By Khristi L. Adams

Photo Credit:
Spekulator -BSK

Colorism rears its ugly head again. Twice in one week has the issue (and yes, I dare say, issue) of color complexion among African Americans come up in conversation. The first time was in reference to an old article that some very witty young writer wrote asking the question, “Why Does Alicia Get a Pass and Fantasia Doesn’t?” She was questioning the publics scrutiny of Fantasia’s alleged infidelity and Alicia Keys who, prior to marrying Swiss Beats, was in the same position but to many it seemed…cute. She dared pose the question, “Is there a color complex at play in this infidelity circle?” Alicia and Swiss are superstars. Who was Antwan Cook anyway but a tatoo on Fantasia’s body?

Color complexion discrimination was the furthest thing on people’s minds because we’re supposed to be PAST that! Well, after putting it out of my mind a bit, while having a conversation with an old friend, he mentioned to me that he knew a gorgeous actor in the media that most women have been gawking over since his on screen debut a few years ago. And when I playfully asked him to “hook me up” he simply (and without effort) responded, “Well you’re not really his type. He likes the light brights.” So I stopped for a minute and thought to myself, “Wouldn’t you know, I still can’t pass that darn paper bag test.”

Just as Michael Eric Dyson has asserted that racism is intrinsically located within the DNA of America, I say, that complexion discrimination is intrinsically located within the DNA of Black America. (and America in general of course) Light skin, in. Dark skin, out. And in some cases it’s vice versa. There has been someone who has looked at someone with lighter skin and thought, “Now she think she better than er’eybody.” And like racism, we need to stop pretending like it doesn’t exist within our subconscious.

In the book The Color Complex, the authors write, “Most Blacks are careful about letting Whites in on their dirty little secret.” Yep folks…while we’re crying racism on every corner of the American Flag, this reality is our dirty little secret. Of course brought on by racism, but nonetheless an issue that has historically pervaded our culture. And yes…it shows up in the media too. Look at how Usher’s ex-wife was vilified. Don’t tell me it was because she was a “bad person.” I can count the number of times on my hands people kept pushing the “she’s not cute enough for him button.” And Loreal’s convenient lightening of Beyonce’s skin for their magazine ads. I think they even got sued for that one.

I’ve gotten comments as bad as people wanting me to “get with” a light skinned brotha so that we could have cute kids…anything so that the kids aren’t dark. God forbid! Don’t get me wrong, I know i’m cute. Maybe not to everybody, but there is somebody out there who thinks my skin is my greatest asset…me being the first one because it always starts with you. For 30 years i’ve had to be the “cute dark skinned girl” representing on behalf of underprivileged other dark skinned girls without those features that were identifiably able to be exchanged for their darker skin. It took me a really long time to look at black and see beautiful….to look at Dark chocolate and appreciate its beauty and milk chocolate and appreciate its beauty too and vanilla chocolate and appreciate its beauty three. I get that people have their preferences in beauty and look, but must we still limit it to such disdain for ones skin complexion?

Twitter: @KhristiLauren


“48 Ways to Spell Khristi is a smorgasbord of reflections on faith, beauty, relationships, pop culture and other thoughts that go through the head and heart of this newly turned 30 year old single woman.”

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9 thoughts on “Still Haven’t Been Able to Pass that Darn Paper Bag Test

  1. I really hope that one day we can get past this issue but unfortunately colorism still plagues our community. Great article!

  2. Here goes my ‘foot in mouth’ disease acting up, again. Can’t find a cure for it, so I just live with it.

    As to color, I am dark-skinned and damn proud of it. It means that none of my distant, in the past relatives were raped by thier masters. How they escaped that, I don’t know.

    Just in case no one knew, everyone on that long, sardine-like packed boat were black-skinned like me, and maybe blacker. Then, sisters started looking good to their captors, who had been in a dry season of females, at sea, and they got raped. Some of them got smart and used their ‘goods’ in exchange for benefits for the other captives. So, that’s how our light, bright and almost white brothers and sister first became integrated into this society.

    In later years and after many master rapes, we finally got to regular mixing. You might ask, where was the black man? Why didn’t he do something? What could he do? Get hung. The master told him, “You will raise this child as your own, you hear?” What could he do, except swalllow his pain, while the woman swallow hers, and continue forward.

    I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with being naturally light skinned. They had nothing to say about their heritage. They should embrace it and wear it with pride. However, to think that they are better than their Black-skinned brothers and sisters, because of it, is totally wrong.

