I noticed a few people were discussing this essay on various social media platforms yesterday but I just got around the reading it. Wow! The soon-to-be-ex Mrs. Usher Raymond certainly has her head on straight as far as recognizing the intra-Black racism, petty jealousies and assumptions by strangers goes. She took great pains to make a definitive argument of the larger psychological issues as well as the added attention due to her celebrity status. She laid it out and offered her own introspection of how that negativity has affected her.
We’ve been discussing the underlying pathologies that motivate many African-Americans here and at other forums for quite some time. I can’t recall the last time I’ve read a thorough examination of these by another AA person who wasn’t a) a blogger trying to encourage other black women to free themselves b) an academic or infotainment hustler c) a man. So I cheered that this message will likely get more attention – but unfortunately it will likely be due to the pop culture consumption of various parties and not from a concentrated effort by those trying to free their minds. Still I hope that something sticks. I’ve pulled some quotes which I found particularly poignant that I’d like more blacks to evaluate in detail:
I am a dark-skinned African American woman with features that reflect my ancestry. It is a fact that many African-Americans are often mixed with an array of other ethnicities (as am I), which allows for the spectrum of our features to be as distinctive and special as we are diverse. Why is it felt that the more diluted our traditionally African features become the more aesthetically acceptable we are considered?
That all-too-familiar disdain and lack of racial or ethnic pride amongst African-Americans has not been resolved. We must also be careful about not mislabeling the potential self-hate of an individual versus the choice to devalue others. This manifests itself in familiar patterns by the way some black men pursue white-skinned women and how black women who don’t know each other can be at odds with one another just because. People who are engaged in adversarial interactions cannot coalesce to form networks that would elevate larger groups. So the focus remains on external aggressions (i.e the white racism argument) instead of recognizing how so many undermine each other.
Often dark-skinned women are considered mean, domineering and standoffish and it was these very labels that followed Michelle Obama during the campaign for her husband’s presidency and which she has had to work tirelessly to combat. I was appalled when I heard a Black woman refer to Michelle Obama as unattractive. The conversation turned into why President Obama picked her as his mate.
This is bigger than Michelle Obama. This is the manifestation of that colorism, hueism, skin shade hatred and black on black racism that does more damage today than its historical origins. It is also specifically targeting black women, African-American women who are unabashedly black with recognizable African features. It is used to shame them and make them more compliant for abuse. Like the street harassment I discussed in yesterday’s blog post. Yes, we know it was part of the “Master’s Tools” to create division amongst slaves and maintain control over a much larger population who could have easily risen up and slaughtered their captors. Psychological warfare is dirty and brutal. As I’ve written previously SLAVERY IS OVER. There is NO EXCUSE for blacks to take this practice, magnify it by thousands, add more depravity on top of it and then say that white people started it. I also touched on that hack piece by a hack writer who attributed an anonymous quote to disparage browner-skinned black women.
As I began to delve into further research on this topic, and the more I read, I concluded that many of our people do not like what they see in the mirror. There is an adage “hurt people, hurt people”. If this is true then we must examine the root of negative words and judgments that are passed on people. Perhaps we show progress in our wallets and lifestyles but not in our mind set. I nearly lost my life over something as superficial as having a flatter mid-section and trying to adapt to society’s traditional definition of beauty. I truly believe that everyone has a right to delineate what they deem is attractive, but we must not confuse perceived “attractiveness” with authentic “beauty.” It is important for African Americans, especially, to realize that true beauty is a spiritual element that lies deep within an individual’s spirit.
I appreciated Mrs. Raymond’s candor about going to such lengths to be considered attractive and acceptable. It’s one thing to follow a strict regime to be healthy and at one’s best. Chasing eternal youth and the appearance of external perfection is something else entirely. I thought about how Dr. Donda West, Kanye’s mother lost her life while recovering from a similar surgical procedure. Despite her education, financial resources and residual celebrity – or perhaps because of it – she felt something was lacking and tried to address it externally. She also had a browner skin shade and noticeably African features. Not that plenty of other women don’t choose to go to such lengths as well but I can’t help but wonder would the drumbeat of disdain be less fervent if others accepted themselves as they were and encouraged others instead of tearing them down?
I also watched the documentary about Lisa Lopes (from TLC) that aired on VH-1 yesterday. Ironically she had been filming herself, friends and family for a project and it ended up being her legacy after she was killed in an auto accident. It was packaged beautifully and was very compelling. Her candor about her struggles and insights she offered gave me a different perspective. She was a flawed but brilliant woman – like so many of us. So when I see certain black women in the spotlight I observe how they are treated by others and what standards apply. It isn’t pretty. Still I admire the efforts by many to live their lives on their own terms and not some self-imposed double standard of acceptable “black” behavior that is often demeaning anyway. I hope Mrs. Raymond’s essay gets through to some black women who would have otherwise not heard its message of uplift.