28 July 2013

Celebrity Skin Color

I noticed. Beyonce's skin has changed. I googled it and found images and articles observing the same phenomenon.

While I fully acknowledge that images are able to be photoshopped, I still believe Beyonce has lightened her skin. And then I saw these photos. Totally a reality. I cannot judge her or others who have done the same. I've never been in their shoes. But I can evaluate the effect it will have on my African-American daughters.

One article states:

"...every woman of colour has an important social and cultural history that cannot simply be bleached away or denied by the use of hair straighteners. That's why I passionately believe that Beyonce's ignorance of how this betrays her heritage is so insidiously damaging to all people of colour..."

"Today, Hollywood may love Halle Berry with her light brown skin tone, but obviously black actresses by and large don't make the A-list."

"The truth is that though things have slowly been changing for the better, skin still matters, and on the whole, the world believes it is better not to be dark."

"Surveys in the U.S. have proved that, all things being equal, the lighter skinned that people are, the more chances they get in life, and the more respect they receive..."

"So why do these attitudes persist so long after independence in the 21st century? Academics studying these trends say it is because of globalization and the emergence of 'international beauty' prototypes based on the looks you see in fashion magazines and films..."

".. these idols are shallow and do not understand how frivolous choices affect and undermine the self-esteem of women and children of colour." -www.dailymail.co.uk

So what does all of this mean for my family? Well, I suppose it means less media in our home. As of now there is almost no media in front of the children. They are all under the age of five and are not yet interested. In the future there will have to be a discussion about why some people choose to lighten their skin. Maybe it will come with the same conversation as why some people will judge them based solely on their skin color. Though I accept that people have the right to alter their bodies however they want, I do wish those in the spotlight would consider the effect their alteration have on others, especially children and teens.

The same article states:

"The young daughter of one of my relatives even tried to scrub her 'dirty' skin off with a Brillo pad, such was her loathing for her natural colour..."

"My little girl Ciara is 13, her hair is curly and I don't let her straighten it, and she had a beautiful toffee- coloured skin tone... she has seen Beyonce and she is telling me she hates her hair and wants to lighten it and straighten it."

Unfortunately this is all too common. Precious African-American daughters are being brainwashed into the slavery-spawned idea of "lighter is better", and instead of combating this falsehood with the truth of their natural beauty, society bombards them with a full arsenal of you-are-not-good-enough. I, like all other teens, grew up with body image issues. I cringe to imagine my darlings having to add skin color and hair texture issues on top of the already overwhelming weight of teen troubles. It is our job to do all we can to prepare them for the imminent onslaught. Waiting until it becomes an issue will not do. Start now. Start when they are babies. Build them up so high that no one can tear them down.

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14 July 2013

Trayvon Martin

I'm not posting to share my opinion of the trial. Although I will say that I do not agree with those who say race has nothing to do with the incident. I'm posting because the trial has stirred up within me some very deep thoughts and emotions.

We were expecting our newly adopted baby girl to be a boy. Simple misreading from the ultrasound tech. Some recent thoughts of mine are about if P had been born a boy. I know I have to teach my children about racism. I know I have to one day tell my African-American girls that people may not like them just because of their skin color. But, if P had been a boy this discussion would be even harder. I would have to tell him how he will be judged based on his being an African-American male. How he will be stopped by police officers more often (no hate for the po-po, I have much love and respect for them), how the clerk at a store will be nervous if he walks in with his hands in his pockets, how something as simple as a hoodie will turn him into a delinquent in someone else eyes.

My heart aches for the mothers of black boys. It is hard enough to raise children in this world. To add the horrible truth of racial profiling on top of it all has got to be a huge burden for a mother's already heavy-with-worry heart. This country has come a long way, but not near as far enough.


A friend posted a video about the Martin/Zimmerman trial called "The Truth About George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin". It has changed my view on the situation. Have a look and see what you think.

He cites some nationwide statistics that just hurt my heart. They begin at about 22:35.


Update, again:

A friend shared this Facebook status of a young black man named Wesley Hall:

"Man, I'm just glad I had a mom who gave me the realness from a young age. I can remember thinking she was so stuck in the past for telling me that I couldn't do or say or wear certain things, that I could not stay out as late as my white friends could, that I could not "experiment" with any of the things my white friends did. I struggled so much with her for trying to impress upon me the fact that I was different. Because I'm supposed to be. I lived in a nice house, spoke more than one language, was well educated and well socialized and I did not understand why I needed to constantly act in a manner designed to disarm another person's suspicions about me. 

