Sunday, December 16, 2007

Rebuttal to Jezebel's "Michelle Obama is not a lighter shade of 'trophy' wife."

I'm not sure how I feel about Anna's recent post on Jezebel, titled "Michelle Obama is not a lighter shade of 'trophy' wife." Like the author, I am thrilled to see Michelle Obama, a beautiful, super-smart, powerful black woman, gaining attention on the world stage. I think Obama would make a wonderful first lady--a true role model for the nation's girls and boys alike.

Here's where the Jezebel author perplexes me:
It was an awe-inspiring show of celebrity, but, looking over the many
photographs of the duo's three-state tour on Saturday and Sunday -- something
other than Oprah's outfits stood out: The fact that Michelle Obama, the
personable, whip-smart 43-year old Harvard law grad and take-no-prisoners wife
of the senator from Illinois... is black.

"Black" is both a commonly-accepted and extremely loaded description of
skin color in this country. (And no wonder: used as an adjective, the word
connotes everything from "characterized by absence of light" to "thoroughly
sinister or evil" to "sad, gloomy or calamitous.") It is also a description,
I've noticed, that rarely pertains to the spouse, girlfriend or life partner of
most well-known, extremely successful and/or powerful black man. From Clarence
Thomas to Bill Cosby to Spike Lee to Chris Rock, the commonly-seen and accepted
assumption in America is that behind every successful black man is a
lighter-skinned (or white) woman.

I have absolutely nothing against interracial relationships, but why is it surprising that an accomplished black man is married to an accomplished black woman? According to Wikipedia, in 2007, only 4.6 percent of black Americans married white Americans. While black men are more likely to be a part of interracial relationships, those that are married are most likely to be married to black women. The notion that successful black men are flocking to abandon black women is oft-repeated, divisive and untrue.

Also confusing is the assertion that Bill Cosby, Spike Lee and Chris Rock are not married to black women. They are. The author seems to be suggesting that because Camille Cosby, Tonya Lee and Malaak Rock, are of a lighter hue than Michelle Obama, she is more legitimately "black"--an unfair assertion that diminishes black women of light skin. I always thought that being black was determined by ancestry and culture, not skin tone.

It is true that there is a lot of disturbing sickness surrounding skin color in the black community. I have written often about our colonized preference for the Eurocentric beauty idolized by the mainstream. Our culture worships light skin, light eyes and light hair. And it is true that many powerful black men, even those active in seeking equality for black people, seek the ultimate Western beauty for a "trophy," which may mean forgoing black women. (I should add that it is unfair to pretend that all relationships between black men and non-black women are the result of European beauty worship, rather than genuine love and affection. That is not true.) Indeed, it is refreshing to see a brown-skinned woman unarguably feted in public as both intelligent and gorgeous. But in pointing out our community's pathology, Anna seems to reveal hers:
Michelle Obama's marriage to Barack turns that template on its head. As she
stood next to Barack and Oprah on the Des Moines dais, it was difficult (for me
at least) not to notice that Michelle was the "darkest" of the three.
And as much as Barack's candidacy and its nexis of idealism, diversity and celebrity
can't help but foment the feeling that history is in the making, for me, a woman
of color bombarded by Caucasian ideals of beauty and sex appeal as seen in
everything from Reese Witherspoon's button nose to Beyonce Knowles' highlighted
hair, Michelle's presence feels just as revolutionary. (Emphasis mine)

It did not occur to me to compare the skin tones of Barack Obama, his wife and Oprah Winfrey. And, though I read many blogs daily, this is the first time I've seen a blogger with this particular take away.
The fact of the matter is that, while Barack Obama's highly-charged run for
the presidency can give us something to hold onto in an era in which black men
are more likely to die or end up in jail than to graduate college, the presence
of his wife -- his unplasticized, uncontoured, undeniably black wife -- gives
those of us tired of the disproportionate amount of attention given to the Halle
Berrys, Vanessa Williamses and Beyonces of the world a little hope as well.

Actually, the whole idea of judging Michelle Obama's looks and positioning her as a beauty icon for girls of color makes me feel squicky. She is trying to get her husband elected to be leader of the free world; she's not angling for the Miss Universe crown. All the mates of the male Democratic presidential candidates appear accomplished and smart. Few, save 30-year-old Elizabeth Kucinich, fit the current female beauty ideal. But is that really the point?

There is so much bad news floating around about black women, it is good to see an example of a successful, married, beautiful black woman, since the world so often views us as unlovable, unattractive and struggling. On this, I think Anna and I agree. However, I think her post's general thesis is supported by some biases and faulty memes, which makes it difficult for me to wholeheartedly agree with the piece.

Read the Jezebel post. What do you think?


Mes Deux Cents said...


I see both points. I understand the other post's assertion of surprise at Barack's choice of wife. The older generation of African Americans are probably (behind closed doors) surprised as well.

But I see your point as well. Michelle is a Black woman and so is Tonya Lee. I really make no distinction between light complected and dark complected African American women.

I wonder if the person who posted on Jezebel is an older woman, which would explain a lot. But even if she isn't some people have lurking ulterior motives behind what they write.

Excellent post.


Tami said...

Thanks, MDC. This was a hard post to write. I don't completely disagree with the Jezebel poster...just something about the way she made her case didn't sit well with me.

Symphony said...

The notion that successful black men are flocking to abandon black women is oft-repeated, divisive and untrue.

Just one of the many myths about ourselves that Black people believe.

Its one of the reasons I started a second Web site

The same people who complain that our image is distorted with only the negatives, actually perpetuate it by only talking about the negative. Its helping to promote the distortion.

Its like constantly whining about bad rap but not supporting positive artists. Same with movies. There would be more "The Great Debaters" if the people who complain about not having those type of movies went out and saw them.

Mes Deux Cents said...


Wow I didn't know tradtion of excellence was your site. I did a post about new sites and gave the link for it.

I love it!

Shelly said...

Hi Tami,

Great post. I must admit I am one of those women who, upon hearing a famous black celebrity is married, secretly hopes it is to a black woman. And being secretly disappointed if it turns out they're not.

This is EXTREMELY common in the UK; I think it is something like 60% of black men are married to non-black women, which this percentage being much higher amongst black clebrities. It is very surprising to see a well-known black person with a black partner - almost unheard of, in fact!

