“How could you be afraid of a little boy?”

Toni-Morrison

In an interview with journalist Charlie Rose, Toni Morrison discussed police brutality and violence against African Americans. She asked a series of questions that point to a key issue in America, the criminalization of Black skin and the white supremacist values cloaked in cowardice that leads to the deaths of so many unarmed Black victims.

She asked:

How are you afraid of a man running away from you?

How are you afraid of someone standing in the grocery store, on the phone with a toy gun, that you could buy in the store?

How could you be afraid of a little boy?

And who are these people calling who call 911? Who are they?

You look out the window and you see a kid with a toy gun and you get on the phone?

Her usage of the term “cowardly” speaks volumes in describing how institutionalized the dehumanization of Black people continues to be.  The so called “fear” is based on creating a worldview of African descended people as less human in terms of intellectual prowess and super-human in terms of physical strength (especially when referring to criminality). This animalistic perspective has been at the center of anti-Blackness for centuries. Examples include when “scientists” debated the brain size of Blacks and religious leaders debated whether or not Africans had souls in order to deem slavery justified. It was the central theme of The Birth of A Nation, the 1915 propaganda film that overtly warned white Americans that free negros were a threat to society.

This would explain why someone could believe they have a logical explanation for shooting a person running away from them or gunning down a child and refusing to provide the child with medical attention.

They truly believe this unarmed person is “dangerous.” Officer Darren Wilson even described Mike Brown as a “demon” with the strength of WWF wrestler “Hulk Hogan.” That’s the thought process.

Super-human

Violent

Animalistic

It never changes.

Though Jonathan Capehart imprudently asserts the mantra “hands up don’t shoot” was built on a lie, the premise behind Mike Brown’s death follows the same superhuman negro/must be put down like an animal aggression trajectory. Whether or not his hands were raised, does not alter the key issue behind why Brown’s death was deemed justified. Simply put, he was perceived to be another dangerous negro.

Through this lens:

Mike Brown wasn’t a 17-year teenager. He was a raging gorilla loose on the streets.

Rekia Boyd was not an innocent bystander. Her very presence was violence as a potential threat.

Tamir Rice wasn’t a little boy. He was a roaming gunman looking for a victim.

Aiyana Stanley Jones wasn’t a sleeping little girl. She was a member of a familial mob the required brute force at first encounter.

With each death of an unarmed Black person, especially at the hands of police or people in assumed positions of societal authority, the cowardice and the fear is a reassertion of white supremacist beliefs, even if the victim dies at the hands of a Black police officer. Many members of mainstream media happily overlook this. Just as women can be patriarchal misogynists, Blacks can internalize Black inferiority and white supremacist beliefs.

Police have been given the authority to uphold laws and societal norms. While at the same time, the collective fear of Blackness operates as a U.S. societal norm. Thus the deaths of unarmed Black victims ensues, regardless of the ethnicity of the officer. When this occurs, the officers are then protected by the society that continuously protects and rebirths this norm.

Within the communities of the victims, they are seen as they are…human beings deserving of protection.

Mike was a teenager walking.

Rekia was a teenager standing.

Tamir is a 9-year old playing.

Aiyana was a 7-year old sleeping.

Amongst their communities, these victims are seen through a different lens..the lens of humanity. So when Toni Morrison asks, “How could you be afraid of a little boy?”

This question is very layered and could be interpreted as, “When will you see the little boy that I see?”

When will the lens be corrected?

JamAllen2-nb-smallJessica Ann Mitchell is the founder of OurLegaci.com & BlackBloggersConnect.com.
To reach JAM, email her at OurLegaci@gmail.com.

Follow Jessica @TweetingJAM.
Follow OurLegaci at Facebook.com/OurLegaci.

 

Watch Toni Morrison’s interview below:

For My Mother

JAM and Mom 640

For my mother

That loves so hard

That gives too much

That fights when there is no fight left

But fights again

That pushes and pulls and tugs and stands and cries and soars for her children

That makes worlds from words and hides her poems

That heals with gifts, when she is the gift

That births spirit through unexpected cheer

That fashions through ancestral memory

That is eternal in her sincerity

That determined determination

For my mother

That deserves a new dawn yet is the dawn

That receives an unseen protection

That is the descendant of sharecroppers and the everlasting daughters of Tikar

That is not forgotten

That is etched in the memory of the remembered

That is a favorite of the favored

That is watched by God’s appointed gods yet is Goddess

That is the love of copious life

You are my dream, my waking breath, my galactic starlight

My plentiful everything

My source before sources

My love for you is a bottomless sweetgrass basket

filled with enchanted fruits to feed your hopes

guarded with primordial spears

covered in the warmth of Virginia’s kiss

Guided by the melody of Ernest’s song

And all for my mother

Love,

Jessie

JamAllen2-nb-smallJessica Ann Mitchell is the founder of OurLegaci.com & BlackBloggersConnect.com.
To reach JAM, email her at OurLegaci@gmail.com.