But wow, I get it now. Every black kid has that moment where he has to decide to accept the armor that his parents present to him to get through life as an American black male, or walk around naked. And the crazy part is, it’s probably something most people outside of the black community never see. I can remember my mom talking to me over and over and over again about what to do and who to call if I was ever picked up by a police officer. She made sure I knew that I needed to declare that I was exercising my Miranda rights rather simply evoke them without notice. If you were in JNJ your mom probably made you take a WHOLE FREAKING CLASS on how to deal with police officers and other people who were perceived to be threatening. 

And I say that to say that as scary as people think black males are, black males are conditioned to be ten times more afraid of everyone else. We’re conditioned to be afraid of goin to certain parts of the country, afraid of people with certain political view, afraid of police officers, and sometimes even afraid of other black and latino males. The most sickening thing about this whole trial has been the deliberate campaign to rob Trayvon of his right to be afraid. I know I would have been. 

And I owe her the deepest of apologies for all of the times that I accused her of overacting or impressing a vision of a society long since passed on the one that exists today. 

It doesn’t matter how well traveled you are or how many languages you speak or who where you went to school. It doesn’t matter how many friends you have or how much good you’ve done in the world. From afar we are all the same. 

It used to hurt when my mother would tell me I couldn’t put my hood up or that I couldn’t stay out as late as my white friends. She told me I was a young black male and I couldn’t afford these things and I figured she never knew how much it hurt for be to know that she did not have faith that I could transcend the many stereotypes that swirl around me and be seen as an individual. 

But when I think about my own mother having to come down the police station, and Identify my naked body and come home and go in my room that would feel strangely empty. She would have to walk past my favorite custom built aquarium and the framed boards my class in japan made for me on my last day of study abroad, she would have to open my closet and go through all of the clothes I would never wear again and find my favorite suit and then walk out of a room where every object holds a memory. 

She would have to go on interviews and meet with lawyers and try to be strong in the face of unimaginable tragedy. While people picked apart my character and found every facebook status where I cursed or every stupid picture I was ever captured in. She would have to sit in court and dignify people who sought to put me in the ground with not a shred of justice with her presence and her silence. And then on top of that, after a year of pain, to hear from 6 other mothers that my life meant nothing........

And the thought that after 24 hours of labor, thousands of dollars on tuition and extra curriculars and trips and summer activties, and millions of tiny sacrifices that she could be left with the dust of my memory and the guilt of having not prepared me for this thing called America. 

I joke about it, but I know how much I mean to her. Before I go parasailing I think about her, and before I jump in the ocean I think about her, and when I had tigers crawling all over me and licking my face I was thinking about her. But I did those things because I knew that even if I got poisoned by a cobra or mauled by a tiger, I know it would have been hard.......but she would have derived comfort from knowing that I died pursuing happiness, adventure, and experiences that are worth their risks. 

But I know that she would never ever be able to recover from knowing that I died the way that Trayvon died. And so I understand so well why she taught me to think about the world in the way that I do. To remember how to love life, be open to others, but to always remember who I am and to be so secure in who I am, that I accept that I must constantly think and behave with consideration for that one person who might think they already know. 

I have fought with my mom, dad, and stepdad about what it means to be a young black man in 2013. And I have at times been annoyed at all of them for presenting me with my constraints. But I am so lucky to have been armed with the truth at such and early age. The world can be so confusing for us. So much kindness, and so much cruelty. We've all accused our parents of over estimating the dangers out there. But they managed to teach us not to allow this country to fill us with fear, while simultaneously not allowing it to rob us of our vigilance. Shout-out to all of the parents out there, giving that extra course on how to keep your children from being victimized in a society that does not believe that they can be victims."

So my view has changed again. I say "view" and not "opinion" because I do not have a set opinion on this matter. I am willing to change as I learn new things, as you can see. The point of this blog is to share with you things I have learned and let you do with it what you may. As for me and this particular subject, I am just saddened by it all. Saddened it was made into a racial issue, saddened someone died, and saddened by how it has affected our nation's youth.

Basically I currently share the same opinion of Charles Barkley: Charles Barkley on CNBC.

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