I know we shouldn't care about stuff like this but unfortunately for most black women, it is still a sensitive issue. The impact of being VISIBLE and representing desirability and beauty is very distorted in our relationships... so it is noticable when a well-known black person has a black partner. And even more so if that person is UNMISTAKABLY black rather than maybe mixed race? latino? dark-skinned european?

This sounds petty I know but I have to be honest.

Tami said...


Love the new site. I've been craving some good news lately. As a blogger, it's so easy to get caught up in anger and negativity. This is a great addition to the black blogosphere.


I had heard that in England, black people most often marry people of other races, so much so that to see a black couple is a rarity. Are black women as likely to marry outside of their race as black men are?

Shelly said...

More and more black women are looking outside of black men for life partners also... Overall in the UK, this is becomning more and more the norm.

For me and most of my friends we seek black partners but it is not an easy thing to meet a man who truly wants a black woman.

tmj707 said...

Not only have I read the post, I debated on it as well. I think you saw her post in a different light. I don't think she was saying those men are married to white women, or that she was surprised that Barack wasn't married to a white woman---she was saying it was a surprise to see a Black man in this society not with a VERY LIGHT SKINNED BLACK WOMAN.
And it's true. All those men mentioned date and married very light almost white looking women. The examples are endless--Eddie Murphy and his chicks, Spike Lee, --shoot I can't even continue, the list is too long. However, the list of Black men who date and marry brown women is much smaller--Barack, Denzel, Forest Whittaker...

I understand your point of view, but the reality is that the lighter you are the more you are perceived as 'attractive'. So these men look for women society finds attractive--i.e. Beyonces. Yes, Kelly Rowland is just as if not prettier than B, but she gets no play because her skin is brown, not extra light. No, it shouldn't be this way. Yes, some of us reject this theory and don't use it in our own lives. But if you look at the comments on that post, you will hear stories from both sides of the coin. Light skinned women being lauded for their beauty, while dark skinned women were seen as the exception in their beauty.

Oh, and in those comments, I again posit that Michelle Obama is NOT dark skinned. The woman is brown! Wesley Snipes is dark skinned, and both are beautiful. Dang it people! I mean, we have come to (oh whats the word)variegate??? skin color so much that there's too many colors. Oh she's caramel, oh she's cafe au lait...dude, it's too much for me. Michelle Obama is not dark skinned . She's just a pretty shade of brown. Heck, she's the same color as Oprah, though the Jezebel poster didn't think so. What do you think?

I can understand why it didn't sit well with you, but please think about it...when you see a Black man in the spotlight, and the significant other is Black, is she light skinned or not? On average? She is light skinned. Even if she is NOT pretty. It's as if her lightness gives her a pass regardless of what her features say.

That's why I was happy to see Michelle was another 'Beyonce'. Not because I dislike light skinned women, but because it's SOOOOOOOO NICE to see another representation of Black Beauty in the media. It's like being stuck with vanilla all the time. Bring in some chocolate, woohoo!

tmj707 said...

Oops, I meant to say Michelle was NOT another Beyonce. See what happens when you should be working instead of commenting on blogs? lol
And I love yours, too, btw!

Tami said...

TMJ--Welcome to my blog! You make some good points. I did not entirely disagree with what the Jezebel poster said. I realize that our culture worships Eurocentric beauty. I don't agree that most successful men are married to white or extremely light-skinned women.

Ciji said...

According to Wikipedia, in 2007, only 4.6 percent of black Americans married white Americans.

I have to ask, is this statistic 4.6% of all black Americans, or 4.6% of all married black Americans? And your phrasing implies that this 4.6% only refers to marriages that occurred in 2007: what's the percentage of black Americans that got married in 2007 in comparison to this 4.6%

Kismet.4 said...

Hi Tami,

I read the article, the posts and the comments. And I agree with parts of both but I like how TMJ summed it all up. Color isn't something we discuss CRITICALLY enough, probably because there is so much emotion and hurt tied up with it. And I can't lie--I was also impressed that Obama was "representing" with a dark (or brown, depending on your frame of reference) wife especially because of the examples that the article sites. The reality is, aspiring Black men, and I mean in the media and in the so-called "real world", are very often with women who are light to white. Is there something wrong with finding someone you connect with of any color? Of course not. But it is an issue that should be discussed. After all, is it just standards of beauty? Or is it that black men in certain positions are encountering darker women less and less? Is it because as men and women of both colors rise economically and professionally, they color scale also bleaches? Should something like this be intersected with the kinds of professions black men are in? After all, in academia, the reverse situation applies--female academics of color are often unmarried or married to white men. Speaking of unmarried professional women, should some of this also consider the differential demands on women who are professionals and on men--which might make it harder for darker/African American women to even marry black men. Wouldn't that be a nice flip--instead of the usually myth that there aren't enough black men, what if the reality is that there aren't enough black women?

Maybe a post on how on no one discusses Michelle as the first African-American (and, yes, a dark or brown African-American woman, depending on your frame of reference) first lady may be in order. Some of that has to do with the focus being on the presidential candidates, of course. But I think that part of that does have to do with color issues in the black community and in the mainstream. When Bill was running the first time, a lot of attention was on Hilary simply because she was such a dynamic figure. The Obamas current position is so unprecedented (to me, at least) that maybe it should have warranted some comment.

I guess, to sum up, I just think that the discussion is past time to have (again, critically) and thanks Tami for throwing it down. :)

Kismet.4 said...

Disclaimer: Just for frame of reference, since the personal is political, I am a "brown" young woman who has been called light and dark before. I am also of mixed race descent (Black and Puerto Rican) and am writing from my experience with colorism among Afro-Latin@s and Latin@s...where there all KINDS of issues....

Tami said...

TMJ, Kismet--I agree. There is no doubt that colorism exists and should be discussed.

Ciji-I took the statistic to mean that in 2007, of all black married people, 4.6 were married to people of another race.

Alexis said...

I agree with some points both bloggers made, but I'm a little confused; why is it called "Michelle Obama is not a light shade of 'trophy wife'" when the article is about her being dark skinned? Am I missing something?

bradski said...

Hi. I agree with Tami that there is too much emphasis put on "black" men marrying lighter complexioned African-American women or white women.

The marriage statistics clearly show that out marriage amongst African marriages is small. Moreover, while colorism still exists, we are pulling out only a handful of men as somehow representative of millions of others.

Additionally, it's important to understand that African-Americans are a mixed-race people. All of the DNA surveys continually show that the average African-American have substantial Caucasian and Native American ancestry (18 to 22% and 8 to 11%, respectively).

The flipside to this story is the sexism that takes place by ignoring the wives and their choices to marry darker skinned men!

Think about it. The conversation is always about the men and their choice of a wife. Why doesn't anyone every question the wife's choice? Is it because we so devalue the women in these relationships that we don't see them as real, living, intelligent humans? Instead, it seems by only examining the motivations of men, we reduce these women into golddiggers or trophy wives who marry only for money.

Why not examine the trend from the perspective of the women who find darker men attractive and want browner children?

By continuing this argument that focuses only on choices of men, we are only helping to prop up male superiority since we dismiss the choices of the women involved in the relationship. Hello! Why do feminist continue to dismiss the intelligence and decision making powers of these women?

Why do we dismiss the logic of love? Barak Obama's mother was a white woman who desired a man with dark skin. She married him. Had a child by him. Why do we persist on refusing to discuss the choices of women?

layla said...

Bradski, it's not sexist to focus on the choices of the men, in this case. This discussion revolves around a very visible, colorist trend in the media among prominent black MEN. Now, what makes you think that the lighter skinned women, that these high profile men are wedding, are marrying with the intent of having browner children and not marrying darker skinned men simply because of their wealth and status? I think you may be giving these women too much credit, especially considering that their status and media profile hinges largely upon their husbands. Truth is, the only reason why we know Tonya Lewis Lee's name is because she's married to Spike. Same could be said about Juanita Jordan, and about Eddie Murphy's fiancee Tracey, who arguably would not be where she is today had she not married the musician Babyface. It's only natural that the discussion would revolve around black male patriarchy. Between pro-sports and the entertainment industry, black men are far more visible and represented in the media than black women. They also have higher rates of interracial marriage and dating than black women. A similar inventory of the spouses of prominent black women would is a good idea though, but that's not what the original Jezebel post was about. It was about prominent black MEN and their spouses.

Tami said...


You make an interesting point. It is typical of sexist thinking to view women always as the chosen not the choosers.

Again, I acknowledge that colorism exists. It would be foolish not to. But I think it is dangerous to assign larger social motives to personal choices, conflating innocently marrying someone of light or dark skin with choosing a side in the color wars.

Every marriage between a brown-skinned man and a light-skinned (or white) wife cannot be suspect. The union may be part of a self-hating pattern for one of both parties, or it could mean...nothing. Conversely, we shouldn't get too gleeful about seeing a man with a dark skinned wife. Many a man with a brown mate demonstrates other misogyny in his treatment of black women. P. Diddy anyone? His baby mama Kim Porter is not light-skinned, but I would say Diddy is both colorist and misogynist.

The Jezebel article just tries to simplify something that isn't simple at all.

Tish said...

Thanks for the welcome Tami!

Bradski, that is so true that we have been seeing the men as 'choosers', rather than the women. I believe I read an article where it was stated Michelle was not happy being forced to squire Barack around town when he moved to Chicago, and only later came to date him--at his request. So it seems from that one article, she was indeed the chooser.

I also agree that it is possible that these relationships don't necessarily occur because of some self hating/esteem issue. I would like to piggyback on Kismet and Layla's ideas that maybe it is that in that arena--the area of entertainment, where light skinned women are the majority--that is what is often presented to the Black male. In the media, dark skinned women do not abound. If you are a Black man looking for a partner, you will run into more light skinned women in that environment than you will find dark skinned women. I agree with Layla--it would be Very interesting to see the corresponding numbers of Black women in academia or corporate america when marrying white or light skinned counterparts.

Here is another interesting point: maybe so many of us, including the Jezebel poster, see this phenomenon as prevalent because that is what the MEDIA wants to show us. Now that I think about it, I don't often see pictures of Forest Whittaker and his wife, nor pics of Denzel and his wife. Yes, pics of them by themselves, or with other actresses, but not many of them with their brown skinned spouses. On the flip side, I don't see lots of pics of Paula Patton and her husband, singer Alan Thicke. Or Golden Brooks with her white fiance. I never wouldn't have known if it wasn't for Black gossip sites. Maybe this whole situation is a construct of the media, showing us only what they--i.e. white power structure--is comfortable with seeing. Hmmm...

Tami said...


Great point! Could it be that the dark male/light female pairing is promoted by the media because it fulfills their narrative of what masculinity and femininity are?

For instance, white high-profile men who partner with women of color are far less visible, though they exist. How often do you see Roger Ebert pictured with his wife, who accompanies him on a lot of public appearances? How often do you see Robert DeNiro with his many black partners? Michael Caine and his brown Indian wife? Clint Eastwood and his biracial wife? Whoopi Goldberg, with her nappy hair, dark skin, African features and nontraditional femininity, has been coupled with several light and white men. And the fact that a handsome white man like Ted Danson would date Whoopi seemed to drive people batty with rage.

Could it be that the any other narrative than "black women=undesirable to all men" is rejected?

Leigh said...


I don't think that the dark male/light female pairing is put there for the reasons of representing masculinity and femininity. If it did, would that mean that light men (i.e. white men) were more feminine than black men? I highly doubt that white men would believe that theory or endorse it.

And as for your mentioning of the various white high-profile men married to non-white women, I have always found that those relationships were more acceptable, especially if the woman of color was attractive. Just because they are not seen very often doesn't necessarily mean anything. Many celebrities wish to keep their spouses and private lives private.

We all know that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have adopted 3 non-white children, but how often have we seen them since the announcement of the last adopted child? How often have we seen Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman's adopted biracial son? Steven Spielberg has several adopted black and biracial children. Has anyone seen them?

Tami said...


I should clarify: I don't think that black men represent hypermasculinity and white women define femininity. But those are ingrained Western stereotypes that, I think, the media amplifies and supports.

Bradski said...

What right does anyone have to say that another human being is theirs? What right do African-American women have to lament the marriage choices of others? Should white men cry when they see a successful white woman with a "black" man? (Yeah, I know there is a whole difference in terms of power between black women and white men.) How is it anyone else's business who marries whom?

Some of these assertions about the "lighter" skinned women in these relationships continue to be sexist and demeaning, insinuation that these women just married for money or power. Again, why don't we ever see articles about the women who CHOOSE darker skinned mates? Do these women not have voices?

Are we really saying that women can't fetishize or lust after a man because of his features? That's just plain untrue.

It's easier to view women as helpless victims than strong, intelligent human beings who make rational decisions based on love and facts in choosing a mate.

So, why are these women any different from Hillary Clinton who saw a man who could be a partner, someone just as ambitious and bold as they are? Yeah, Bill Clinton was a cheat, but the two of them are equal partners--equally ambitious and ruthless.

If a lighter skinned woman finds her soulmate is darker skinned, she should just shuffle off because dark skinned people should only marry dark skinned people? Gag! Yeah, marriage decisions based on skin color. What a novel idea that make society a better place for all humanity!!

I guess I find the continued exploration of this topic to be like three-day old pizza leftovers in the fridge. Nothing new. Not tasty and definitely old. Ebony and Essence magazines always push this line about the plight of African-American women not being able to find "black" men instead of taking the direction of how to help women find partners (of any race) who will love and support them. For that matter, both magazines have an anti-feminist bent in that they presume that women need a man to be happy.

Can anyone think of a year when those magazines don't have an article lamenting the plight of African American women? I'm not saying that the topic shouldn't be discussed. However, it should be put into the context of "so what" and not placed on some great pedestal of a social tragedy.

Isn't this really about the media continuing to push ideas of beauty? How long have we heard that blondes are more beautiful (gag!)? Who are the people in the media? What are their motivations? Are we saying that the media doesn't have an impact in shaping public opinion and reinforcing bigotry?

For example, has anyone watched Spanish-language TV? Why are all the actors on telenovelas white even though much of Latin America is mixed-race and non-white? Could it be that the power structure of Latin America is controlled by whites who reinforce their stature and ideals of beauty?

Isn't the same thing true in American media? Instead of focusing on the marriage choices of a handful of people, why not focus on the lack of black women in the media.

How often do we see darker complexioned actresses in sexy, intelligent roles? Why do so few women have natural hair? (Remember the vile comment about Cynthia McKinney's hairstyle?) Who are the casting directors? Why do they push certain types of beauty over others?

Most of the responses to my posting reduce women to gold diggers, prostitutes just looking for John who supplies a ring along with cash. Blech! Sexist, dehumanizing crap! How is women objectifying other women any less wrong than men doing so?

What should light-skinned black women do? Should they only marry men of similar or lighter phenotypes to please darker skinned women? How lame would that be? (Tragic mulatto cliches here we come!)

Should all African-American men marry women who are the same phenotype or darker they are to please someone else? How exactly does this benefit anyone?

(All this crap about how men are disrespecting their female relatives by marrying white women is nuts. What if the "black" man's mother or grandmother is white? A man is supposed to live his life for his "race"? Martin Luther King's grandmother was an Irish immigrant.

Marriages based on color? Gee, how Jim Crow... (Remember Plessy v Ferguson? The "black" man in question was only 1/8th black--a white man with some black ancestry.) Are we then saying that Martin Luther King Jr shouldn't have married Coretta Scott?

Or should Malcolm X. with his fair skin and red hair not have married Betty Shabazz?

Given that African-Americans are mixed-race people (most DNA surveys show that the average African- American has 18 to 22% European DNA and 8 to 11% Native American DNA), should we continue to pretend that isn't true? Isn't it common to see African-American families with children of different phenotypes?

I have friends. The wife is a lawyer and the husband is a surgeon. They are both African- American, he is lighter than she is. Recently, they had fraternal twin daughters: one was fair skinned and the other is darker skinned. Is one child more "black" than the other or are they both mixed-race African-Americans with different phenotypes who should be able to marry whomever they choose?

Colorism is real. It should be examined. However, assuming that every successful pairing of a lighter and dark skinned partner is about colorism and gold digging is condescending and disrespectful.

That's what bothers me about most of these types of articles. They replay the same cliches, repeating and reinforcing ideas: All black men want a white woman or at least a lighter-skinned black woman even though facts prove other wise. It makes for a sexier story that helps enrage an audience.

Could you imagine if white people complained about all of the black men marrying their women?

I'm not trying to belittle concerns about patriarchy; however, worrying about who is sleeping with whom doesn't seem to me to be as important as helping women and men of color succeed in life--getting good a education, securing employment, fighting racism, sexism, getting universal health care, etc.


Juanita Jordana married Michael at the start of his career before he was famous. They broke up and got back together.

As for this assertion that Angelina and Brad's children have disappeared from the limelight, you've got to be be kidding. Those kids are always on the cover of People, Us or In Touch magazine. Brad Pitt is on TV talking up rebuilding New Orleans.

I'm not a fan of the two (I really thought that the role of Mariane Pearl should have gone to a woman of color. There are plenty of good actresses who are biracial that could have done the job. That would have been the social and economic good.), but they are the real deal in terms of being people who do care about improving the human condition.

As for Steven Spielberg's kids, have you seen any of his kids in the media? No. Why would the Spielbergs want their kids in the media? Yeah, they really want their kids to turn out like Paris Hilton.

Other than Tom Cruise's daughter Suri, have you seen many recent pictures of either of Cruise's adopted children? Both kids are supposedly home schooled (in Scientology studies).

Yet none of these articles ever do any leg work and actually talk to the women in these situations. The women in these relationships are objectified as trophies instead of real living and breathing human beings able to think for themselves.


Has anyone watched "That's So Raven"? I have to say Raven is a young Lucille Ball.

Layla said...