Follow Jessica @TweetingJAM.
Follow OurLegaci at Facebook.com/OurLegaci.

Disappearing Words: Writing In The Digital Space

 

Zora Reading

Zora Neale Hurston reading

There’s something magical about writing and sharing the inner workings of your mind instantly. That’s how it works in the digital space. We’re constantly sharing, breathing new life into old words. Yet, at the same time there’s a fleeting feeling.

Another case of police brutality…write a think piece.

Another person says something racist…write a think piece.

Another person does something sexist…write a think piece.

I’ve actually come to hate think pieces. I can’t help but feel like a rat on a wheel. There’s this constant spinning motion pushing you to stay writing, stay hitting that publish button in hopes of likes or some monetary gain. I’ve heard it referred to as “feeding the beast.” The internet is never satisfied. What’s popular today is gone tomorrow, almost as if it never existed. Old suddenly takes on new meaning. Content often focuses on who can break it faster and hinders most real possibilities of in-depth analysis or nuanced discussions.

Everyone must ride the wave. Or be deemed nonexistent.

I’ve often wondered how potent their words would have been if Langston Hughes or Zora Neale Hurston spent hours on Facebook and Twitter instead of penning poems and writing books. Perhaps they would have gained a “following.”

Yet, would we value their work the same? Would their words have been added to the endless stream of brilliant yet easily discardable “latest posts?” Would we still value their time?

The problem with digital writing is there is nothing to hold on to. It’s not the same feeling as having a physical book or magazine. It’s digital, cloud based, and light like air. Thereby making digital writing feel temporary, like a fleeting gust of wind.

Though nothing ever really disappears on the internet, the quick natured environment of digital communication makes important dialogue get quickly discarded in exchange for the latest controversy.

Everyone feasts upon it, dining on every piece, tearing apart every strip. Then, on to the next one. Lack of substance becomes reality. Quick witted pseudo scholars, psychologists and self help gurus dominate droves of gullible minds simply because they’ve found the key to social media. They’ve learned to ride, even manipulate the waves.

Even with well meaning publications, writing becomes another day, another click bait. Always striving to be ahead of the page view curve makes substance secondary. Everyone is striving to be memorable without memory.

Where do we go from here?

How do we deal with the issue of disappearing words? (The fleeting times, the missed moments, the badly deconstructed ideas, and the incessant desire to be noticed.)

There are no real answers to this question. Perhaps our only choice is to be inventive: push the limits, dig, write, erase, write again, breakdown, and build up in ways that haven’t been done before. Maybe then, our words will serve more as a reference point than some random page, that once was skimmed and forgotten.

Nevertheless, we will do what writers do. We’ll keep writing, hoping the digital swindlers leave enough room for us to make an impact before our words disappear.

JamAllen2-nb-smallJessica Ann Mitchell is the founder of OurLegaci.com & BlackBloggersConnect.com.
To reach JAM, email her at OurLegaci@gmail.com.

Follow Jessica @TweetingJAM.
Follow OurLegaci at Facebook.com/OurLegaci.

When Dyson Saw A Ghost: Far From Petty

Michael-Eric-Dyson-Ghost

On April 19th, Dr. Michael Eric Dyson published an article titled, The Ghost of Cornel West. In the piece, Dyson addresses an emerging feud with his former mentor Cornel West. Needless to say, the internet blew up with a flurry of tweets, accolades and impromptu rebuttals.

On the positive side, the piece was welcomed as painful but also thoroughly insightful when speaking on the current state of West’s scholarship or lack thereof. On the negative side, the piece was chided as a johnny-come-lately, petty, overly personal blow.

