I’m a Gladiator! Scandal is definitely my guilty pleasure TV because I make sure that I don’t schedule anything on Thursdays so that I can watch the episodes as they air. So, when a friend of mine texted me recently on a Thursday and he said he’d talk with me later, and I reminded him that he had to talk BEFORE or AFTER Scandal; my girl friend and I talk about the show during the commercials.
My guy friend doesn’t like Scandal. An afro-centric militant black man, he doesn’t like race mixing between us and our former enslavers. So, the storyline of Olivia Pope and the President getting it on is a taboo topic for him. We get into this discussion about real-life interracial coupling, and he shares his disdain for Blacks who date Becky or Brad (his names for white people). And while black on black love brings a smile to his face, he is also accepting of blacks having relationships with people of color.
And while I get his point of solidarity as it relates to oppression and people of color, the unique position of the history of African Americans in this country, can make inter-racial dating even with other people of color problematic because too many black folks are still fascinated by “other.” This disturbing fascination with people who “look mixed, look better” continues to rear its ugly head as pretend that color doesn’t matter. In too many instances, it does.
I teach writing to middle school students. And the population is evenly split between African Americans and Hispanics. Recently, we were working on descriptive writing, I asked them to write a description of somewhat they thought was attractive, and I stressed that I wanted to see what the person looked like, so the students needed to describe physical characteristics.
I was blown away that in 2013, paper after paper specified some variation of “light skin” “nothing darker than caramel,” “black” or “too dark”. Most of them wanted someone with “pretty eyes” meaning blue, green, grey or hazel in color. Some African-American students even went so far as to say they wanted someone Puerto Rican, Mexican or mixed so that they’d have pretty children. A lot of the boys wanted blonde, blue-eyed girls. Here are some actual excerpts from their papers.
Light skin – the color of a pale person with a tan. He has green eyes that’s kind of hazel. Hair is black, silky and smooth. 7th grade girl African American girl
Long, blonde shinning gold hair. 7th grade African- American boy
. . . Have to have pretty eyes. They would be either green or blue. Hispanic 7th grade girl
They have to have . . . good hair cut with like waves cause boys with nappy hair ugly. 7th grade African-American girl
I like girls that have light skinned, blue or hazel eyes nice attitude, dimples and long hair.” African-American Hispanic boy 7th grade
I would like for him possibly have beautiful blue eyes . . . not boring brown eyes. Hispanic girl 7th grade
And it’s sad to say that our children learn this from us. I recently ran across the following status of an African American woman on Face book looking for a hook-up: “I like a man who is confident, responsible and goal oriented. . . Physically - I prefer men at least 6 feet tall, light skinned and average builds.”
I believe that we love who we love, but I also know that who we are attracted to is dictated by society’s standards. And as long as we think white (and anything close to it) is right, brown skinned black girls and women with dark brown eyes don’t stand a chance against the exotics. The only difference between those of yester year and those of today is now they have to have big booties—an asset that until recently was deficit or black women and girls . . . but that’s another post for another day.
We may come in every shade from alabaster to ebony, but until we stop looking for validation elsewhere and learn to love all of ourselves—colorism will continue to be a problem even in our coupling with other people of color.