A girl like me
If you missed Nicole's great post about the tensions colorism creates among women, check it out here. It occured to me after reading this comment to the essay:
Speaking as a white person here, my first reaction is to think this stuff is just plain bizarre. I suppose it's always that way, when you're told about a form of prejudice which it would never occur to you to participate in. I want to say, "What's the point in _that_?" And yet, what's the point in any kind of prejudice? I suppose that for just about every one of us, there's some category of people that we'd be willing to hurt.
...that many people outside of the black community may not understand colorism or even know that it exists.
There is no point to colorism. It has roots in slavery when lighter blacks, sometimes the children of their very owners, were seen as better and given preferential treatment. And it festered even after slavery, as Eurocentric physical characteristics (light skin, straight hair, narrow nose, etc.) continued (and still continue) to be seen as preferred.
As ALL women know, rigid definitions of beauty are particularly damaging to us. After all, we are the ones whose worth is too often measured by our beauty. For black women and other women of color this presents a problem, as in our society it is white women who are considered the definition of beauty and femininity. Most in the black community have absorbed these standards and often denigrate each other based on proximity to the standard of whiteness.
More than 50 years ago, Dr. Kenneth Clark completed a landmark study in support of the Brown vs. Board of Education case. The "doll test" study illuminated how black children absorbed messages of low worth based on physical characteristics. Recently, a very smart young woman, Kiri Davis, just 17, conducted the test again and received similar sad results:
In the 1954 test, Clark showed children a black doll and a white doll and asked black children which doll they preferred. The majority chose the white. The findings were not surprising for the time. In the summer of 2005, Kiri Davis, a high-school teen, sat with 21 black kids in New York and found that 16 of them liked the white doll better.
"Can you show me the doll that you like best?" Davis asked a black girl in the film. The girl picked the white doll immediately. When asked to show the doll that "looks bad," the girl chose the black doll. But when Davis asked the girl, "Can you give me the doll that looks like you?" the black girl first touched the white doll and then reluctantly pushed the black doll ahead. Read full text at Diversity Inc...
See Kiri Davis' excellent film, A Girl Like Me, below. Tell me your heart doesn't break seeing little black children choosing the white doll as the pretty doll, the good doll and the nice doll, over and over again, while finding the one that looks like them to be ugly and bad.