spice & the unchecked colorism in the black community

October 25, 2018
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By Ashley Akunna and Donovan Thompson for AFROPUNK

“If you are silent about your pain, they will kill you and say you enjoyed it.”—Zora Neale Hurston

VH1’s resident dancehall queen Spice, known for her vibrant and bold music videos, trolled the entire internet this week, which isn’t saying much for a reality star, right? Wrong! The Jamaican songstress’ stunt—putting images of herself with “bleached” skin on the internet and stating in interviews that the change in her complexion was to please her Black audience—was done in an effort to expose the very real danger of unchecked colorism in the BLACK community. The single, appropriately titled “Black Hypocrisy” from her EP “Captured,” directly confronts and criticizes colorism within the BLACK psyche.

“But the things weh mi a go seh
Yuh might not even have mi back
I get hate from my own race
Yes, that’s a fact
‘Cause the same black people dem seh I’m too black
And if yuh bleach out yuh skin dem same one come a chat

Black people hypocrisy
Leave the girls dem with low self-esteem
Unu gwaan like seh yuh haffi brown fi pretty
Fuck di whole of dem dirty inequity”

Many times, we shy away from the colorism conversation from fear of being confronted, challenged and called out for participation. Spice revealed that she doesn’t receive negative responses regarding her complexion from white people, but rather from Black folks. This is a common reality for many people with dark skin. Any attempt to rip the Band-Aid off of this generations-old wound is welcomed. We cannot heal what we refuse to acknowledge.

Born from racism, across the diaspora, colorism remains a constant challenge because it is a tool of division. It is a malignant force that refuses to go away because we won’t let it. Dark skin in most places is a barrier while lighter skin is revered. Quiet as it’s kept often times, dark skin, wide noses and big lips are seen as an affront to the Black community. Without saying it verbally, but consistently perpetuating it through our actions, the Black community has agreed that lighter-skinned women are the best representation of Blackness. We don’t ask dark-skinned women enough how the hell they feel about being devalued by their own community. I’m glad Spice decided to bring an additional voice and new energy to this diasporic conversation especially because colorism is packaged and sold by the music industry, impacting our broader consciousness.

On Season 3 of The Grapevine, the cast discussed another Black recording artist, Kodak Black, who stated that he doesn’t like dark skin women because they are “too gutter.” In his 2011 song “Right Above It,” Lil Wayne rapped: “Beautiful Black woman, I bet that bitch look better red.” Their popularity didn’t do a dip or a dive. In fact, as a community, we eagerly anticipated their next projects. What message are we sending to Black girls and women when we openly and consistently celebrate people who tell them they are unattractive because they have dark skin? Undoubtedly, these men are suffering from anti-Blackness, and of course dark-skinned Black men are not exempt from the effects of colorism. Most notably, Wale stated in a Breakfast Club interview, that colorism has affected the progression of his career. We all know it happens, but to hear a man acknowledge this reality, having been personally affected, was quite sobering. Perhaps the voices of men claiming that colorism is an unsubstantiated claim by bitter women, have been just a little bit louder.

When men get irritated when women bring colorism into conversation, it’s mostly due to their own guilt. On the other hand, many women say they are negatively affected by it in one breath, but their fave is 10 times lighter than them! We are all guilty! Colorism is a group effort and highlights our cognitive dissonance as a community. For example, we seem to give room for women who elect to get Brazilian Butt Lifts for a curvier figure because we understand the impact of social pressures, but the same room and grace is not given to dark-skinned women who decide to bleach their skin. Why is that?

Spice is calling us hypocrites because we are. Every time we exclusively date light-skinned women and only have sex with dark-skinned women we are being hypocritical. Every time light-skinned men are called sensitive while dark-skinned men are expected to be hyper-masculine, we are being hypocritical. Every time we fawn over biracial children without acknowledging that same beauty in dark-skinned children, we are being hypocritical. Every time we silence discussions around colorism due to guilt and culpability, we are being hypocritical. Every time there is an over-representation of 3C hair, the more curly, loosely textured hair on BLACK platforms, we are being hypocritical. Any time we equate dark-skinned women with trash, the gutter, animals or anything other than human beings, we are being hypocritical. Any time the majority of our BLACK female representation in media is overwhelmingly light-skinned or biracial, we are being hypocritical. Did I get everything? We are forcing our darker-skinned sisters into second-class citizenship in a world that has turned its back on all of us. We must do better.

For all you dark-skinned women and girls out there, we want to encourage you to tune out the bullshit that is colorism, as best as possible. We know it can be difficult, but it is necessary for self-care and preservation. Amplify your passions; love yourselves loudly, publicly and privately. Speak up for yourselves because you teach people how to treat you. And if ever you need a reminder of just how beautiful you are, just add a little Spice.

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