Bradski, I don’t think anyone is trying to insinuate that women are helpless creatures. If anything, many of these women realize their fair skin is a hot commodity that can be traded for wealth and status to colorist men. That hardly makes them helpless. Get a grip! And no one’s assuming that All of the pairings are suspect. In fact, Tish went out of her way to state that. The Jezebel piece was commenting on a very visible trend in the media. If it’s sexist to say that the women I mentioned (Juanita Jordan, Tracey Edmonds, and Tonya Lewis Lee) would hardly be prominent without being married to their husbands, then so be it, because last time I checked Juanita wasn’t the one dribbling the ball up and down the court, nor were her business ventures netting her the type of wealth that she received by simply divorcing Mike. Tonya Lewis Lee isn’t a “producer” or getting book deals simply because of her writing “talent,” and Tracey can’t get invitations to A-list events, despite being a boutique studio head and producing such gems as “Who’s Your Caddy” and “Good Luck Chuck”, unless she’s on Eddie’s or her ex husband’s arm. You would never compare Jessica Seinfeld to Hilary Clinton, would you? So, please stop trying to equate Juanita or Tracey or Tonya to Hilary Clinton. You do her a great disservice by doing so. Hilary is a formidable woman in her own right, who would be a major power broker even if she were to divorce tomorrow, which is not something you could say about many of the women mentioned in the Jezebel piece.

“Yeah, marriage decisions based on skin color. What a novel idea that make society a better place for all humanity!!”

Are you just in denial or something? I hate to burst your bubble, but many marriage decisions are already based on color, in case you haven’t noticed, or else we wouldn’t be having this discussion. What are you going to say next, that the disparity in interracial dating and marriage between black men and women doesn’t exist? I don’t want to assume things, but are you a woman of color? If not, that might explain your perspective or lack thereof.

“Could you imagine if white people complained about all of the black men marrying their women?”

Cause white people never bat an eyelash at the sight of black men with white women. Well, alrighty then.

And I don't particularly know why you mentioned Raven. Though she's very talented,you do realize that she fits the very fair skinned black female mold that's always been condoned in the media, right?

bradski said...

Where to begin....

"...Because last time I checked Juanita wasn’t the one dribbling the ball up and down the court, nor were her business ventures netting her the type of wealth that she received by simply divorcing Mike..."


You've just reduced 20 years of marriage into a business transaction. That's gross. Juanita Jordana stayed with Michael Jordan through good and bad times. How many affairs did she endure? It must have been so easy for her to deal with the very public lawsuit by Michael's mistress. That must have been really a good time for her at the PTA!

Didn't Steven Spielberg's first wife, Amy Irving, walkaway with $200 million dollars? Harrison Ford's first wife walked away with millions. Ellen Barkin divorced her billionaire husband and got millions of dollars.

You have no respect for these women as human beings. Again, was it horrible for Martin Luther King to marry Coretta King? Was it okay for King's grandfather to marry a white Irish immigrant? Would the world be a better place if either had made a different choice? (BTW, I'm sure it was easy on Coretta to deal with King's well documented infidelities. But, Coretta was light-skinned. So, who cares?! She knew that she would become fabulously wealthy when she married him.)

Also, you misconstrued my point about women being "victims." I was not talking about just the light skinned women. I don't see women who are darker not married to these men as victims. If the men are colorist, a darker skinned women would inevitably be made to feel inferior by their spouses. Instead, the women who avoided these men, for whatever reason, are in better places.

Clarence Thomas' wife is white. I don't know, I think many self-respecting black women would rather be single than marry that guy. Get it? The darker skinned women who don't marry colorists aren't victims. They've avoided marrying someone who is a jerk and would have made their days miserable. (Sorry, but Clarence Thomas is just too easy. The man who hated so hates Affirmative Action so much that he had to take a job on the Supreme Court to ensure that no one would have to follow his footsteps into a life of power and privilege. What a great guy! A real catch!)

If there is a disparity between black men who marry white women, then why is that only the "fault" of black men? Are you saying that black women couldn't choose to marry white or Asian or Native American women? Quick, tell Halle Berry that her baby's father is the wrong color! Yeah, he's hot, own's his business, and treats her well. But he's the wrong color. He's the same color as her mother. Diana Ross must be beside herself to learn that she couldn't have chosen two white men to have fathered 4 of her 5 children.

Your beef with these women is their skin color. Look at your comments, they are direct at the women and how they benefited because of their looks.

Frankly, I never heard of Tonya what's her name until you brought it up. Then again, I don't know most of the names of the spouses of Hollywood celebrities-male or female, gay or straight.

Here's what I did learn about her: "A graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law, Tonya Lewis Lee handled First Amendment and corporate law for Nixon, Hargrave, Devans and Doyle in Washington D.C. before ditching the corporate life to pursue her true dream of writing and producing."--Yeah, Lewis Lee didn't have anything going for her except her looks before marrying Spike Lee. Obviously, it meant nothing that Lewis Lee graduated from a top law school. The woman just smiled her way through seven years of higher education. Sarah Lawrence College. The University of Virginia Law School. (There's this thing called feminism, you might want to read up on it. I think it change your worldview. See, human being who have XX chromosomes have brains, drive and ambition. Isn't that exciting!?)

BTW, you do realize that Lewis Lee is only a shade lighter than Spike? Do you know what Spike's grandmother looked like?

You also don't seem to understand my comment about marriages based on color: You think that these women should not marry their spouses because of their skin color! You also say that these women are conniving, using their light skin to seduce these colorist men. Blech: you are making these women into prostitutes. You are also saying that these men just married these women just for their looks.

It's always nice to see women promoting such a feminist outlook!

You have a problem with the choices of others. I don't. I don't care who marries whom because it's none of my business. Why should I obsess about the marriage choices of a stranger?

"Cause white people never bat an eyelash at the sight of black men with white women. Well, alrighty then."

Exactly, you've proven my point. Getting hot and bothered over the "interracial" sex lives of people is bigoted. Look at Harold Ford's recent campaign. Ford's skin is white, yet the racists in the Republican Party were happy to play on fears of him getting it on with white women at the Playboy Mansion.
But you agree with these folks since you have such a problem with black men marrying anyone who has more noticeable white ancestry than you deem acceptable.

Frankly, how is it any of your business whom Eddie Murphy or Michael Jordan marries?

And, no, it's not wrong to compare Hillary Clinton to any Tracey Edmonds. Sorry to burst your bubble about the myth of Hillary; however, being married to the president or governor is not a qualification to be president. Clinton was lawyer at a medium-sized Arkansas firm prior to
being First Lady. Her time in the Senate has only been for less than a term-and-a-half.

Again, you are diminishing the efforts and intelligence of these women. Tracey Edmonds is a successful executive. Edmonds was the successful producer of "Soul Food." So what if she's had two movies that flopped?

