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Denigration of the Dark-Skinned Black Woman in Postmodern American Society
The Blacker the Berry, the Sweeter the Juice?
We are in the 21st century. It was hoped that racial and ethnic division would have stopped or become next to nonexistent at this time. It was expected by many sociologists and social scientists that by the 21st century, society hopefully would be so diversified that race, skin color, and ethnicity would be inconsequential to say the least.
Even though this is the 21st century, racial, skin color, and ethnic prejudice have not disappeared. Incidences of racial, skin color, and ethnic prejudices have erupted from time to time. During the latter part of the 20th century, there has been a rise in nationalist and racist groups such as the Aryan Nation, neo-Nazi, and other racial supremacist groups who extol the so-called virtues of white supremacy. In some areas in postmodern America, racial and ethnic tensions are on the increase.
In all aspects of the media, even though there is the appearance of racial and ethnic diversity, people who appear more Eurocentric are more likely to be hired than their more racial/ethnic appearing counterparts. Homogeneity and Eurocentricism are the names of the game i.e. the less racial/ethnic a person appears, the less threatening to the powers that be he/she is.
The paradigm that lighter is better is still a subconscious undercurrent in postmodern American society. In other words, one can be acceptably dark but not too dark. In the fashion industry, there are very few Black models as they are not palatable to the eyes of the fashion public. Furthermore, there are even fewer dark-skinned Black models because they do not fit the classy, high-class image of the fashion buying public. If Black models are hired, they are usually light-skinned as to have mass appeal. Dark-skinned Black models are deemed less commercial than light-skinned Black models who are considered to have a high crossover appeal.
In the world of music and rap videos, light-skinned Black women are preferred over their dark-skinned counterparts. Many rappers maintained that light-skinned Black women have a multicultural and immense crossover appeal that dark-skinned Black women did not have. Furthermore, these rappers contend that light-skinned Black women are viewed as more exotic and desirable to their public. Rappers such as Young Berg and L'il Wayne maintained that light-skinned Black women are prettier and more desirable than dark-skinned Black women. Sean Diddy, record mogul, placed a liquor advertisement, stating that only light-skinned Black women need apply. Mr. Diddy steadfastly stated that he did not want any dark-skinned Black women responding to his advertisement.
It is well known in the movie and television industry, dark-skinned Black women are seldom hired in acting roles. If they are hired, it is usually in more negative stereotypical racial roles. Tom Burrell, advertising executive and author of BRAINWASHED: CHALLENGING THE MYTH OF BLACK INFERIORITY, maintained that dark-skinned Blacks are often cast in the roles of misfits while more positive roles would go light-skinned Blacks. Mr. Burrell cited the negative depiction of dark-skinned Black females in the movie PRECIOUS. He stated that dark-skinned females were depicted as lower class miscreants while their light skinned counterparts were cast in the role as saviours and professionals. Dark-skinned Black females are not viewed by the Hollywood powers that be as glamorous and desirable. Such positive roles are given to their lighter-skinned counterparts.
Even in the general culture, especially in certain aspects of the Black American culture, dark-skinned Black women are not viewed as attractive. They are often viewed as "ugly." Their skin-color and features are seen as abhorrent in this postmodern culture. In some families, many dark-skinned Black daughters, nieces, and relatives are told that they are not attractive enough and that they better be smart as there will be little or no suitors for them.
Some dark-skinned Black women recall their mothers putting bleach on their skin with the notion of making their skin lighter and more acceptable to societal standards. Many dark-skinned Black women often possess an inferiority complex, believing that they will never be attractive or good enough in this society. Some dark-skinned Black women feel that they are desexualized non-entities. Oprah Winfrey on her show recall that she did not believe that she was attractive and beautiful as a child and teenager because of her complexion. Dr. Maya Angelou concurred stating that because she did not believe herself to be attractive, she had better be smart.
In the book,THE DITCHDIGGER'S DAUGHTER by Yvonne S. Thornton, M.D., her father exhorted her and her siblings to be smart because no man is going to come along and take care of them because they are not light-skinned. Many dark-skinned Black women were rigorously inundated by their families to be smart and to take care of themselves. Still other dark-skinned Black women are told that they cannot afford to be choosy regarding finding partners. They are often brought up to believe that they are "extremely lucky" if men choose them.
There are some families who praise and exhort the special and unique beauty of their dark-skinned Black daughters and relatives. These families are usually Afrocentric families who are intensely proud of their African culture. These families are often very few and far in between. Many Black American families, especially those who are upwardly mobile, want their daughters to conform to the Eurocentric standard of beauty.
The Eurocentric standard of beauty often have extreme deleterious effects on darker-skinned women whether they are of Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Latino, Asian, and African descent. However, the Eurocentric standard of beauty has the most adverse effect on dark-skinned women of African descent. Many dark-skinned Black women feel negative repercussions from their family, peers, and society regarding their complexion. They are often seen as more threatening, less feminine, and less affluent than their light skinned counterparts.
Dark-skinned Black women have been portrayed as hard, cruel, and masculine while their light skinned counterparts were portrayed as soft and feminine. Seldom is the beauty of dark-skinned Black women appreciated. Her features are often characterized as "tough" and "ethnic". Dark-skinned Black women are viewed to have an "attitude" and other negative, pejorative terms.
In many sociological studies, dark-skinned Blacks are viewed as unsuccessful, uneducated, and lower class while light-skinned Blacks are viewed as affluent, educated, and successful. Even in this postmodern corporate culture, a light-skinned Black woman with a Bachelor's Degree is hired over a dark-skinned Black woman with a Master's or Doctorate Degree. Light-skinned Blacks are viewed as more assimilable than their dark-skinned counterparts who would stand out. You see, dark-skinned Blacks are often viewed as more threatening for whatever reason by the non-Black corporate structure. The non-Black corporate structure prefer to hire people who physically approximate their physiognomical racial type. Many extremely qualified dark-skinned Blacks of both genders are often either unemployed or underemployed.
In summation, dark-skinned Black women are often denigrated because they are at the extreme end of the Eurocentric type. Racism is alive, mostly covertly, in postmodern American society. The dark-skinned Black woman is often unassimilable- she stands out physically.
Because of the dark-skinned Black woman racial physiognomy, she is not viewed as beautiful as her light-skinned counterpart who is more racially acceptable in this society. Based upon postmodern American societal standard of Eurocentric beauty, the dark-skinned Black woman is often not viewed as beautiful and attractive. She is often viewed as being tough and masculine.
Many dark-skinned women, including celebrities, recall that they were raised to believe that they were not beautiful and to be smart as their prospect of finding a partner is very slim to nonexistent. Even though in some Black females, the dark-skinned Black relatives are nurtured and told that they are indeed beautiful, there are other Black females who either knowingly or unknowingly convey negative messages regarding being dark-skinned to their female relatives, leaving an indelible mark on them. Black women must learn to embrace all aspect of their skin tones as one is just as beautiful as another.
Books to Read on the Subject
© 2011 Grace Marguerite Williams