Monday, December 22, 2014
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The “Light Skin Libra Birthday Bash” which was to take place at Detroit’s Club APT on Woodward Avenue was the brainchild of a Detroit DJ and party promoter. The party was intended to let “light-skinned” Black women into a downtown club free. In his defense, Ulysses “DJ Lish” Barnes, a self described “dark skinned” African-American, said that he had plans for “Sexy Chocolate” and “Sexy Caramel” parties too. The good news isthat the parties have been canceled after much criticism and calls for boycotts and lawsuits.

There are no words for some of the ignorant (insert four letter word that starts with an s rhymes with hit), that we do to ourselves. But let me give it a try...

The short version.
Throughout history, Black people with lighter skin were treated better. In the days of slavery, the dark-skinned Blacks worked in the fields while light-skinned Blacks worked in the house, hence the terms “field Negroes” and “house Negroes.” It got so bad, that not only did the slave owners, who were often responsible for the light skin of the slaves, give lighter-skinned Blacks more respect, but so did the dark-skinned Blacks.

This evolved into generations of Blacks both consciously and subconsciously teaching themselves that one is better than the other which eventually led to millions of dollars being spent on long, both straight and wavy, and sometimes, yes—-even blonde hair. This was best illustrated in Spike Lee’s 1988 film “School Daze” in the seen played out in a beauty parlor between the “jiggaboos,” otherwise known as the darker-skinned Blacks with nappy hair, and the “wannabe’s,” the lighter-skinned Blacks with straight often times weaved hair. Also in the film version of Alice Walker’s novel “The Color Purple” during the scenes where Mister asked for Nettie who was “chocolate” colored with long hair but was given Celie, who was dark-skinned with nappy and short coarse hair instead and between a grown up Celie and Mista’s in-house mistress Shug Avery.

Follow that up with the sororities and fraternities partaking in the “brown paper bag test,” wherein anyone darker than the bag was denied entrance.

Add to that the large number of Black children who still prefer to play with dolls that are White with blond hair and blue eyes and actually identify with those over dolls of their own race and you end up with the 2003 case between two Georgia Applebee’s restaurant employees.

Dwight Burch, an Applebee’s restaurant employee who is a dark-skinned waiter filed a lawsuit against Applebee’s and his light-skinned African-American manager alleging that during his employment, the manager repeatedly referred to him as a “Black monkey” and a “tar baby” and told Burch to bleach his skin. Burch claimed he was fired after he refused to do so.

And let’s not overlook two decades of rap music videos where the preferred “ho” is a lighter shade of brown. Or actress Jennifer Beals’ famous, “I thought I would never get in. I thought they only took geniuses. But I was lucky, because I’m a minority. I’m not Black, and I’m not White, so I could mark ‘other’ on my application, and I guess it’s hard for them to fill that quota,” quote on how she got into Yale University. Beals, whose father was Black, seldom identifies with the Black community despite being nominated for an NAACP Image Award. And singer Prince, who despite having Black parents, asserted in his press bio that he is Italian, among other things, when he achieved musical stardom.

More recently there was the University of Georgia’s 2006 controversial study on skin tone which confirmed that light-skinned Blacks are often more likely to be considered for jobs over dark-skinned Blacks and you get the flier above...a classic example of Dr. Joy DeGruy-Leary’s P.T.S.S., or post-traumatic slave syndrome.

You know, I can’t think of one time that I witnessed or heard of White children taunting each other for being lighter or darker, but I can think of numerous occasions where I have seen Black children doing just that. And while our lighter skin shades can be attributed to the Massuh’s preference for his female Black slaves over his own wife, we can’t blame the Massuh for us passing down the message that light is good and dark is bad.

Over the weekend, I attended L.A.’s Taste of Soul Festival on Crenshaw Blvd. I observed for quite some time the activity at a booth selling hair extensions. Black women, both young and old, light and dark, crowded the booth to touch and feel the long straight flowing hair extensions that were guaranteed not to shed to “nap up.” This while nearby booths, offering free diabetes, obesity, and HIV/AIDS tests went virtually unnoticed. Go figure.

While the party in Detroit is sad, it’s the manifestation of years and years of Blacks still buying into the slave “house Negro” and “field Negro” mentality given to us by the Massuh. There are enough forces out there trying to divide us without us giving them a helping hand.

It’s funny I never heard of lighter prison sentences for lighter Blacks. Black is Black no matter how light or how dark your skin is.

And on a side note, I find it completely fascinating that while some of us are out there trying to lengthen, lighten, and straighten our hair, bleach our skin, and unfortunately get our noses done to appear slimmer and longer, on the flipside they’re busy with botox, breast and butt jobs, and tanning salons.

Jasmyne Cannick n is a social commentator and activist who is known for addressing the issues others can’t or simply won’t. Chosen as one of ESSENCE Magazine’s 25 Women Shaping the World, at 29, Jasmyne is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists and writes a popular daily blog at jasmynecannick.com and myspace.com/jasmynecannick. She resides in Los Angeles and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .





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