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Saturday, October 3, 2015


"Though many are rejoicing in Mattell’s recent decision to bring diversity to its collection with the introduction of Zendaya Coleman look-a-like doll, some have taken to social media to share some unseemly and incredibly ignorant opinions about the mixed-raced actress’s desire to self-identify as a Black woman."

~Clutch Magazine
The crazy criticism aside, Halle Berry and Barack Obama are NOT getting this kind of push back. I'm not saying they never got any. I'm saying they are not being pulled apart like Zendaya seems to be routinely.

And I think you have to ask yourself why?

When I ask myself why, I think back to when Zendaya tried to get the role of Aaliyah in a Lifetime movie of the week (or some such nonsense).  At the time, I scoured the internet for how she identified. I couldn't find much of anything except her father is black. I did NOT find one thing that said  Zendaya claimed to be black. And I looked hard.

Again, unlike Halle Berry and Barack Obama, I did NOT see her decision to identify as "Black," "Black American," or "African American."  However, I did see what I consider white run sites, like wikipedia, identify her as "bi-racial" which is a different identity CHOICE from "African American" --- "Bi-racial" is a choice much like Tiger Woods' choice to dislike being called "African American" (look up the Oprah episode)*

In fact, I didn't see one claim to blackness from Zendaya (or any hair in locks) until AFTER she lost the role of Aaliyah. Her sincerity about wanting to be black now is as suspect as Tiger Woods or Mariah Carey might be if they jumped up and claimed blackness all of a sudden. One drop rule or no one drop rule racial/ethnic identity involves a choice. A choice. A single choice You do NOT GET multiple choices base on what's good for your career in 2012 or 2013 or 2014 or 2015.

Compare:  Halle Berry and Barack Obama may be identified as "bi-racial" on various sites too. But there's information all over the net, left, right, center, up, and down that Halle and Barack identify as "African American" And that information was out there and everywhere BEFORE they were known to us actress or politician.

On a not-so-separate note, white society is suspect when it chooses ultra light-skinned women like Halle, Zendaya or Vanessa Williams (who has two black parents) to represent blackness FIRST, MOST, and damn near always. And light-skinned, white featured, recently mixed race folk  ought to be just as suspicious if they are indeed identifying as "Black," "Black American," or "African American."

Every single of one us light or dark, if we're so "united" ought to be tired of the opportunity boat always being so dang loaded at the light end that the dark end of the boat is sticking up in the air.*   And one end of the boat sticking up in the air always means the entire thing is on the verge of sinking.  

All shades of my family recognize white preference for light skinned folk, recently mixed women should be able to do the same.  That is maybe Zendaya's joy ought to be mixed with a little cynicism.

I'm trying to imagine Jesse Williams in the same situation in an alternate reality where boys have barbies. I'm trying to imagine Williams having a barbie lovingly made of his paleness and him not calling Mattel out for not making a doll of Lupita Nyong'o. I really cannot imagine him watch yet another white run business choose ultra pale blackness as representative over and over again for decades and not saying something about it. Can you?  

Frankly, if light-skinned women are deciding they cannot need see white preference for light-skinned women in the decision to make this doll, in fashion, in the music industry, television* and movies --which is why actor wins for women that look like Lupita Nyongo and Viola Davis have been SOOO celebrated-- then some of these skin-tone blind light-skinned women are just a darker shade of pale.
That is, light folks who cannot see light-skinned privilege (ESPECIALLY those with white features) are very much like white folks who cannot see white privilege. Only the light-skinned privileged* ARE black and they are attacking us from the inside.
(*-Rumor has it light-skinned men readily admit their privilege. This may be linked to the fact that men's worth isn't so tied to physical appearance in this society.)

Our conversations about light-skinned and dark-skinned people need to be a lot more nuanced than they have been. The jealousy from dark-skinned women over light preferences is as real as some light-skinned women's callous disregard for the pain causing the jealousy.

Shunning the colorism conversation, dark and light,  by saying we're all the same, all while claiming 

it'll get better if you just stop talking about it (much like white folk say about racism) all while leaving out black men's inability to challenge other black men who claim colorblind sexual habits while only dating light and white is only going to get us more of the same.
The only positive thing I'm willing to say about Zendaya, at this point, is that she's young. And she gets to make a FIRST choice. And this really may be her first adult choice as far as racial identity goes.  And she gets to choose to be African American. But her timing is suspect and she should take her lumps or explain herself because I get a say too.

 I get to say whether or not Zendaya looks like my sister, just like Halle, Vanessa, and Viola do, or if she looks like some outsider trying to get over by using my identity.

Again, Zendaya is young. I get that. But if Zendaya is going to be African American, she better hurry up and grow into it...if she can. Throwing some locks on her head to be edgy after she loses an acting role isn't working for me.

In regards to colorism? Avoiding frank conversations isn't working for me either. It hasn't worked for any of us for more than 100 years.

Ida B Wells, Mary Murray Washington (also Booker T Washington’s Wife)
Jane Addams,  Josephine St Pierre Ruffin, Josephine Bruce  (also Blanche K Bruce’s Wife)
Mary Church Terrell,  Julia Cooper. All Black Women Suffragists and Black Women's Club Movement EXCEPT one white woman. Can you pick out the white woman and name her? 

 Let me say it again, o
ur conversations about light-skinned and dark-skinned people need to be a lot more nuanced than they have been. We have been repeating white racism within the black race in the form of colorism for decades and decades --to the point where being light-skinned is somewhat linked with class.  
Ignoring shade differences hasn't worked any better than white people ignoring race differences so as to claim colorblindness. 

 Refusing to talk about race at all except to say "We are all one race, the human race. It'll go away if you stop talking about it..."

--whoops that's a predominantly white perspective, I meant --

Refusing to talk about colorism at all to except to say, "We are all one black race. It'll go away if you just stop talking about it" has not worked in  over 100 years and it never will.