Originally posted by shadow watcher
Do you see a color based hierarchy within the black community? I remember reading somewhere that the lighter skinned blacks looked down upon the
darker colored. Is this real?
Just a thought that has been in the back of my mind, and never came up in a conversation.
No problem. You're denying ignorance, and that's why we're all here, but you sure picked a big subject to tackle.
Quick history lesson: Wherever there has been colonialism, there is a color- based hierarchy. From Asia, to Africa, to the Americas, the results have
been the same. There are several reasons why, but it really depends on the 'tone,' I guess, of that specific colony.
For blacks in North America, the 'tone' was mostly harsh, especially in the 'deep South.' The vast majority of slaves worked in the fields, a few
in trades or apprenticeships (like blacksmithing, or whatever else you would need on a farm), and a few who worked in 'the big house,' cooking,
dusting, and serving as personal maids/manservants. I would assume that the sexual dynamic worked pretty much the way you'd expect, from best- to
worst- case scenario.
This is what seems to have happened in most cases: the slaveowner would choose whomever, she would likely acquiesce, or need to be threatened first.
Having caught his eye, she would get pregnant, often, until she got too old. She might
even have disliked her own children a bit, for being
the result of rape. Eventually, she might have teenage daughters, who would be 'approached' by, basically, her relatives, or by their friends.
Either way, the offspring would eventually get lighter and lighter, until some sympathetic slaveowner, or heir, or whatever, freed them because, by
that point, they would have looked white.
But, before that happy day could come, the original (fully- black) matriarch of such a clan would, essentially, prostitute herself to her (and all the
other slaves') master and tormentor. Of course, everyone knew what was going on; sometimes, even the slaveowner's wife was aware, though she had no
recourse. Accordingly, the 'mistress' and the slaves treated her differently: the former, definitely jealous, would sometimes antagonize her
(harrassment, beatings, etc), while the latter, perhaps a little jealous themselves, or resentful, treated her like a 'lady'... of sorts.
Eventually, the family had better clothes, better food, better lodgings, and better chances to get off the plantation
Back then, being light-skinned was the result of a sordid family history- Thomas Jefferson's Sally Hemmings was the result of a family tree like
this- but, since the propaganda of the time portrayed any 'black' features as ugly, in a strange turn of events, the whole thing ended up being
positive. Let me repeat that: due to the very peculiar nature of American slavery, a rape in the family history was a good
That's where the hierarchy comes from, the plantation.
If you're into Anne Rice, she wrote a book on the topic, Cry to Heaven
Here's a link if you're interested in fact, not fiction: Harriet Jacobs, author of Incidents in
the Life of a Slave Girl
In terms of current events, does it still exist? Yeah. Long after slavery, light-skinned blacks remained the most likely to get opportunities,
because they maintained contact with their white family (though rarely, if ever, as equals). If you look at any of the old 'first African-American
to achieve XYZ' pictures, they're usually light-skinned and that's why.
That lasted until about the 60's or 70's, when all blacks got the right to attend state universities, graduated, and achieved stuff. Since that was
the same time period as "Black Power" and "Black is Beautiful," I would imagine that the cultural memory of the plantation hierarchy had started
Personally, though, I use music videos as a gauge... let me explain
. I see rappers, in casting girls for music videos, as representing the general
tastes of young black men. Normally, they choose light-skinned to brown-skinned black women, with only the occasional dark-skinned beauty, most of
whom have hair- weaves, and latinas, who may or may not have weaves. I'm not really surprised in their choices, since spanish-speakers often share
black neighborhoods. However, since, alternatively, the rappers could have exclusively cast black women, I did have a question: did they choose
latinas because of their hair (texture, length, etc), or their skin-tone? With that in mind, I recently noticed a lot of East Indian women (I
think), so that leads me to believe that light-skin isn't so much the issue anymore, as is hair.
Hope that helped.