Race. Racism. Racial.
What is race exactly? What is racism? What is colorism?
a group of persons related by common descent or heredity.
a population so related.
- (no longer in technical use) any of the traditional divisions ofhumankind, the commonest being the Caucasian, Mongoloid, andNegro, characterized by supposedly distinctive and universalphysical characteristics.
- an arbitrary classification of modern humans, sometimes, especiallyformerly, based on any or a combination of various physicalcharacteristics, as skin color, facial form, or eye shape, and nowfrequently based on such genetic markers as blood groups.
- a socially constructed category of identification based on physicalcharacteristics, ancestry, historical affiliation, or shared culture:
Her parents wanted her to marry within her race.
- a human population partially isolated reproductively from otherpopulations, whose members share a greater degree of physical andgenetic similarity with one another than with other humans.
a group of tribes or peoples forming an ethnic lineage:
the Slavic race.
any people united by common history, language, cultural traits, etc.:
the Dutch race.
the human race or family; humankind: (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/race?s=t).
How I self-defined race?
My definition is a constructive view of one’s color due that is used for control, authority, or hierarchal purposes. To me, race is a constructive theory perceiving how certain people are. When I hear about race, it is about the superiority and/or inferiority of a group of people. Hitler called the Aryan (pure white race) the master race. That any other individuals…any other races, were inferior. Growing up in a rural middle-Southern town, I knew one reason why I was difference because of my “race.” Seeing how my mom was treated by other non-black people, well, it cued me in on racism.
a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various humanracial groups determine cultural or individual achievement, usuallyinvolving the idea that one’s own race is superior and has the right todominate others or that a particular racial group is inferior to theothers.
a policy, system of government, etc., based upon or fostering such adoctrine; discrimination.
hatred or intolerance of another race or other races. (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/racism?s=t).
I did feel that growing up. I felt like white so better that I believed, in inner Sophia’s mind, that it was true. Can you imagine a kid believing that their skin color was nothing the dirt that shoes track? That whiteness was pure. That the lighter you were closer to white the more opportunities you gain? That people of non-color would take pity on you if you didn’t look so dark. It’s twisted because you can’t be yourself. You have to adapt to ideologies and use what you think you have as an advantage to get to where you want to get.
However, what if you have a little black girl who wants to feel a part of her community because she feels internal racism. Yeah, there is a term for that: Colorism.
Colorism is a practice of discrimination by which those with lighter skin are treated more favorably than those with darker skin. In the African-American community, this traditionally played out via the paper bag test. Those lighter than the standard paper lunch bag were allowed entry into fraternities, sororities and other realms of black upper class life, while dark-skinned blacks were excluded. The Spike Lee film “School Daze” is an exploration of colorism (http://racerelations.about.com/od/understandingrac1/g/definitionofcolorism.htm).
Oh, did I feel the colorism in Cockroach. Whew…all I wanted was to be an accepted BROWN girl, and I wasn’t. I didn’t act the part of what a black girl was. I can’t testify evidently if it was what my other black peers saw. I can’t provide evidence if it is what they saw strictly in our small community, but I didn’t fit the bill, Yo. I guess I didn’t fit that I was funny, that I was loud…that I didn’t act black enough. Due to not acting black enough, I was excluded from the black club.
And that’s one part of colorism. You know, racism, if you are a person of color, you know right away. It is a pretty blanant difference. However, it stings when brown people like you don’t choose to relate to you and actually exploit and expose your uniqueness. Instead of celebrating your uniqueness, they make you feel like an alienated freak. You feel like a freaked misfit…and that doesn’t belong because you aren’t good enough in your own ethnic group.
Dark Girls brought that home to me. Watching it yesterday on Netflix brought me in an awareness focus. It not only reminded me but confirmed to me that colorism is real. It is a reality just like after I read Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye in the summer after my freshman year of college. The power that The Bluest Eye showed me is that I was not alone. I was like Pecola in so many ways. Feeling like the dandelion in the crack of the sidewalk…feeling cracked apart in my childhood. The fragmented Sophia is this: the inner child who was never accepted for who she was….and how the adult Sophia processed all that. How the inner child and adult Sophia felt fragmented to the point where they couldn’t synthesis…that they could not merge into one Sophia.
The power of feeling lesser than by a macrocosm is apparent. It is much powerfully hurtful when the very microcosm rejects you. You feel like you have nowhere to go at all. You feel like you don’t belong to NO group. And it rips apart any foundational self-esteem you have. It nearly torn mines asunder to the point where it took me years to merge it.
I cringed when I watched Dark Girls as a 33 year old woman. I cringed because of the stories. I cringed because I know how those women felt. You come into this world, and you don’t expect these beatings. The beatings from all corners. You expect somebodies to be in your corner…and you realize that a group aren’t going to back you. What if you are a brown or black girl…and you feel like you have no one? You are totally lost in oblivion of pain…and for some of us, out of all those who are exposed to that pain, to become successful and happy with ourselves. Some of us still struggle…so viciously…and to the point where, some of us just lose hope and get lost in the oblivion of pain.
Slavery was a horrific event in our country where it still has it after effects. The legacy of slavery trails behind this nation. With it, the aftershocks of, not only racism, but colorism as well.
There needs to be more documentaries, fiction, non-fiction, etc. discussing colorism. Yes, we have racists, but we have colorists, too. Racism is fear as colorism is as to bullying. When you feel oppressed, you attempt to oppress other people. Empowerment comes from realizing that there is pain…and that you are causing…and it is doing something constructive about that pain positively.
More than ever, we all need to find ways to heal our own wounds so we can help others heal theirs.