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Colorlines: (#TeamDarkSkin / #TeamLightSkin) = Really Stupid

I walked into the tail end of a conversation at work yesterday that left me annoyed, disturbed, and saddened. You meet all kinds of people in a retail environment, largely because the only requirement to work in retail is the possession of a functioning steady pulse. I guess I shouldn’t have been shocked by the words that fell out the 20-somethings thin pink lips, but I was.

It was the end of the night and we were waiting for the manager to finish counter the drawers so we could go home. The wind was howling in the pitch black darkness outside. It was nearly 10pm, and we were all anxious to go home. Closing down the store really sucks. Perhaps it was because of the lateness of the hour or the general feeling of agitation that incited this conversation. Perhaps it was because Shameka Thompson is actually an entitled, elitist douchewad with little regard for the feelings of others that led her to say what she said. Whatever the case, there was no taking the words back now.

The majority of the cashiers had noticed a difference in the attitude of our clients after election night had passed. They were downcast and despondent, where they are generally very chipper and affable. Investors also showed their displeasure with the re-election of Barack Obama by driving the Dow down 313 points just after he gave his acceptance speech. Our conversation of course turned to how angry White people were about having a half-white guy (or totally Black guy if you apply the 1% rule) in office once again.

“Oh well. They just need to get over it!”

“They ought to be ‘shamed.”

“I can’t believe how racist some of these people are!”

Some of the comments were whispered, others spoken loud enough to carry across the store in wanton disregard for who might hear them. It’s not racist when we say disparaging things about race relations – it’s racial indignation. Big difference there, you see.

So after all this talk about race in America and how more divided Blacks and Whites are now than any other time in recent history – at least politically – I was surprised to walk into this conversation between my two co-workers.

Shameka Thompson is a 23 year old college graduate. I couldn’t tell you where she went to school, but I CAN definitively tell you that she is an AKA and a label whore. I applaud anyone who has standards for clothing and invests in quality attire, but it’s irritating beyond measure when a person becomes solely defined by Gucci, Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren. I would describe her as a little darker than a brown paper bag and a solid size 8. She’s cute. Not breathtaking or beautiful…just cute. I don’t think anyone would give her a second glance if she walked down the road.

Carl Smith is a fairly new employee, having only been with the company 4 months. He moves the freight onto the floor and rings customers up when our lines begin to snake around the register. He’s an affable guy with a snarky sense of humor. We get along very well. I call him “Glitter Cheeks”. He and I are the same color: dark brown. This is important to remember.

“So what you saying then?” Carl laughed. “I’m not your type because what – I’m a man?”

“No,” Shameka said, rolling her eyes and neck. “You’re not my type because you’re dark skinned.”

She spat the words “dark skin” as if someone had shoved horse poo in her mouth. I was aghast. I looked at Carl as she said the words, and saw him wince slightly. I felt horrible – and incredibly ashamed of Shameka. I looked at my iPhone to make sure this was 2012, not 1912. Yup. Right century, wrong attitude.

Knowing Carl, he was probably making a joke about something that had nothing truly to do with dating Shameka. They were standing at the cash register, so it wasn’t as though this was a private conversation leading up to a proposal. They may have been talking about the weather and suddenly ended up discussing relationships. You know how it goes. So for her to wantonly throw out a color insensitive statement in what was probably idle banter was cruel, uncalled for and racist.

I stared at the pair of them, wondering what to say next. My mind immediately went to Twitter, where for a few weeks there were two topics trending. #TeamDarkSkin and #TeamLightSkin. Who were these incredibly idiotic individuals touting something as insular as the color of their skin…something – like gender – that was a mere circumstance of their birth and completely out of their control? If there had been a #TeamMan or #TeamWoman battle being waged on Twitter, NOW would be up in arms claiming evidence of a true “war on women”. But no, it was just a few thousand silly Niggroes being silly Niggroes, so it was perfectly alright with the rest of America.

 I absolutely couldn’t believe that someone so young and a (self-professed) deep thinker could have such archaic views about her own race. Sure, when I was 8 or 9 years old in the 80’s light skin men a la Taimak and Shabba Doo were all the rage; but then we grew up and discovered the yummy deliciousness of Idris Elba and Morris Chestnut. Unlike Black men who are generally stuck on “light skin and long hair”, Black women have learned to love Black men of all hues. Or at least I thought.

I quickly sought out another employee to tell her what I’d heard from Shameka’s glossed lips.

“Yeah girl, she don’t like dark skinned men at all,” she confirmed.

Well what are the other implications of her color complex? Does she feel like she’s better than other women who are not as light as she is? I was completely baffled, even more so because I wouldn’t truly consider her to be “light skinned”. She’s about the same hue as Janet Jackson (though again, not nearly as attractive.)

