Color Complex

Apparently, if you’re a  light-skinned black woman in Detroit, you can get into a nightclub for free. At least that’s what one promoter decided, to the dismay of thousands of darker-hued black women in the Motor City.

Ulysses Barnes, a DJ and promoter in Detroit, had scheduled a “Light Skin Libra Birthday Bash” this month. All light-skinned women would get in for free, while every other shade had to pay. Barnes says the skin color-themed party would be the first of many. A “Sexy Chocolate” and “Sexy Caramel” party were to follow.

Though Barnes decided to cancel the party after he was flooded with negative responses, his party idea has once again brought up a debate in the black community about skin color preferences.

These color preferences date back to slavery, when fairer-skinned slaves were allowed to work inside the home, while darker slaves belabored in the fields of the plantation. Centuries later, that bias still lingers. It’s seen in music videos, where a white chocolate femme fatale is usually the object of affection for a male superstar, and in numerous magazines that feature light-skinned, silky haired African-Americans.

Deborah Douglas, a writer for the Chicago Sun-Times, reported on just how deep-seated the color bias is among African-Americans:

Lighter-skinned “sistas” often complain they’re unfairly treated by darker-skinned black women because they have some perceived light-skinned privilege. Myriad dark-skinned black women can relate anecdotes detailing slights and rejection by men or other black women because of their natural hue. For both groups, these feelings of rejection can last a lifetime, making us second-guess our self-worth, overcompensate or be just plain evil sometimes.

But the color complex goes beyond superficiality. Studies have shown that employers are more likely to hire light-skinned African-Americans. A 2006 study done by a Ph.D candidate at the University of Georgia showed light-skinned African-American men and women were preferred over their darker counterparts. The study placed the photos and resumes of blacks with the same credentials before a panel of white men and women. The panel overwhelmingly favored the fairer-skinned candidates.

The Sun-Times’ Douglas, who is a dark-skin black woman, said enough is enough. It’s time to break the color ceiling:

If anybody wonders if these are the musings of a bitter black girl, the answer is yes, so save your letters and e-mails. Just know that spending a lifetime of having my own people discount my brains and beauty because I’m packaged in dark wrapping doesn’t negate my point. We don’t put up with this nonsense when other groups of people are involved. We shouldn’t put up with it now.


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