Hollywood is filled with successful producers and actors who have had flops and then rebounded. How many flops has Eddie Murphy had? "Pluto Nash" and "Showtime" lost millions. Didn't Michael Jordan fail at his ownership of the Washington Wizards? Did you see any of the new Star Wars movies? George Lucas should have his Hollywood card revoked and burned. Just because a movie makes money doesn't mean it isn't trash. (Michael Bay has made a career out of crappy music. Nas hopes to make cash off his album "Nigger." Now there's the kind of man (cough..sellout) that I'd want to marry a female relative.)

Also, it's sad to see you attack the success of a black female Hollywood executive who has been successful without selling out in a very racist and sexist industry where few people, regardless of color, make it. You've come a long way baby! It's good to know that some African-American women can dismiss the hard work and efforts of their sisters because they have lighter skin.

(Obviously, you would have a problem shaking the pale hand of Rosa Parks.)

So, what do you think about Imam marrying David Bowie? Is she less successful in your eyes because she married a wealthy, successful man. Or do you give her brownie points because she's darker than Lee Lewis or Edmonds? Iman and David Bowie's daughter has a white phenotype. Would you have a problem with her if she married a darker skinned man even though she probably has more immediate connection to Africa than 99% of all African-Americans?

Robert Deniro has married or partnered with several black women.
Matthew Modine's wife is black.

Alfre Woodward's husband is white.

At the end of the day, their marriages are their business. They don't affect how I lead my life or whom I will or will not marry.

Again, it's obvious that you are against black men marring anyone who has what you consider a "light" complexion. But you don't own these men. Their bodies are their own to do what they want with whom they want. Just as it is the same for their women.

No one has a right to lay claim to another especially because of some twisted sense of genetic or ethnic obligation.

Many sub-Saharan Africans would consider Michelle Obama "light-skinned" because her skin is brown and not black. If she were paired with a man with black skin, what would you think then?

What would you have "light-skinned" women do? Not marry to please you? I don't know, if the women refused to marry men who didn't pass the brown bag test, would that make you happy? Should Janet Jackson not be with Jermain Dupri because she has more visible white ancestry? Janet may have had a nose job, but she hasn't bleached it like some others.

You feel that you have the right to pass judgment on people because you don't agree with the skin color of their choice of spouse. And, you don't care about the facts behind the choices that people have made. Instead, you impose your reasons on them regardless of truth.


The majority of African-Americans are mixed-race. That's a fact. In escapable. Oprah Winfrey had her DNA screened. She's of African and Native American ancestry. Crucifying an African-American woman for having more visible white ancestry is bonkers.

Sorry, but continuing the myth of the conniving mulatta is just as reprehensible now as it was when Griffith made "Birth of a Nation" and had the seductive light-skinned black woman the Jezebel.

What do you think of Tiger Wood's choice of spouse. She's Scandinavian. Wood's actually has more Asian ancestry but lots of "black" women have made similar comments to yours. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson's soon-to-be-ex-wife is a white Cuban. Do you have a problem with Johnson's choice? Or, does his less "African" phenotype let him slide?

If Will Dent, the football player whose father is "black" and mother is Korean married a light-skinned woman would that bother your sensibilities.

Do you think Will Smith is a colorist for marrying Jada Pinkett Smith?

If Michael Jordan had married the honey-complexioned Queen Latifah (let's pretend she's not gay), would that be "wrong"?

Layla said...

“Where do I begin?”

Good question.

First of all, Stop using Coretta Scott King in your analogies. There was never any promise of vast wealth before she and Dr. King, a Baptist minister, married, nor was there any vast wealth during their marriage or after he died. Sorry, but Coretta is akin to Lisa Marie Presley, a woman who made more money profiting of the legacy of her deceased husband, than she ever did when Dr. King was alive. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I’m just saying. The civil rights movement nearly bankrupted the King household, so spare me. If you want to believe that colorism played no part in Dr. King’s decision to marry Coretta, that’s your opinion. We’ll never know one way or the other. Second, Malcolm’s attraction to Betty was in part POLITICALLY motivated, and using Betty and Malcolm is yet another bad analogy. Yes, obviously Betty had qualities that distinguished her from other dark skinned women, but her being dark skinned was of great importance to Malcolm, because he was a staunch black nationalist, and having a dark skinned bride was pragmatic and practical to his cause. If not Betty, it would have been another dark skinned woman.

Third, I never laid the interracial dating disparity at the feet of black men. Although, it wouldn’t surprise if you decided that black men were completely infallible in this matter. I merely acknowledged that the disparity does exist, which is something you seem reluctant to admit or explore. You’re content to overlook that elephant in the room and the most likely rationale behind it (refer to Tami’s 12/27 6:58 post) to perpetuate your utopian outlook on colorism, which is to underestimate or downplay it. I choose to dwell in the world of the realistic.

Fourth, did I ever insinuate or suggest that the only credits that Tonya, Tracey, or Juanita possess were/are their husbands? Did I suggest that to be a fair skinned woman automatically implies stupidity or ignorance? There are many dark skinned women with Tonya’s academic credentials. I wonder how many of them had a chance to date Spike Lee or Babyface or Michael Jordan or Eddie Murphy? Oh and try your darndest to brow me over the head about my criticism regarding Tracey Edmond’s talents as a film producer, but her lack of critical acclaim and low box office receipt track record speak for me. It would be very convenient for me to show support simply because she, like me, is black and female, but I’m not that liberal or patronizing, especially when there are black women, such as Shonda Rhimes (creator producer Grey’s Anatomy/ Private Practice) Debra Martin Chase (Princess Diaries movies), and Mara Brock Akil (Girlfriends/The Game), who’s work is earning large box office sums, getting ratings, awards/ nominations, acclaim, and notoriety because of the quality of their work , not the profile of their marriages. At the end of the day, Shonda got to go to the Golden Globes because her work on Grey’s Anatomy. Tracey got to go because the invitation sent to Eddie Murphy’s house said he could bring a guest, same goes for Tonya Lee Lewis. Oh, and none of the acts that Tracey signed as a record label head made any noise critically or commercially either, though she did frequent the Grammy awards (as guest of Babyface). Of course I could give you the rundown of black female A&R’s, not married to famous men, whose recording artists were relevant in the industry, but I think I’ve made my point.

