Divide and Complicate
Originally written on October 28, 2012
One of the biggest social constructions ever invented is the institution that is racism. I’ll spare you history lesson, but will describe a situation that happened as of late. While at a baby shower for a family friend, a Puerto Rican woman of a tan complexion entered the bathroom with me and proceeded to tell me that I reminded her of a certain singer. (I’ve been getting that a lot lately, so I paid it no mind and said thank you.) However, she followed up by saying “you’re so pretty even though you have such dark skin, like you have nice features.” Luckily she couldn't see the expression on my face, but swallowing my pride and said thank you, and said my goodbyes.
Now, as a women of color around the entire world can tell you; African-Americans are not the only ones to be stigmatized or discriminated against by the particular shade of their skin. This happens in Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa, and Asia as well. Skin bleaching and lightening creams can be easily found in neighborhoods with high levels of ethnic diversity, and can even be found in beauty ads themselves. Think of the internet frenzy that L’Oreal created back in 2008 over the Beyonce ads. Tyra Banks did an amazing episode on the “light skin vs. dark skin” debate and ramifications when she interviewed women who not only bleached themselves but their children. This, along with other specials, social experiments, and documentaries, aired out one of our best-worst kept secrets. Not only is human-kind not over racism, but they don’t even need “the powers that be” to tell them to feed into it. We do it to ourselves.
Taking inspiration from Policing the National Body: Race, Gender and Criminalization in the United States, and Michael Foucault's philosophical teachings, the complexes we have among the races is more than skin deep. It is a type of imprisonment that is rooted in the mind, and then branches out into all other forms of life. Therefore, the only type of real change can happen from within ourselves. The damage we do as people of color or simply just as people; is one that sometimes cannot be erased. The only hope that can be found is fostering a judgement-free dialogue in which everyone has an equal opportunity to be heard and understood. Otherwise, we may never move upwards and onward to more relevant issues like actually ending world hunger and preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS.