Paper-Bag Life

26 Oct
Have you dug the spill
Of Sugar Hill?
Cast your gims
On this sepia thrill:
Brown sugar lassie,
Caramel treat,
Honey-gold baby
Sweet enough to eat.

Are you still subconsciously giving yourself a paper-bag test?  I had a conversation recently with a white classmate who told me that she didn’t understand why some black women called themselves red bone or made a point to draw attention to their skin color.  I had to really think about the red-bone thing. I know it means light skinned but the best I could come up with is that when chicken isn’t done its light and the bones are red because there’s still blood.  I didn’t tell my co-worker that for not wanting to compare my people to chicken, but hell are we? Is light skin better than dark skin? Why? Because its closer to being white? Are we still there in 2010?

Peach-skinned girlie,
Coffee and cream,
Chocolate darling
Out of a dream.
Walnut tinted
Or cocoa brown,
Pomegranate-lipped
Pride of the town.
Are we still judging each other based on skin color, or hair texture?  I know myself and plenty of my *chocolate* friends have gotten the backhanded comment, “you’re really pretty for a dark skinned girl.” Why is this acceptable? Why is it necessary to distinguish “light skinned” from “Kelly Rowland,” which has become the cultural euphemism for dark-skinned girl.   Why is it even still important? Is it because people genuinely have preferences? What are those preferences rooted in, though? That’s the scary part.
Rich cream-colored
To plum-tinted black,
Feminine sweetness
When I think about being “color-struck” I think about a friend of mine in 6th grade who used to call me “darkie” when when we barely 1/2 a shade apart.  I think about that same friend making it a point to congratulate me on my cute “light bright” boyfriend.  It makes me wonder how much skin color plays a role in my own life.  Are we unconsciously just more aware of skin color because of its importance in our culture?
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6 Responses to “Paper-Bag Life”

  1. Michael October 26, 2010 at 2:52 pm #

    Keep up your positive, thought provoking blogs.

  2. Carmen October 26, 2010 at 2:54 pm #

    Great post, Jess. I remember being in third grade and one of my so called friends told me I looked just like my mom – but that my mom was prettier because she’s lighter than me. I will not teach my child to be color struck. If someone is attractive, they’re just attractive, no matter if they’re light, dark, yellow, red-bone, blue or purple!

  3. Della Wilcox October 26, 2010 at 3:18 pm #

    Yes, this old damn near white distinguishing factor still plays a part in todays African American community. The brain washing of slavery continues to follow us. Even today we look down on ourselves because of our various shades of color. Instead of embracing our differences we fight among ourselves about who’s closer to the race that enslaved us in the first place. Crazy huh? Not only do we hate ourselves but we want to identify with our opressor. We hate our wiry hair so we perm it to straighten it. We hate our dark mocha colored skin so we seek out bleaching creams or try to avoid the sun during the summer months. Some of us even refuse to drink coffee for fear that it will make us darker. Yes, still today, 2010, we as African American’s have failed to remove the chains of ignorance. We most start to tell ourselves and tell our beautiful dark children that they are indeed beautiful. When we can look in the mirror and like what we see, only then can we begin to heal. How can a race of people who hate their own reflection love their existance?

  4. Nicole Stanfield October 26, 2010 at 8:52 pm #

    I don’t think we will ever be able to do away with this topic. We should accept people regardless of their color but sometimes it’s the people of color that are keeping us from being accepted. Of all cultures that exist, people of African descent have the largest range of skin tones than any other. We cannot accept our own skin tones. We put lighter skin tones up on a pedestal and continue to do so. People should take the phrase “be comfortable in your skin,” literally and figuratively.

    Funny you talk about this since my dad was just reminding my sisters and I that I would never play with white dolls as a child. If someone got me a white Barbie for some occasion, I would leave her to rot in the toy box. Yesterday while in the toy aisle with my mom, we were reminisced about my favorite doll as a child. She was a little black doll I named Kenya and she wore a Kente cloth pants outfit. I have never had a problem with the color of anyone I come in contact with. Maybe this self acceptance starts in the early stages of life and we need to show our younger girls the path.

  5. Cleo Sunshine October 27, 2010 at 1:50 pm #

    I belong to a message board, and somehow my pictures got posted, and some people commented “she’s only pretty because she’s light skin” we place so much emphasis on what we think make someone pretty/beautiful instead of just saying they are beautiful … We really do tear each other down with our overly critical analysis of each other … but I think it boils down to the fact that yes, it is 2010 but we (black people/african-americans/whatever we choose to be called) are still in the early phases of the struggle for cultural acceptance and recognition.

  6. Jess J. October 27, 2010 at 2:57 pm #

    I agree with you ladies! It bothers me that this is REALLY still happening in 2010. I like to think that we’re past so many things but we just aren’t. Perhaps I’m just a little dark skinned dreamer.

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