“Again, you are diminishing the efforts and intelligence of these women. Tracey Edmonds is a successful executive. Edmonds was the successful producer of "Soul Food." So what if she's had two movies that flopped?”

Oh you mean the two flops, THIS YEAR. “Soul Food” was Tracey’s only critical or truly commercial and that was many moons ago. You’re forgetting Hav Plenty (flop), Josie and the Pussycats (flop), and a string of stupid reality shows. Will you please stop? This woman has had more chances to fail than most get to try to succeed, and it isn’t because she’s a visionary. Now, you’re comparing Tracey to George Lucas and Eddie Murphy whose work has generated billions in receipts. You’re comparing Tracey to auteurs, whose work has inspired millions? (BLECH!) Why, because she’s female and you wanna prove that you’re more feminist than I? Oh, (hand clap/bowing) good for you. Tracey, as talented as Lucas and Murphy? Oh You’re really reaching now. None of the three women I mentioned are on par with Kimora Lee Simmons (BabyPhat), who though I don’t always care for, I respect, because she took a subset of her husband’s initial business and under her leadership, made it just as if not more profitable than the original business that her husband started, which is why major corporations clamor to make deals with Kimora and her brand, despite her impending divorce to Russell Simmons. Kimora is the equivalent of Hilary Clinton, not the aforementioned three women. How many former first ladies do you know that are front runners for the democratic nomination and the first legitimate shot at a female President? I’m beginning to think that you really can’t tell the difference between Hilary and Jessica Seinfeld .

You know, your self righteousness is really ironic, actually. On the one hand, you condemn passing judgment , yet you assumed that Queen Latifah was gay, for no apparent reason other than the fact that she hasn’t been photographed in the media with a beau. So, is Alicia Keys gay too? You ask, “What are light skinned women supposed to do?” Well I ask you, why aren’t you showing as much concern for darker skinned women, seeing as that the media has already shown a marked preference for which marriages and black women to showcase, and far more often than not, the black couples that the media favors are those with fair skinned women. So you can bring up as many Will/Jada, Denzel/Pauletta, Alfre/white husband, Halle/Baby daddy examples as you like, you and I both know that these cases are exceptions to the norm in terms of media exposure. The only young, black child/teen star you could mention was Raven Symone. Coincidence? Hmm . . .I think you show a marked preference too, for denial. You assumed that my “sensibilities” have been offended and that I have some sort of bent against fair skinned women, (without wondering if I myself was a fair skinned woman), simply because I dare describe the obvious. In spite of the fact that I’ve said repeatedly that the Jezebel piece was reflecting a visible trend in the MEDIA. And the icing on the cake is that you continue to lecture me about women that I clearly know more about then you. Bradski dear, are you diminishing my efforts and intelligence? That’s a no-no. You know I’m a black woman, right?

Marriage isn’t a business transaction, huh? Ok, then, tell Juanita to give the bulk of her divorce settlement back. How did Juanita’s lawyers arrive at the sum they felt she was “entitled” to, if there was no business transaction involved? Yeah, in the immortal words of Spike Lee’s screenplay “School Daze” (a film about colorism at Historically Black Colleges and Universities/ mainly Morehouse where Dr. King and Lee went to school ) WAKE UP!!!!!

Layla said...

I meant Priscilla Presley, not Lisa Marie

bradski said...

" Marriage isn’t a business transaction, huh? Ok, then, tell Juanita to give the bulk of her divorce settlement back. How did Juanita’s lawyers arrive at the sum they felt she was “entitled” to, if there was no business transaction involved? Yeah, in the immortal words of Spike Lee’s screenplay “School Daze” (a film about colorism at Historically Black Colleges and Universities/ mainly Morehouse where Dr. King and Lee went to school ) WAKE UP!!!!!"

Good God! Do you know anything about how hard it's been for women to be able to considered partners in their marriage and not property? There's this rule of law called community property wherein women and men in a relationship are partners in their relationships. Therefore, they are each entitled to 50% of the assets accumulated in their marriage.

The laws that allows for this are a triumph for legal equity for women who were routinely reduced into poverty by divorce. By codifying the equality of women in marriage, women (and some men) are ensured that they are not impoverished because of a divorce.

The fact that Juanita Jordan received millions is about the law and what's fair. Again, you reduce Juanita Jordan to a high priced prostitute who's too stupid to even know what the finances are in her own marriage. Somehow, I think Juanita Jordan would be able to pick up Forbes and read their estimates of her husband's earnings if not just read the bank statements.

You have no respect for this woman or for any other woman who receives her equitable share of marital assets.

These laws were put in place to do right by women not reward gold diggers. You really need to do some research.

As for Tracey Edmonds, she graduated from Stanford. Yep, just another Ivy League-educated floozy who married well. (Let's just forget that she was a successful business woman throughout her marriage.)

So what if you're a "black" woman?! That doesn't give you license to be a bigot. Get real. Wake up!! Have you thought about joining forces with Clarence Thomas? You could do wonders to help ensure that women are relegated to second class status again just as Clarence Thomas would have for most African Americans.

Race and gender don't preclude someone from doing wrong against people just like them.

You talk a good game but you're just as much a colorist as anyone.

"Yes, obviously Betty had qualities that distinguished her from other dark skinned women, but her being dark skinned was of great importance to Malcolm, because he was a staunch black nationalist, and having a dark skinned bride was pragmatic and practical to his cause. If not Betty, it would have been another dark skinned woman."

Are you kidding? Why don't you provide some proof (facts) for those assertions. Don't you know anything about the Nation of Islam? All of the male leaders, like Malcolm X., were light skinned mixed race. In most of Latin America, Louis Farrakhan would be considered white.

Just who was Malcolm X. supposed to impress with a darker skinned wife? The Nation of Islam wasn't exactly the most female friendly place. Remember how Malcolm made enemies for exposing the sexual shennanigans of the faith's leaders?

And, do you really think that Malcolm X. was so "pragmatic" (cynical and manipulative) that he would marry a woman for her darker skin because he thought years later he might one day become a national leader?

Again, you also disenfranchise the voice of Betty Shabazz. You make her into just a pawn for a cynical man looking to gain power. What about Coretta Scott King? You still focus on Martin Luther King Jr's choices but fail to discuss her decisions. Aren't both of these women sexual beings? Aren't there biographies about both women?

You make all of these generalizations but neglect to provide any evidence. Blech!

layla said...

Keep name calling, love; you’re on a roll. Tell me, what do laws that make women equal partners in marriage have anything to do with the institution not being a business transaction? Now, according to you, I’m a bigot, and why? Because I call BS when I see it? You’re even allying me with Clarence Thomas, as some pathetic attempt at a slur or an insult. You want me to support any artist/executive with a high profile or platform, even if they’re manufacturing sup-par work, simply because their female and/or a minority, and I’m not about to do that, especially considering that you do enough of that for the both of us. I could see you calling me bigoted if I criticized every woman who entered the spotlight through marriage, but I’ve given sufficient props to woman such as Hilary Clinton, Kimora Lee Simmons, and Arianna Huffington. As I’ve stated before, I think you’re incapable of making the distinction between Lee/ Edmonds/Jordan and Clinton/Simmons. You probably can’t even make the distinction between Rhimes/Chase and Edmonds/Lee.

“You make all of these generalizations but neglect to provide any evidence. Blech!”

Seriously, dude, get off of your high horse. You pontificate for several long diatribes without citations, and now you’re asking me for source material? You wouldn’t be holding me to a higher standard than yourself, because I’m female, would you? Did you provide any evidence of Coretta marrying Dr. King because she knew he was going to “become fabulously wealthy?” Did you provide any evidence of Dr. King having any fabulous wealth at all? Have you provided any evidence of Tracey being a top notch film and music executive other than “Soulfood?” Of course, you haven’t, probably because you admitted earlier to knowing nothing about these women before this discussion, yet, you’re still intent on telling me how it is, even though, unlike you, I’ve given many examples of their mediocrity. All you’ve done is list academic credentials that have nothing to do with the quality of work that Tracey’s name has been attached to, as if a Stanford degree automatically makes her a good producer. Tell that to Oprah who dropped out of Tennessee State before eventually graduating or Diablo Cody, a former stripper, who wrote the screenplay for “Juno.” Tsk, tsk, you’re elitism is showing. You’d think that a Stanford grad could pick better scripts and produce better, more commercially and critically viable work, right? After all, Kimora has no college degree, yet her business is far more celebrated and lucrative. Hilary has a BA and a law degree, just like Tonya, yet has been far more successful in her endeavors in law, politics, and media. Truth is, the outfit that Tracey runs “Our Stories Films” was supposed to distinguish itself from the pack by producing films that filled a void in the marketplace for Black fare that defied stereotype, but right from the gate, “Who’s Your Caddy” portrayed every negative stereotype in the book about African Americans, and it didn't even make money, but by all means, keep defending her “genius,” and trying to prove that she’s deserving of comparisons to Lucas and Murphy. Our Stories Films isn’t synonymous with quality. Until, she puts out something worth a damn, the studio will be synonymous with the same type of crap that white people have been using to degrade blacks for years, and then she turns around and produces another dumbass comedy, this time with non-blacks, but instead of racist caricatures, the non-blacks in Good Luck Chuck got to be actual human beings.

BTW, before you accuse me of disenfranchising Betty Shabazz, you should know that I learned about Malcolm’s emphasis on his wife’s skin color while reading a biography about Betty’s life. Check out Russell Rickford’s bio "Betty Shabazz: A Remarkable Story of Survival Before and After Malcolm X," or if not, just listen to Rickford’s interview with Tavis Smiley on NPR about how Betty’s being dark skinned was important to Malcolm and his cause.

No wonder the Jezebel piece focused on the choices of the men, because once again, the only reason why we know Betty or Coretta’s name or the three aforementioned black Jessica Seinfelds is because . . . Keep defending the feckless if you like, I’ll represent those that actually matter and have and continue to make a difference. Oh and another thing, I think both Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice received Golden Globe nominations, so expect to see Shonda Rhimes (black female exec producer) at the show. Don’t be surprised if Tracey or Tonya aren’t there. Spike and Eddie weren’t nominated for anything this year.

Tami said...

I'm not sure that this discussion is going anywhere. I want constructive debate on this site, but this is just an argument at this point.

Can we take it down about a thousand?

Anonymous said...

Given that African-Americans are mixed-race people (most DNA surveys show that the average African- American has 18 to 22% European DNA and 8 to 11% Native American DNA), should we continue to pretend that isn't true? Isn't it common to see African-American families with children of different phenotypes?

bradski, What stats are you reading? I have read numerous studies that suggested that 70% of AA's are late 80- early 90 percentile Black.

Most AA are very much West African in ancestry.

Anonymous said...

It seems the perception that a large percentage of black men are either looking for white women, or are looking for light-skinned black women secondly, or are interested in darker black women as sort of a fluke is true. I really think some of this is media spin. On the other hand there is some truth to it. I've looked back at prestigous black men in past times and found that many of them as well went with white women or light-skinned black women. And this being as far back as the slavery era to the 20th century up until now. Is this because darker black women are less attractive or less intelligent, less graceful? I don't think that is the answer. I know and I have met many darker skinned black women that were graceful, dazzlingly attractive, and brillant. Just as I've met and know some highly unattractive and not so sophisticated white women and ligther-skinned black women. Though I know this myself and have seen it with my own eyes I tend to cling to the notion that it is better to be lighter. It is better to be white. Even myself I am a lighter black woman with a darker black man and sometimes I can't help but wonder if my complexion played a part in his attraction to me. THough I hate to admit it and think it is somewhat ignorant, I sometimes think I am different or better because I am lighter in complexion. I have been a witness that I am sometimes treated better by some people than I've seen those same people treat darker skinned black people. By the same token I have seen where someone lighter than me is seen as more attrative than me because they are lighter. Well I'm on my own fact-finding, thought provoking journey to uncover some of the attitudes that perpetuate how people feel about color. People in general seem to have prejudices about color and physical features, for instance, whites, have had their own issues with discriminating against other whites due to color and also favoring other whites for certain physical attributes. I'd like to know why some whites think blond is better. I'd like to know why some thought not too long ago it was dirty, undesireable, to be a red-headed Irish. I'd like to know why black men of all hues seem ok to be placed in the media while black women of darker hues who would birth into the world babies that look like that man seem to be fading from tv commercials, movies as a black man's counter part and in the media period. This is a very intersting topic.


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