“The blacker the berry the sweeter the juice.” -2Pac
“The finest clothing made is a person's own skin, but, of course, society demands something more than this.”-Mark Twain
“I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” - Martin Luther King Jr.
The reference to skin color in all of the above quotes brings up the idea of colorism. Colorism is the discrimination directed from a persons skin color. It is most common between people of the same race. It is especially present in the African American Community. There is a hidden line between the complexions of African Americans that alters their chances to put black people in power positions.
In America the race issue becomes apparent in childhood. Kids grow up in a society that has put lighter skin complexions on a pedestal. In the African American society, people are already looked down by every other race. However, on top of people looking down on them, they continue a separation drawn by a race that is not their own. Focusing on the division made by old enemies, African Americans have truly lost focus of the possibilities they can achieve in the American democracy system.
The “hidden line” was created by a man named Willie Lynch in 1712. Calling for the deliverance of his speech the in Virginia colony on the Bank of James River, he explained how the ways to “control your slaves.” Condoning the use of “color differentiation” to form a rivalry between the two sides: claiming, "You must use the dark skin slaves vs. the light skin slaves, and the light skin slaves vs. the dark skin slaves." Using tactics such as putting the darker complexioned people in the fields and keeping the lighter complexioned people stay in the household. Lynch went on to say, “Distrust is stronger than trust and envy stronger than adulation, respect, or admiration.” Due to the words of a person who was viewed as the enemy, a great race was split into two hating rivals. The race that should have been united had paved the way of a long road of an everlasting war between a beautiful civilization.
The central theme of “the line” has passed through many centuries. The 19th century featured the ending of slavery and the Jim Crow Laws placed by the government. Jim Crow laws placed to segregate the races of blacks and white. However, many women if born light would choose to do a path called “passing”. Passing was having using a person’s light complexion to “pass” for white. Many of woman did it, in order to have a better life in the society. Passing further divided the black race out of jealousy. Men and woman of a darker complexion were forced to remain in a race that their skin reflected, thus not allowing them to hide within the “white” society. It was said many of times that being white of a lighter complexion in that ear was a blessing. Privileges, rights, and freedom all came with the package of portraying as white.
The 20th century didn’t supply much more with the development of the erase of the line either. After the Jim Crow laws were disposed of, the black community still withheld the difference between light and dark skin. In some cases the paper bag test was used in America. The test would consist of placing a person next to a brown paper bag to determine entry into clubs, events, and even the church. Dr. Martin Luther king was a an activist who fought for not only just the equality of black people, but the equality of ALL people. Moving forward into the 21st century, now referred to now as African Americans have still managed to maintain the line placed in between the race.
As a result of all the hardwork to get to the point of where African Americans are today, the historical distinction is still maintained. It lurks about in social media, the media, and everyday- by- day lives. The black community has silently accepted the “line”. Constantly the issue of light skin vs. dark skin is brought to the light, but yet nothing is done. Recently the sequel to the documentary “Dark Girls”, “Light Girls” was released. Mixed emotions about both documentaries were voiced. A student of Science Leadership Academy, Crystalle Hutchins replied that “drawing the attention to both of the movies just forces colorism on us more.” The black woman and men of the American country need to focus on the root problems at their front doors. Distracted by skin complexions allows other races to take the opportunities from the black community. Focusing so much attention on people of the same race disrupts the chances of making an impact on the democracy of the people.
Author: Donesha Lee
Student at Science Leadership Academy
Student at Science Leadership Academy