I would say it’s somewhere in between, in a good way. Dyson’s article about West’s supposed fall from scholarly grace does not exist in a vacuum. After being a close friend and mentee of West for over 30 years, it is impossible for Dyson to critique West’s scholarship without it being connected to their personal relationship. It’s actually unfair to ask of him to do so, because that would lead to a disingenuous analysis. Scholars are humans. Cornel West has given himself free range to call Michael Eric Dyson, Melissa Harris-Perry, Al Sharpton, and Jesse Jackson “toms” and “plantation negroes.” Consequently, they have free range to a rebuttal that’s not so sparing. Additionally, the personal tone of the piece highlights the pain felt due to a ruptured relationship.

Ta-Nehisi Coates, national correspondent for The Atlantic,  pointed this out stating, “…people critiquing Dyson for being too ‘personal’ have no problem with West regularly accusing whole swaths of blacks of being Toms.”

Tone aside, The Ghost of Cornel West is the continuation of a rich legacy of discord amongst Black scholars. Dr. Blair L.M. Kelley reminded us of this history in a series of tweets, stating:

Remember that time W.E.B. DuBois and Walter White (exec. sec. of the NAACP for those new to the game) fell out about how to approach FDR…I bet you don’t remember the time that Booker T. Washington had his people come for Anna Julia Cooper and no one really defended her.

She also chided that people were “Pretending like there was some time in history when all black folk got along, put ego aside, and focused on important stuff.”

An additional example is when Richard Wright publicly attacked Zore Neale Hurston’s work, calling it reminiscent of a minstrel show:

Miss Hurston can write, but her prose is cloaked in that facile sensuality that has dogged Negro expression since the days of Phillis Wheatley. Her dialogue manages to catch the psychological movements of the Negro folk-mind in their pure simplicity, but that’s as far as it goes.

Miss Hurston voluntarily continues in her novel the tradition which was forced upon the Negro in the theatre, that is, the minstrel technique that makes the “white folks” laugh. Her characters eat and laugh and cry and work and kill; they swing like a pendulum eternally in that safe and narrow orbit in which America likes to see the Negro live: between laughter and tears.

Zora Neale Hurston had criticisms of Wright’s work as well stating, “Since the author himself is a Negro, his dialect is a puzzling thing. One wonders how he arrived at it. Certainly he does not write by ear unless he is tone-deaf.”

While there are distinct differences between criticisms of literary and academic writing, the point is to understand that Black writers are often and have always been critical of each other’s work. These criticism are beneficial to the art of critical thought and writing. It’s actually healthy. This is public intellectual discourse.

When history evades us, we end up with an overly nostalgic and unreasonable view of Black intellectualism. This nostalgic “just get along” perspective trivializes the Black scholarly experience.

There is an importance to remembering the humanity of disagreements in Black scholarship. This call for Dyson and West to “talk it out” is far too simplistic. Black scholarship is not monolithic and should never be pushed into a child like, dismissive, “don’t air our dirty laundry” corner.

Furthermore, as much as some want to disregard his article as “petty,” Dyson asks some pivotal questions concerning activism, scholarship and intellectualism.

For one, Dyson raises a discussion on the scholarly politics of naming, focusing on West’s fascination with the “prophetic tradition.” Dyson asks, in terms of Black intellectual discourse:

How is it that West deems himself a prophet of Black America, without ever actually providing a thorough definition or analysis of “the prophetic” in terms of activism and scholarship?

Furthermore, why is it that West can profess ownership of the Black prophetic legacy without actually possessing any real accountability for taking on such a moniker?”

But the most important issue Dyson raises, was the decline in Cornell West’s scholarship. Whether or not you agree with West’s criticism of Black scholars and President Obama, one thing is certain. His intellectual impact in public discourse has been significantly stifled by his impromptu rants (however well intentioned), name calling and seeming lack of focus.

Cornell West is a brilliant source of Black knowledge that should still be celebrated and uplifted. Yet, Dyson’s assertion that West is a ghost of his former self is not without merit. This is not a new assertion, however it is extremely bold and thorough.

Dyson even reaches back to reference issues within West’s most notable work, Race Matters. He points out how West’s focus on “nihilism” as the greatest threat to Black achievement actually parallels the sentiments of conservatives wishing to place the blame of Black oppression on Black masses instead of systematic/institutionalized oppressive forces.

Ultimately, Dyson’s article is healthy for Black academia. Not only is Black scholarly thinking not monolithic, but in order to evolve sometimes undertaking public discourse is a necessary evil. This robust discussion would be furthered by an even more thorough response to Dyson’s article from West. As the old saying goes, iron sharpens iron. Maybe Dyson’s piece will push West back into the lane of his previously more strategic approach to public Black intellectual discourse…even in the prophetic tradition.

JamAllen2-nb-smallJessica Ann Mitchell is the founder of OurLegaci.com & Culture The Web.
Follow Jessica @TweetingJAM.
Follow OurLegaci at Facebook.com/OurLegaci

Breaking Down Privilege, Light Skin and Beyond

Precious-2
Precious wasn’t a 110-pound light skinned girl for a reason.

As NPR described, “the writer known simply as Sapphire, tells the story of a dark-skinned, heavy-set, illiterate African-American girl who has survived multiple pregnancies by her father.” In other words, the character Precious was created by Sapphire to depict one of the most rejected, unprotected, less privileged demographics.

In an interview, Sapphire explained,

I wanted to show that this girl is locked out through literacy. She’s locked out by her physical appearance. She’s locked out by her class, and she’s locked out by her color.

There were similar reasons behind the creation of  characters Pecola Breedlove in Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye and Celie in Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. Because of denied privileges to women fitting their characteristics, Black women writers felt a need to share these stories. Three things these legendary characters all had in common: poverty, dark skin and sexual abuse. This was not an accident.

It has been known for a very long time that people with dark skin have often been treated with the utmost disdain and abuse. This is not a new discovery. Yet still, a few of my readers had a digital meltdown when I discussed light skin privilege.

Dave-Chapelle-Rick-James

At first I was surprised but then I remembered how difficult recognizing privilege can be. After all, a huge component of privilege is not realizing it exists.

So I’m going to rewind and thoroughly explain what privilege is, how it works and who has it.

It wasn’t until I was older that I realized I had privilege. Even as a little girl, when a white class mate (afraid of my Blackness) refused to come near me, I had privilege. Even in middle school when a group of Black girls compared me to a gorilla, I had privilege. Even in the 9th grade, when I was bullied to the point of crying in class by other Black kids because of my permed but still nappy hair, I had privilege.

It wasn’t until I was older, when I saw some of these same people and their lives, that I realized the privilege I had. I grew up in a two parent household. Both of my parents were college graduates. The concept of college was never a question. Never had I ever been asked, “Are you going to college?” It was a given. Not only was I going, I had already begun writing, playing instruments, learning modern dance, and performing in theater productions. When I wanted to do something, my mother wrote a check.

Black-ish-money

We were not rich, but she was able to pay for every school activity I wanted to do.

My mother was very busy, but still had time to go over my school work. During the summer, I would get mad at her for forcing me to complete workbooks before I could go out and play. I didn’t know that any of this was a privilege. It was always assumed that everybody was able to do all of these things. In my mind, everybody’s mom read them stories, gave them books, made home-cooked dinners every night, and helped them apply for financial aid to attend college.

I later learned that some of those same people that bullied me so badly, were living in abject poverty. Baldwin County, Ga has a poverty rate double the national average. Many of their mothers were working overtime in service and fast food industries trying to make ends meet. I realized that those playground wars, where I had been called such horrible names, were their own attempts to feel better about their status in the world. If they could succeed in making someone else feel the way they felt, then they could feel powerful (even if it only lasted for a few hours.)

If you had told me at the time I was being called a gorilla, that I had privilege, it would have been hard for me to believe you. I would have said, “But my feelings are hurt, what privilege?”

It wasn’t until my senior year of high school, when so many Black kids failed to pass the Georgia High School Graduation Test, that I started to realize the disparities. It wasn’t until I saw members of my senior class receiving a certificate instead of a diploma that I realized what happened. Their lives were cheated, opportunities had been denied and it was systematic. I recalled how certain students were automatically put on the technical track while others were put on the college track. The state of Georgia had predetermined who was going to college and who wasn’t.

But not me. I was going to college. I was going to leave and study whatever I wanted to. In high school I worked at McDonald’s, Sonic and Papa John’s. Quitting these jobs was never a make or break situation for me.

half-baked-job-quit

I had no problem saying, “I quit,” because, I was college bound. Fast food or retail wasn’t going to be my future. Hence my confusion when I saw other students dropping out of high school once they finally got their highly coveted job at Walmart.

Later in college, I saw how girls that were darker than me in skin tone were treated by men. I saw first hand how their deep brown skin was used a prerequisite for excessive abuse or utter disregard. I’ve seen their love interests dodge them and pursue me or other girls. I’ve also seen how they were treated by faculty members and staff. They were under constant attack. My lighter skinned friends also faced hardships, being not considered Black enough or having to deal with people’s assumptions about them. But what our other friends were going through was undeniable.

