What you are is what you are. What many of you don't understand is that before the coming of the europeans, we had nothing like what we now call Ghana/Nigeria/South Africa/Zimbabwe. All we had were Africans. So, if you were in the USA while that happened, it might have made a difference in how you view yourself, your culture, sense of self, BUT WHAT YOU ARE IS WHAT YOU ARE, PERIOD.

Here's something worth thinking about. Between the Ghana/Togo border is an old house. When the British drew the border, they sliced the family house and a bed into 2.

Would you call his upper body Ghanaian and his lower body Togolese?

I always blame the "African-Americans" who settled in Ghana in the '60s and '70s and reassimilated into the culture for not going back and spreading the word to their families in the USA and South America...there would probably be less confusion today.

Thanks for reading, and sorry if I offended anybody.

Peace, love and happiness,

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Blogger alicia banks said...


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7:56 AM  
Blogger george said...

Great points of view. Also great you have the balls to actually say what needs to be said. Would it not be great to end up with a president that stands up and says, I am an American, not I am a black American. What a load of bull shit. This is America, our president should be American, nothing more, nothing less. G. Bear

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Blogger APGifts said...

An 'Ethnic' category is NOT the
same thing as a "Race" category:

7:35 PM  
Blogger APGifts said...

There is actually no such thing as a so-called "Light-Skinned
Black" person ... but rather ... such individuals and groups
are actually people who are of a 'Multi-Generational
Multiracially-Mixed' (MGM-Mixed) Lineage that some may
have been pressured or encouraged to ignore or downplay.
People of Mixed-Race lineage should NOT feel pressured to
'identify' according to any standards other than one's own.
The legal -application of the racist-'One-Drop Rule'
(ODR) was banned in the U.S. way back in 1967.
Listed below are related Links of 'the facts' of the histories
of various Mixed-Race populations found within the U.S.:
There is no proof that a 'color-based slave hierarchy'
(or that 'color-based social-networks') ever existed
as common entities -- within the continental U.S.
It was the 'Rule of Matriliny (ROM) -- [a.k.a. 'The Rule of Partus'
(ROP)] -- and NOT the racist-'One-Drop Rule' (ODR) -- that was
used to 'create more enslaved people' on the continental U.S.
This is because the chattel-slavery system that was
once found on the antebellum-era, continental U.S.
was NOT "color-based" (i.e. "racial") -- but rather
-- it was actually "mother-based" (i.e. 'matrilineal').
There were many ways (and not solely the sexual assault
and sexual exploitation of the women-of-color) in which
'white' lineage entered the familial bloodlines of
enslaved-people found on the continental U.S.
An 'Ethnic' category is NOT the
same thing as a "Race" category:
Other Topics:

7:35 PM  

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