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A Bond Like No Other: The Legacy of A Light-Skinned Man Who Fought for All
Lightness and Darkness
As the world mourns the passing of Civil Rights leader Julian Bond, it ought to be stated that the man stood for the justice of all people within and without the Black race. But especially with Blacks and their undying commitment to separate each other by skin tone. The battle between light-skinned and dark-skinned Negroes has been waged ever since the onset of slavery in America and probably before then in Africa and in other countries with Coloreds. Ever the subject in novels, films, and television, the notion persists perniciously. While it may be cute or humorous to joust on a Twitter feed or Facebook wall about the absurdities of this phenomenon, the fact remains that the very idea is damaging and potentially destructive. With Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison’s premiere work The Bluest Eye (1970) painting a portrait of a poor Black girl struggling with devastating effects with her identity, so goes the current sense of self within Black boys and girls who are as dark as burnt cork or as light as cocoa butter.
Mr. Bond speaks to a Listener
The struggle for dark-skinned individuals is that they somehow represent an inferior intellectuality. For light-skinned folks, (especially boys and men) they are perceived as overly-emotional and weak and incapable of dealing with real life problems. Called “waffle-colored” and “beige” the light-skinned Black male must deal with slurs from within his own race. For dark-skinned women, the trouble comes when she is chastised for her swarthy skin color and receive no attention from the fellows who seek a “yellow bone” or “red bone.” Mr. Bond parodied these allegations in a sketch on Saturday Night Live. He boldly proclaims that light-skinned Negroes possess better mental faculties. He implies that their intelligence, akin to the white race, is a product of their lower melanin levels. While this is obviously preposterous, the separation within the race stands to this day and is responsible for the constant bickering over conditions of such superficiality. To measure intelligence is a practice which involves analyzing a person’s capacity to think. These ideas of trying to interpret someone’s character or smarts through the color of their skin has never been explained and there is no earthly reason for it. But people go on anyway. From playing the dozens to choosing a spouse to wed, the Black race places a premium on outward appearance. Just as white supremacists denounce all kinds of Black people regardless of their tint, that same prejudice is actually fueled by the serious intentions that surface when Blacks decry each other’s flesh. The “field Negro” and “house Negro” monikers which maligned Coloreds during the days of slavery have been passed down through the generations. This premise where the light-skinned Negroes in the house sweeping, and dusting, and folding linens and serving meals and the field Negro bailing hay, picking cotton, tobacco, indigo and tending to the livestock seeks to separate the two types of Blacks and is actually nothing more than institutionalized irrationality. In order to instill a sense of bitterness and resentment among Blacks of all shades, whites propagated that the dark-skinned Negroes were beneath their fairer counterparts. So what happens? The darker ones begrudged the lighter ones and created discord amongst the slaves. By knowing that they could rule the lives of both factions, whites relished the opportunity to strike envy in the hearts of each side. And today the results are clear. A little boy or girl born with dark skin will get bullied, calling him “darkie” and “shine” and “spade.” A young boy or girl with light skin will be called “high yellow” and “Lite Bright” and “highlighter.”
A Question of Light and Dark
Should there be such division when it comes to skin tone?
What Julian Bond fought for during his life was the emancipation of minds. He sought to bring about a groundswell of self esteem and a do for self agenda. For his efforts, it ought not be forgotten that the infighting within the Black race could be quelled. His tireless dedication to the cause for elevating the conditions of all peoples ought to be looked at a sign of the man’s great strength and ambition. As a light-skinned Black himself who stressed the syllables and spoke eloquently, Bond may’ve been jeered more often than for not being “Black.” His candor and aplomb afforded him the chance to rise above any accusations of not fully living up to his race. Perhaps his detractors wanted him to speak in Ebonics and broken English with dropped g’s and double negatives, as if these are signs of Black speech. Instead, Mr. Bond blazed a career path for himself to present himself as an intelligent, well-spoken individual. He embraced his Blackness as having a fully functioning brain and a flair and confidence which would carry him to heights including the chair of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). And in the wake of the Rachel Dolezal controversy over skin color and hair texture, one can glean from Mr. Bond and see that despite the hue of someone or any other surface feature, the fight for equal rights must be taken up by everyone with the sense enough to know that racism is evil. That means that Black, white, yellow, brown and red men women and children who have the ability to think and the power to do ought to battle for the liberty of all peoples. Whether dark-skinned or light-skinned, the incessant quarreling over trifling matters such as skin color ought to end. What Black Americans individuals can first do is to recognize each other as the most oppressed people in the history of mankind. No other selection of peoples have experienced such horror, such shame, such disgrace and has struggled to persevere. It is up to the African Americans to represent for each other by showing that skin color prejudice has plagued the race for far too long. Though jokes may fly regarding the external attributes of Blacks, they ought to realize that those who despise them care not what shade they are. Negroes ought to first think what harm they might inflict by uttering what any Neo-Nazi might include in a vicious chant or Internet post. What Mr. Bond represented was a man who stood for principles.
Mr. Bond Addresses the Crowd at the Lectern
Honor, Service, and Strength
By establishing that Blacks can be droll and smart and good looking, Mr. Bond broke free from the chains which restrained him. A descendent of slaves, Mr. Bond rejected the slave mentality. His ability to address the pressing issues of the day never wavered and his legacy is replete with accounts of his honor, service, and strength. So the next time that a light-skinned boy is chastised, or a dark-skinned woman is vilified, let it be known that a light-skinned man from Tennessee charted a course for everyone, even with their darkness or lightness. Mr. Bond ought to be remembered as gentleman who personified dignity. The respect that he emanated remains even though he is gone. His aptness in bringing the light and the dark together exemplifies his thorough character. May his memory reflect that.