Hueism continues to be a problem in the Black community that we are loathe to discuss. Part of the issue is that its genesis comes from a very painful place in our history. The light skinned slave was the house slave and the dark skinned one worked in the field. After emancipation those that were light skinned continued to live with privilege relative to darker skinned Blacks. A simple glance through the photographs of the first Black sororities will reveal that the first Blacks to attain an education were overwhelmingly light skinned. Some families ensured that their line stayed light by encouraging their children to either be with white people or marry another light skinned person. The animosity between light and dark skinned Blacks continues to this day.
Just as Whiteness has created myths about Black people, so to have Blacks constructed ridiculous attributes which are dependent upon the hue of someone’s skin. The mandingo identity that is ascribed to dark skin Black males reduces them to sexual animals with no mental capacity for rationale thought. Light skin women are perceived by many as being more attractive than dark skinned women. There are times when a dark skinned child born into a light skinned family will face ridicule and emotional abuse.
We are divided, even though we have a tendency to speak about ourselves as the Black community. Hueism manifests itself every time we debate good hair or bad hair, the thickness of ones lip, or the broadness of a nose. These conversations continue to happen because despite a civil rights movement, and the coining of the phrase Black is beautiful, we don’t believe that we have real value. Our bodies may no longer be enslaved but our minds are still very much colonized.
To love Blackness means that we must acknowledge that we are beautiful in our diversity. From the roundest shelf behind, to the nappiest hair, we have got to re-evaluate what we consider to be physically pleasing. It is absolute lunacy to have children growing in so-called Black communities being harassed for being too Black. When we speak about supporting Black led initiatives it is important that all the hues are equally represented. We cannot allow Whiteness to divide us by ensuring that only women that look like Tyra Banks succeed. Tyra is beautiful, however we need to celebrate the women that look like Alek Wek as well.
We live like hutu’s and tutsi’s, divided by imaginary difference and ruled by Whiteness to their favour. As long as we continue to argue amongst ourselves we can never defeat racism. What these colonized Blacks don’t realize, is that every time they denigrate someone for being too Black or uplift someone for being light skinned, they are affirming the very beliefs that have created ALL Blacks as secondary citizens. It might be more comfortable to push this to the side and point to Whiteness as the only factor in our continued struggle however like all oppressors, their hegemony is in part possible because they have the help of marginalized bodies. It is time for the sun to set on the house slave mentality. It is only in unity that Black will truly become beautiful.