    I also think Dark-skinned people are wrong to bleach their skin to ‘fit in’, also. Be who you are, my brothers and sister. Be it with pride. You, nor they, had a choice in the coloring of their skin. That comes with race-mixing. I’m neither for it or against it. Again, I will say, Be who you are, my friends.

  3. I myself am a light skinned black male. Well, half black, my mother is a white lady. I’ve dated every shade of the rainbow with very little preference as far as color goes. I date women who are attracted to me. What their color is, I have no preference. What their personality is, I have no real preference, nor about weight, hair type or any other specification. I can hang out with anyone for a little bit, and I’ve found that I am almost alone on that front. Granted men generally are not super selective about the women they date, and I fall right in that category.

    Some of my fondest memories are of the darker skinned girls I’ve dated.

  4. I have been aware of this “in house” color prejudice all my life. Where I find this behavior most damaging is when it is perpetrated against children. Often when traveling with my(much)younger sister and daughter adults feel compelled to tell my lighter skinned daughter how very cute she is and say nothing to my darker skinned sister at all. This behavior sickens me to my core and is another sad example of how we as a people continue to injure ourselves.

  5. I am light complexioned and light eyed. The seven kids in my family all with the same Mother and Father run the gambit from the lightest to the darkest hues. From tall to short and one of my sisters had almond eyes.

    I get sad every time I see this because it reminds me of all the times I have been attacked because I was light complexioned and it was “assumed” I was a high yellow b****h. After they’ve been around me than suddenly its, you’re alright, at which point I’m at kiss my ***. Until we let go if the “Oprah Winfrey effect” I hate light complexioned black women but love white women) nothings going to change.

    You have to first love yourself, then anyone whose not in your corner even if its your Mother , wish them well and on their journey.

    Okay, stepping off the soapbox. Smile


  6. What’s really making me angry is that these Black fools are voicing, for the world to hear, their aversion to members of their own race. This Berg faggot is the worst. I just stumbled upon this blog and find it appalling that all the equality that our race fought for, that some are still consumed with perceived beauty. Light women, nor white women look any better than caramel or dark skinned women. I guarded a Hip Hop concert in the Midwest a few months back and I witnessed how pretty and well dressed these young women that attended were. And the men that accompanied them were dark as well and they made such beautiful couples. It showed to me that there are foolish men out there that still believe that if you’re white you’re right, If you’re yellow you’re mellow, if you’re brown stick around and if you’re black step back. I don’t expect a white person to know any better with their flaming racism but a Black? It’s just too sad that we have stepped back so far. And incidently, I am not even dark skinned, I’m just a regular Black female that will never understand this type of stupidity.

  7. I could totally relate when I read this article. I’m dark skinned. Growing up, some of my best friends were light skinned. They always got more attention. Always. I used to wish I was lighter or white. I felt like I’d feel better. But, by the time I turned 24/25, I started to realize my black is beautiful. I don’t dodge the sun and I’ll lay out on a hot sunny day because being dark is a great thing! I feel like I’m gorgeous and I don’t have difficulty finding men that embrace my complexion. Although I may never have the long hair I had when I was a kid or green eyes…I’m okay with what God gave me. So hopefully we can get over this color complex sooner than later…because I want to have dark chocolate babies!

  8. I remember growing up in elementary, middle, and high school going threw this. I’ve been threw alot, and seen a lot of things, Some good, some bad. I was tease cause of my skin color, they call me, too black, blacker then me, African, I mean it was crazy. Coming from your own race, and the young men I see today say, they wanna light skin chick with long hair and a big a**. It’s really, really, sad we will never get pass this shit color s***. I love my chocolate skin tone and I’m more confident then I was in high school. But, all these wannabe rappers and can’t singers that put their own race down. I do not support them, nor do I listen to their music.

  9. Ok, I’m “light skinned,” I think I’m attractive so much that I have a husband. But I can see where you are coming from. Although in elementary thru high school, the guys who I thought were attractive were light skinned and I was often told , “If we get together and have kids they will be see thru.” So I say to you all my childhood , I wanted to be dark skinned. I was ashamed of who I was, because I saw black as beauty and I wasn’t that. I grew up thinking I wasn’t black enough, and I wasn’t white enough. So I love black, my mother is a strong black woman, and the father who raised me is a strong black man. I think that anyone who is superficial enough to care what color you are, is probably not best. In fact, in the work environment, where there is a “race minimum”, I’m often overlooked because I’m not black enough. So my thing is be comfortable in the skin you are in, because we don’t have it easy either. Yellow, Light, Brown or Midnight black we are all in the same boat, just different peoples point of view.


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