We were also treated differently according to body type.

Coming-To-America

Dark skin plus thicker body equaled additional problems. It was during this time that I also realized thin privilege. And yes, that’s a real thing. I had never thought of this before either, but it existed and I benefited from it.

Later I learned about abelism and the privilege I have as a person with no physical or developmental disabilities.

So here I am a Black middle class, 2nd generation college graduate, with two educated parents, with no known disabilities, that wears a size medium. I have a lot of privilege that other people don’t have. That doesn’t mean I’ve never experienced racism or bullying.

So when I wrote about the documentary Light Girls, referencing its avoidance of privilege, the commentary was out of a real need to address historical facts that affect the Black community. Light skin privilege is real. It has been studied and documented throughout history. It is a subsidiary of White privilege, where people of hues closer to white on the racial hierarchy are afforded with certain advantages. Over the past 300 years, it has become a part of the fabric of Western society.

Here are the 6 most common responses when discussing Light Skin Privilege:

draya-bye-felicia

1. But I’ve experienced racism. I don’t have privilege.

2. But other Black people picked on me because I’m light skinned. I don’t have privilege.

1-2: Your concerns are valid. However, it needs to be remembered that this issue isn’t about individual situations or circumstances. Light skinned privilege isn’t about anybody’s assumptions or hurt feelings. Race is a social construct that was created to sustain a hierarchy. In the Western world “whiteness” has been used as a measuring stick for human value. People of lighter hues have been treated with less “disdain” than other Black people. This is a historical fact, not an idea or assumption. It doesn’t mean that light skinned people never face racism or colorism. 

3. But I went to prison or had some other horrible experience in life. I don’t have privilege.

Light skin privilege does not mean that people labeled as light skinned never experience hardships or adversity. However, it does mean that at times, certain hardships will have less of a blow if your skin tone is lighter. For instance, a recent study showed that among Black people in prison, those perceived as light skinned received shorter sentences than those perceived as dark skinned.

4. Stop making assumptions about my character. I don’t have privilege.

Privilege isn’t about making assumptions on someone’s character. People need to understand the concept of light skin privilege is not an indictment on light skinned people, but instead an indictment on how racial hierarchies operate. Challenging this issue, is necessary in order challenge the false concept of white supremacy.

5. I don’t believe it. Show me the receipts! Where is this privilege?

Whitney-Receipts-1

For all naysayers, part of “privilege” is having the ability to not “see” the problem, because it has become so normalized.

Here are the requested receipts:

http://www.theroot.com/articles/politics/2011/07/color_bias_do_lightskinned_blacks_get_shorter_sentences.html

http://www.multiculturaladvantage.com/recruit/diversity/bias/Skin-Tone-More-Important-Than-Educational-Background-African-Americans-Seeking-Jobs.asp

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/11/us/school-discipline-to-girls-differs-between-and-within-races.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/14/skin-tone-bias_n_4597924.html

http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2014/01/study-people-associate-education-with-lighter-skin/283086/

http://thegrio.com/2014/01/16/study-light-skinned-black-men-perceived-as-better-educated/

http://www.cnn.com/2010/US/05/13/doll.study/

http://jezebel.com/368746/study-men-are-more-attracted-to-women-with-lighter-skin

http://www.sentencingproject.org/detail/news.cfm?news_id=1136

6. Why are you talking about this? What good does it do? This is just divide and conquer.

Talking about Light Skinned Privilege does not promote “divide and conquer.” Ignoring it does.

Divide and conquer can only exist in a state of confusion. Right now, confusion exists because we haven’t learned how to effectively pin point and deconstruct the inner workings of racial oppression. By rejecting the privilege of light skin or at least calling it out, we are also rejecting the concept of white supremacy. We are saying that all Black lives are just as valuable as the others. This same thing can be said we we reject homophobia and sexism in our communities. We’re saying all Black lives matter the same, despite our perceived differences.

Last but not least

Part of the normalization of privilege is not being aware it exists. Even as a former landlord happily called me her “new pitch black friend,” I had privilege at various levels. In other words, this isn’t about your or my hurt feelings. Transforming society hinges upon our ability to proactively breakdown privilege: white, light skinned, class, economic and beyond.

