Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Strange Culture Of High Yella Hatred.

[Unnecessary, But Probably Necessary Disclaimer: I am your textbook definition of "brownskinned", as is my wife. There's no hidden color-related self-hatred here, so please, please, please spare the comments questioning my personal issues and hangups. There are none. And I realize I'm trying to make a point that might not be very easy to put in words. If you're lost at what I'm trying to convey here, ask for clarity rather than jumping to conclusions based on sweeping generalizations.]

I, for better or for worse, love reading gossip blogs. If this causes irreparable damage to my "intelligent brother" image, then so be it. But what better way to forget your troubles than to mock someone else's? Sites like MediaTakeOut, Sandra Rose, and Crunk & Disorderly are on my RSS reader. No need to act all high & mighty.

A common theme on these blogs, particularly MTO is shaming brothers who date white chicks, or biracial women as "out of touch", yet giving kudos to the (admittedly) rare example of a black man who dates a brownskinned black woman. It's almost comical in nature, but it's so predictable and common that it's almost a running joke on the site. The bloggers will show a picture of Celeb A and his dark/brown wife, and almost as if on cue, a symphony of "he keeps it real" comments will follow. And I'm wondering, if we can also agree that there's some issues in the black community with favoring people with lighter skin, does it make any sense to patronize darker skinned women in an effort to artificially balance an unbalanceable scale?

A post featuring Celeb B with a lightskinned woman will follow with a bunch of "yeah, she's pretty, but..." comments. The general consensus seems to be that a brownskined woman is somehow more "real", which automatically gives the man dating/married to her a "keepin' it real" stamp of approval. The guy dating the dark/brownskinned woman could be the foulest, cheatingest, physically abusivest dude on the planet, but dating a dark/brownskinned woman gives him a co-sign of high character, simply by virtue of whom he chose to date/impregnate.

If this still sounds like a foreign concept to you, peep this, this, or this, and get familiar.

Folks, could we please, please, please get beyond this sort of self-destructive colorism?

I'm sure the people who comment on these posts don't consider themselves as having color hangups, but how else should we interpret such a sentiment? It's almost as if they're saying "This guy's famous and rich and could have any lightskinned, longhaired chick he wanted, but he settled for this dark/brownskinned woman instead, so lets give him a cookie!". Doing so not only makes such a man seem incredibly shallow, it also inadvertently demeans the black woman by making her seem like she was chosen out of sympathy or some weird type of charity(ie: "He could have done better"), rather than because she's a desirable person worthy of being loved.

Sorry if this sounds convoluted, but it just really irks me. And lest you think this sentiment is sole province of brainless pro athletes and rappers, need I remind you that this "keepin' it real" nonsense was quite prevalent when Michelle Obama came on the scene. I recall one painfully terrible interview during which BET's Jeff Johnson asked then-candidate Obama "Why was it so important for you to marry a black woman?" , which was obviously code for "I pegged you for the Vanessa L. Williams type, not the Vanessa Williams type. Man, you could done better, why'd you settle?"

Perhaps the most desperate manifestation of this "Chocolate Love" theme I've seen showed up recently on the blog MadameNoir, in the form of a really strange post called Superstars & Their Chocolate Wives. In an attempt to show how there are still lots of "real" brothers who are successful, yet still love themselves some brownskinned women, the post presents a slideshow of couples beginning with the obvious (The Obamas) and proceeding on Denzel Washington and his mostly unknown spouse.

The desperation creeps in pretty quickly when Angela Bassett and her brownskinned husband are presented as a happy couple. Never mind that Courtney B. Vance is a man, which sorta undermined the whole "wife/uplifting brownskinned sistas" premise of the post, but there's also the small matter than the couple is now separated, which I guess sorta kills the "Love" angle. Other examples are Jennifer Hudson (the superstar) and her husband (the reality star), Samuel Jackson and the wife he's admittedly cheated on numerous times, Chris Rock and the lightskinned wife whom he cheated on and bore an extramarital child, Dwyane Wade and a brownskinned woman (Gabrielle Union) he left his brownskinned wife for, and Lebron James and the baby mother he's very publicly talked about not ever wanting to marry.

Excuse me, but if you can't even come up with a 1/2 dozen legitimate examples to back up your premise that there are actually some halfway decent successful black men who choose brownskinned wives, aren't you in some strange way illuminating the very issue you're trying to disprove? That post is just all kinds of random fail. Surely there had to be a better way to make this point. Namely, not trying to make it at all.

Call me nuts, but maybe we should just focus on black love period, regardless of whether or not the woman's skin tone advances some flawed notion of intraracial inequality. By continually pointing out how (supposedly) few "successful" black men marry women who look like their mothers, we're simply perpetuating some very pointless notions of who's "really" black and who isn't.

Question: Have you also observed this "extra realness props" for brothers who marry/date brownskinned women? Is this sort of thinking just as basackwards and self-destructive as black people who think "light is right"?

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