My good friend Kim in Chicago called me late one night, about a month back.
“Girl, turn it on Tyra’s show. They’re having a show about how light skinned Blacks have it easier.”
I raised my eyebrow.
“Dawg, what are you trying to say?!” I half joked to my dark skinned sister on the other end of the line.
“I’m just saying this should be interesting.”
“Dawg, are you trying to say that you think I have it better? Is there a message that you’re trying to send to me?”
“I just thought you’d like to watch it,” she giggled.
As we watched the show I asked her all types of questions that we’d never discussed before. I’ve known Kim since we were 15 and we’ve always been good friends, but honestly, the issue of us being treated differently because of the difference in our skin color had never come up.
Kim admitted that she was often told that she was “pretty for a dark skinned girl” but she hadn’t allowed it to bother her. “Most of my friends are light skinned,” she said. “But I have noticed that sometimes when I go out with light skinned women and I get more attention from men, the girls will look like they’re dumbfounded, as though they never expected that to happen.”
My best friend Tamara who lives in Atlanta, and I were chit chatting as usual today when I brought up the idea that entertainers help each other by doing cross promotions.
“Yeah, so I just read that Tom Joyner took his cruise to Turks & Caicos this year,” I said. “I think that was very smart because it gave press to Lisa Raye and her husband and their tourism industry plus it helped this year’s cruise to become more than just another TJ Cruise. Both camps benefited from this plan.”
“Speaking of Tom Joyner, I heard them on the radio clowing him the other day,” Tamara said.
“Oh girl, they were saying that he’s in love with Obama and he’s promoting him a little too much.”
“Ahh..But you have to look at WHY Tom is doing that,” I explained. “Think about where Tom is from and the era that he grew up in. I read his biography and he’s from Tuskegee. Think about how he grew up in Tuskegee which was during his day, the mecca for upwardly mobile Blacks in the entire country. So you got this guy who grew up influenced by people like George Washington Carver and Booker T. Washington. You know Carver was all about creating a Black community where Blacks were self sufficient. In Tuskegee, the whole town was run by Black people. They even had their own seperate power supply. They created that University to teach Blacks how to take care of all of their needs on their own.”
“So, that’s why he’s unapologetic about creating a nationally syndicated radio show about and for Black people when some could argue that he could have even made more money by catering to a more generic audience,” I continued without missing a beat. “So, him backing Obama is like ‘He’s Black, We can do this!’ I don’t know specifically why he backs Obama but even if it’s ‘He’s Black’ I bet Tom wouldn’t apologize. He supports Black people! End of story.”
My friend Kenya in Brooklyn called me up tonight to discuss details surrounding our latest joint project. As the conversation drifted to personal discussion as it usually does, I was standing in the kitchen washing dishes when I had to literally dry my hands and sit down as she went into this deep monologue about how she’s not feeling light skinned people right now.
She told me a story about how she watched as a light skinned woman who works with her is given so much favor even though she is unqualified and inexperienced. Kenya went on to describe in detail how she and her darker skinned friends have been often told that they were too dark to date.
“It’s not like they’re saying that we’re too shallow or too uneducated or too stuck up. Their only reason is the fact that we’re dark skinned,” Kenya said, a hint of annoyance in her voice. “Light skinned women can have their pick of all men across the board. There’s a saying that goes, ‘The Black woman is the mule of the earth’ or something like that, and I’m telling you that right now, I’m feeling like the mule!”
I didn’t know how to reply. Inside, I felt like ‘Damn what can I say? I know she doesn’t mean ME, but in a way, she DOES mean ME!
“Kenya,” I began. “I mean, I know this may sound stupid but I’m asking myself, ‘Does that still happen today?”
“YES! It happens,” she exclaimed. “All the time!”
“I mean, when I look at myself in the mirror I recognize that I’m light skinned with green eyes and now I’m wearing this blonde ass weave in my hair. I’m pushing the mainstream light skinned chick look these days, but should I feel guilty if looking like this helps me to get jobs or favor? What can I do about it? I can’t help how I look.”
“No, you shouldn’t feel guilty,” Kenya replied. “We should ALL be ashamed that things are still this way. We’re so divided among our OWN RACE. I’m tired of it!”