In the case of racism and colorism, recognizing light skin privilege is a step towards understanding how to dismantle white privilege and Black oppression. The recognition of light skin privilege is not an indictment against light skinned people, it’s an indictment on the currently normalized role of false white supremacy and how it plays out in our lives.

JamAllen2-nb-smallJessica Ann Mitchell is the founder of OurLegaci.com & Culture The Web. To bring JAM to your school or show, email OurLegaci@gmail.com.

Follow Jessica @TweetingJAM.
Follow OurLegaci at Facebook.com/OurLegaci

Light Girls, When Documentaries Get It Wrong

darkorlight

Scene from Spike Lee’s School Daze

“If you love yourself, don’t watch Light Girls.”

This is what I told a dear friend of mine after watching the documentary. The film was a sequel to Dark Girls, a documentary about colorism in the African American community. Light Girls was supposed to show the other side of the coin and share the views of women that society labels as “light skinned.” Instead, it turned into a living rendition of  light skin vs. dark skin battles paralleling the epic scenes from, School Daze. Why the disdain? There isn’t enough time to cover everything but here are my top sources of contention with Light Girls.

1. The Denial of Light Skin Privilege

Light Girls perpetuated the stereotype that dark skinned girls are jealous, angry and violent. Rarely was there any nuanced or guided discourse behind light skin privilege. In fact, the topic was carefully avoided. If not for Soledad O’Brien’s brief acknowledgement that her color helped her career, one would think that light skin privilege is a figment of evil dark skinned imagination.

This is mostly because a discussion surrounding white privilege was painfully absent from most commentary. Light skin privilege exists as a subsidiary of white privilege. This is not a concept made up out of simple jealously. We cannot discuss one without the other. Light skin privilege is when people with skin color closer to what is associated with phenotypically “white features” are granted certain privileges relative to superiority over darker skinned people.

Consequently, light skinned women get lighter jail sentences, are more likely to get hired for a job, and are even disciplined differently as children. These are just a few examples backed up by data.

Understand that acknowledging light skin privilege is not about finger pointing. It’s about understanding racial hierarchies determined by structures of white superiority and the role that it plays in Black lives.

If we deny the existence of light skin privilege, we deny the existence of white privilege.

2. Black Men are not the gate keepers of Black women’s value

The documentary spent an agonizing amount of time featuring the scattered thoughts of random Black men, as if Black male scholars were unavailable. Dr. Steve Perry was very much alone in his contribution to the discussion. There were so many cringeworthy moments where men discussed their color “preferences” like a bunch of drooling 8th graders. I thought to myself, “Are we in middle school?” Along this line, the film completely ignored the possibility of Black women in same-sex relationships. The film placed the value of Black women on heterosexual, patriarchal male gaze. One commentator even exalted the faulty belief that dark skinned Black women are better than light skinned women because, they will do more for you. This type of unchallenged thinking reaffirms stereotypes of darker skinned Black women being built for work and lighter skinned women existing solely for the purpose of being a trophy.

3. The assertion that light skinned girls are molested or raped more than dark skinned girls is disturbing

Two commentators in the film recalled being molested and raped. One of them even boldly stated that light skinned girls are a prime choice for pedophiles. My mouth dropped open. “Is this really happening?” The film just continued onto the next topic.

To leave such an assertion unchallenged or glossed over is grossly irresponsible. Not to discredit her personal experiences, but that assertion deserved a very nuanced follow up discussion.  No way should this have been included without expert analysis. It was cruel and damaging to the film participants and audience.

Yes, pedophiles have varying preferences. They often take advantage of the more vulnerable segments of society. Yes, light skinned girls get raped, molested and sexually trafficked. However, because dark skinned girls are often less championed for, dark skin is often a determinate in sexual abuse and sex trafficking.

Society’s refusal to protect dark skinned girls is what lead to Toni Morrision’s decision to create the character Pecola Breedlove. Pecola who was both sexually abused and ignored, continually prayed for blue eyes believing it would be a type of salvation from the societal ills associated with her dark skinned Black identity. This is not a contest on who is sexually abused more.

This is more about understanding the power dynamics of sexual abuse and how it intersects within racial hierarchies. It deserved a fuller conversation.

4. Who are these people?

Raven

Raven-Symoné

Apparently, every person with an agent made it into this film except the leading scholar on the one-drop rule, Yaba Blay. It was as if they carefully avoided her input. And it showed. She was featured on Soledad O’Brien’s Who Is Black In America. You can learn more about Yaba Blay’s work here.