I asked some of my White friends if they experienced or witnessed discrimination based on hues within their own race. White people, just like Blacks, are not just “White”. They have olive skin, lily white, peaches n’ cream and tan complexions. None of them have ever heard someone say “Oh NO. I will never date an olive skinned woman/man.” How silly would that sound? At worst, they eliminate potential partners based on weight, social class or gingerism (which is another topic on its own). But skin color within the White commutiy?

“LOL! C’mon girl. You know we don’t do that sh*t,” said one of my Caucasian friends.

What an apt description.

Come on people. Let’s get off the plantation. Choosing teams based on light or dark skin bring us closer to the cotton fields than I generally like to be.

Do any other races do this? Indians and Pakistanis may be the worse for sure, but I can’t think of anyone else who does.


This article has 9 comments

  1. Rasheeda

    You know how I feel about this Tom foolery. But just as an aside, Latin communities do this as well.

  2. sangima

    Crazy…it is therefore our job to raise our girls with the right mindset. I was shocked that my 2 year old differentiated her babies by their hues. She would say this is my brown baby, black baby and white baby. She loves all of them but has a preference for the black baby which is shades darker than her.

    • Malaka

      You know, I honestly don’t have a problem with that. You said she loves ALL her babies but has a preference. Shameka on the other hand hates dark skinned men, without any reason than they are dark. How can we expect other cultures not to discriminate against us when we do it so well ourselves? 🙁

  3. toyah

    That ain’t nothing but good ol’ Willie lynch at work.

  4. Ali Pabai

    I am a black African and a Muslim like most Pakistanis and some indians are but I tell you the truth, far from what Islam preaches they (not all but MOST) Pakistanis and Indians look down on black people even though a good number of them have dark skins just like black people) and would NEVER let blacks even date let alone marry their children. A black Muslim brother’s marriage proposal was flatly refused by the father of an Asian girl when approached.
    Here in England Asians are the first to start shouting “Racism, Racism” when given less favourable treatment or the EDL marches past but contrary to that, they went ahead a made a documentary titled “I won’t marry white” which was shown on the BBC. Imagine what they have in mind about marrying black!
    Our beloved Holy Prophet Mohammad (Peace and blessings of Allah be on him) highly honoured, loved and respected Bilal, an abyssinian(Ethiopian) slave whose faith in Allah (Almighty God) was legendary. The Quran also states that the best among mankind is he/she whose conduct/faith is best in the eyes of ALLAH.
    There is NO EXCUSE for racism whether it be between or among whites and blacks, Asians, Chinese, Latinos etc. RACISM is one of the most destructive ingredients of corruption and injustice. Top that!

  5. Closet fan of mindofmalaka

    Hey Malaka – this blog entry provides lots of food for thought. It made me think of the caste system in India. I’m definitely no expert on the topic but think it’s an interesting example of institutionalized colorism. The historical, religious and cultural underpinnings are complex but ultimately I think the color lines became more pronounced with the arrival of Aryans to the subcontinent, and the gradual association of fairness/whiteness with better/best/more human/higher class/power etc. This is a story line that seems to underpin numerous examples of colorism whether it’s in South Africa, Ghana, the Carribean, Brazil, India, Pakistan…Atlanta.

    I think the reason for minimal colorism among whites is because they are historically the ‘gold standard’. [ The history of ‘gingerism’ is a fascinating topic in and of itself but primarily has to do with disparaging beliefs about temperament, moral standing, genetic associations etc]. Perhaps hypothetically there would be colorism among whites if dark skinned peoples had been more prominent in the colonizing history of modern civilization such that having a dark complexion were the gold standard that everyone aspired to. Just more food for thought.

    Thanks again for the great post.

  6. David S.

    Do other races do this? Of course. There is intra-racial hatred in other races. The hatred may not be based on skin color but it’s hatred nontheless. You talk about someone saying they wouldn’t date someone because of their skin tone. In my freshman year of college my roomate told me that while he would “hook up” with them, he couldn’t bring himself to be in a serious relationship with someone who wasn’t jewish like him. (Of course he never shared this sentiment with women he met. It was for my ears alone.)

    Look into the history of this nation and you see incidents of violence between German immigrants, Irish immigrants, Italian immigrants. Go to western Europe, and it’s catholic vs protestant in Ireland. Go to eastern Europe and it’s Serb vs Croat. And, don’t get me started on the middle east. Put three non-black people in front of me, and I would have a hard time telling you who is of German descent, or Irish or Italian. But not only can they tell, the distinction is important enough to kill for.

    One thing I will say for black people is that you haven’t had a war in the middle of downtown Chicago between light-skinned folk and dark skinned folk yet. But then again intra-racial ethnic conflict happens all the time in Africa and corrupt leaders there use it to hold on to power.

    There are different forms of racism. Some people kill and maim in the name of race and ethnicity. Some people only factor in race when they are deciding with whom they are going to associate. Some only apply their form of racism when a resume lands on their desk, or when they are deciding who to assign to an important project. Still others restrict their racism to name calling and racial slurs.

    But hey, haven’t you heard? We elected a “black” president. Twice. Racism is dead!

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