Good afternoon to all. May I first express appreciation to all who participated in the Open Conversation last night regarding Black History. I thought it was informative and interesting. We will be on again on next Wednesday at the same time, 7:00 p.m.
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When I woke up this morning, colorism was on my mind. The reason it was on my mind was a result of last night’s open conversation relative to Black History. It was quite lively and enlightening to hear persons speak about their experiences, especially those from Mississippi, Alabama, West Virginia, North Carolina and Maryland. The subject of colorism was mentioned, but as for the word colorism is concerned, I never knew it was referred to as colorism. All I knew was that during the 1950’s and 60’s, light complexion folk seemed to have an edge over dark skinned folk when it came down to employment, status, etc.
According to the Oxford Dictionary, colorism is prejudice and discrimination against individuals with dark skin tones, typically among people of the same ethnic or racial group. Growing up in the south, we often heard black folk being referred to as “light skinned” or “dark skinned.” I must admit that as a young child I witnessed skin bias. My grandmother was a very beautiful, fair (light-skinned) looking woman. My mother was considered a medium- colored skinned woman who married a very dark-skinned handsome man. It pains me to remember the conversation I overheard my dad have regarding the dislike of him by my grandmother. He always felt that my grandmother treated him different than the other sons-in-law because of his dark skin. I can’t say for sure that it was his skin color, but I do know for sure there was something about our dad that grandma just did not embrace and like.
There is a town in North Carolina called Ahoskie where colorism was very prevalent. In the 50’s and 60’s, I can remember going into department stores and the only women you saw working in those stores were white women and very light skinned women. What I also remember is that when a white employer gave instructions to the light skinned black woman, she responded with a “yes mam,” an indication that the black light skinned woman was subservient. These women were referred to as being high yellow, but to no fault of their own. Like some blacks in Ahoskie, I am sure, there were many other towns and cities noted for their curly or straight haired, light skinned families who worked so hard to keep the lightness in the family. Even when I came to Maryland in 1970, I heard about families that would intermarry so they might maintain their light skinned identity.
Yes, the fact remains that there was and still is discrimination among our own race of people due to colorism. There was a family whose name I shall not mention who had a very beautiful light skinned daughter who was not permitted to work in the cotton or peanut fields. I always attributed it to the fact that her parents thought she was privileged because of her skin color. I always wondered what happened to that girl. Her parents one day just packed up and moved to the north and never returned.
Even during slavery, lighter-skinned slaves were usually mixed-raced and favored by White slave owners. The lighter skinned slaves were spared physically strenuous, outdoor work and they held domestic indoor jobs. They were referred to as house…….!
What is it with this skin color thing? Some African Americans were using bleaching creams trying to get lighter and whites were using tanning lotions to become darker. Quite interesting isn’t it.
Let me deviate from colorism just for a moment, but I suggest you do further research because it is very interesting and informative.
What we do know about the Bible and the creation story is that it gives no implication or suggestion that there was a privileged race of people. Adam and Eve are presented as non-ethnic and non-national because they represent all people of all ethnicities. John Stott declares, “Both the dignity and the equality of human beings are traced in Scripture to our creation.” To presuppose that one’s own race or ethnicity is superior to someone else’s is a denial of the fact that all people are created in the image of God. There is much more to be said about this subject as it relates to Ham and the Canaanites, but space will not permit me to do so.
Interestingly, Moses marries a Cushite woman, Black African woman, and it creates some unrest, discomfort and uneasiness with Miriam and Aaron (Numbers 12:1). For whatever reason, God rebukes Aaron and Miriam for opposing the marriage. In the Pentateuch the prohibition against interracial marrying refers to pagan inhabitants of Canaan (Deuteronomy 7:1-$). The reason for the prohibition is theological as we know because God warns that they will turn their sons away from Him and worship other gods.
With all that has been said, what I do know is this, love knows no color. Do you think we will ever be able to overcome colorism and racism?
Not a sermon, just my thoughts!
Robert Earl Slade, Pastor