Light Girls turned out to be a mess of a documentary because it was filled with commentary from a slew of third-tier comedians and entertainers. Additionally, the film included remarks from pseudo doctor Farrah Gray. Of course there were also a few notable scholars and commentators. Michaela Angela Davis, Goldie Taylor, Jamilah Lemieux, and Soledad O’Brien were among the slim pickings of truthful and knowledgeable commentary. Yet, by the end of the film, many of them were also tweeting disgust concerning what the film had become. I’m still baffled by Raven Symone’s appearance as well, considering her ideas on “colorless” as a identity.

5. It’s not about jealousy

I shutter at the thought of having to say this but dark skin girls are not all lurking in the bushes waiting to ponce on the nearest light skinned person. This notion is ridiculous but was highly purported throughout the documentary. We’re not all crying in a corner somewhere filled with rage and jealousy. It reasserted the false narrative that all dark skinned girls are unwanted, hateful, mean and violent. The film made it look like we were all derivatives of the boogeyman.

Rarely did the documentary truthfully discuss playground wars and issues of Black children in general calling each other “too Black,” “ugly Africans,” or “high yellow” and using these learned internalized sentiments in hopes of feeling more superior to each other in the face of constant societal dehumanization.

It’s all a part of white supremacy and learned internalized racial hierarchies,  not simplistic hatred or jealousy.

6. Sisterhood Does Exist

for-colored-girls

There are issues of colorism throughout our society. However, this belief that Black women in predetermined skin-tone categories are genetically predisposed to hate each other is down right preposterous. As I’ve written before, it’s important to remember that there is sisterhood among Black women that has historically been a source of safety and empowerment. It has thrived, even in the midst of racism and colorism. This sisterhood bond continues to be the salvation for many Black women in need of support and love.

7. Colorism cannot be changed through positive thinking 

Pharrell-Happy

At one point “Dr.” Farrah Gray asserted that light skinned and dark skinned girls simply need to learn to get along and stop “blaming the white man.” Here goes the condescending, “You girls stop fighting,” speech. Other commentators docilely asserted we simply needed to think positive, look in the mirror and say, “I’m beautiful.” Then all will be healed. It reduced the entire subject to Black women being just silly or petty, which is not the case.

No pep talk in the world is going to cure colorism. The film put the onus of colorism on the literal and preverbal backs of dark skinned girls. As if to say colorism is a personal problem, not a real systematic lived experience. This teeters along the line of saying racism is simply an imagined Black problem that will go away if we just think happy thoughts and be New Black like Pharrell.

8. In conclusion

To be fair, the film had a few positives. For instance, at one point they tried to present a global perspective of colorism. This is helpful in highlighting the fact that colorism is not just a Black issue. The affects of slavery and colonization have been felt worldwide. Also, a film about how colorism affects light skinned girls is necessary and efforts of the film are appreciated. Still, the film did what most things in mainstream society do. Light Girls continued the devaluation of Black life by oversimplifying key issues and not providing a thorough analysis for deconstructing the core problems…structural racism and patriarchy.

JamAllen2-nb-smallJessica Ann Mitchell is the founder of OurLegaci.com & BlackBloggersConnect.com.
To reach JAM, email her at OurLegaci@gmail.com.

Follow Jessica @TweetingJAM.
Follow OurLegaci at Facebook.com/OurLegaci.

An Open Letter To Joe Scarborough: This Is More Than About Mike Brown

Scarborough

Somebody needs to tell me when Michael Brown has been chosen as the face of Black oppression…There are so many great people to embrace as heroes in the Black community. Deciding that you’re going to embrace a guy that knocked over a convenient store, and then according the grand jury testimony acted in ways that would get my children shot…that’s your hero?” – Joe Scarborough, MSNBC Morning Joe

Dear Joe Scarborough,

The systematic and perpetual oppression of Black Americans is not an issue to be toyed with. Let’s be clear here. This is not just about Mike Brown. Mike Brown, Aiyana Jones, Rekia Boyd, Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, John Crawford and so on are examples of how law enforcement is allowed to become judge, jury and executioner when it comes to Black lives. The anger and fury expressed by Black Americans is based on perpetual violence at the hands of law enforcement. To you, the police protect and serve but many of us need protection from the police. The denial of your privilege prevents you from acknowledging this.

In our lives, the jury decision not to indict does not suddenly absolve Darren Wilson of Mike Brown’s death. Historically U.S. jury decisions do not sway in favor of protecting Black lives. This recent decision is just another painful reminder of that fact.

Furthermore, the narrative that victims must be flawless in order to have justice is not only absurd but dehumanizing. The moment a Black body touches the ground, media is clamoring to search their records. Even 12-year-old Tamir Rice was not exempt.

This is about Black lives being threatened by law enforcement on a daily basis. All that is needed is a story/narrative which depicts the person as threatening. Suddenly, by invoking “fear” Black deaths are justified with all minds cleared.

The “I was afraid of a Black person” narrative is allowing murderers to run free in the name of court-justified trepidation. The Rosewood Massacre of 1923 is an example of the horrors Black Americans have faced with court refusal to prosecute their murderers.

We’ve been dealing with this for a very long time.

Civil rights leader and journalist Ida B. Wells spent years documenting lynching’s across America, bearing witness to crimes that would go unpunished. Unfortunately the words from her speech Lynch Law In America given in 1900 still ring true 114 years later.

In her opening remarks, Wells gives a chilling overview that is painfully familiar,

“Our country’s national crime is lynching. It is not the creature of an hour, the sudden outburst of uncontrolled fury, or the unspeakable brutality of an insane mob. It represents the cool, calculating deliberation of intelligent people who openly avow that there is an “unwritten law” that justifies them in putting human beings to death without complaint under oath, without trial by jury, without opportunity to make defense, and without right of appeal.”

Wells continues, “The thief who stole a horse, the bully who ‘jumped’ a claim, was a common enemy.”

The narrative of Mike Brown “the bully” or Mike Brown “the thief” is so eerily familiar. The storyline had already been created for Darren Wilson to utilize.

Wells also states, “In fact, for all kinds of offenses – and, for no offenses – from murders to misdemeanors, men and women are put to death without judge or jury; so that, although the political excuse was no longer necessary, the wholesale murder of human beings went on just the same.”

Approximately 114 years later, Darren Wilson still had the privilege of making himself judge, jury and executioner with no penalty. In fact, he’s become richer for it.

We are still living under the tyranny of America’s unwritten Lynch Laws. We’re then blamed for our own deaths for failing to respond properly to slave codes.

In the words of Jesse Williams, “We are not making this up.”

When we scream Mike Brown’s name at protests, we are recognizing him as a human being. We are crying out to the world, that our brother has been slain.

See here the blood that was spilled.

See here his mother’s tears.

See here he was just a boy that deserved to live like all the other boys.

As we recognize his humanity, Darren Wilson calls him a “demon” and compares him to wrestler “Hulk Hogan.” Referring to Mike as if he were some wild beast to be tamed. The St. Louis Police Department called him a “myth.” Even the New York Times said he was, “No Angel,” as if angel status was a prerequisite for living. This is also a reminder that for African Americans, mainstream media is often complicit in perpetuating stereotypes and fear mongering narratives surrounding our lives.

So no, we’re not making Mike Brown a hero. We’re asserting his humanity because if we don’t do it no one else will. His life represents our lives.

We yell Mike Brown’s name, shut down malls, boycott stores, block highways and chain ourselves to train stations because there is no other option for us.

Civil Rights icon Fannie Lou Hamer said the unforgettable words, ‘I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.” That meant she refused to stop working until the world was changed. As the children of her legacy we are going to do the same thing. We don’t want to die and have the world think it justified.

Mike Brown was human and he deserved to live. Whether you think he was a choirboy, college student, or thief, Darren Wilson had no right to take his life. Darren Wilson had no right to make himself judge and jury. Darren Wilson would have never killed Mike Brown if he weren’t terrorizing him in lynch law fashion, for walking down the street. And we know this, because we have lived this.

So yes, Joe Scarborough. You should get used to hearing the names Mike Brown, Aiyana Jones, Rekia Boyd, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, John Crawford and so on. Because we’re not going to let you or anyone else in the world forget them. We are not trash to have our lives thrown away, forgotten simply because our story no longer amuses you.

Black lives matter.

Sincerely,

Jessica Ann Mitchell

Update: Joe’s Response

Joes-Response

 

 

JamAllen2-nb-smallJessica Ann Mitchell is the founder of OurLegaci.com & BlackBloggersConnect.com. To reach JAM, email her at OurLegaci@gmail.com.

Follow Jessica @TweetingJAM.
Follow OurLegaci at Facebook.com/OurLegaci.