Skin tone and Self-esteem among African Americans

Malcolm X

Malcolm X (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Hiroyuki Matsuyama

As Verna Keith says, skin tone is one of central features for determining one’s self image, and it happens a lot that your occupation or income are decided by looking at your skin tone. It is so sad, but it is the fact that we are facing today. From this point of view, mulattos distanced themselves from the larger African American community by excluding darker blacks from their social organizations. Moreover, they were avoiding intermarriage with people with darker skin so as to pass their advantages on to their children. In this way, even within black communities, there was hierarchy and discrimination against other people.

It is truly difficult to eliminate this injurious racism completely, and it would probably not happen that people would evaluate others and give jobs equally, but prejudicially. In spite of this unfairness, I hope people who are discriminated against to keep having self-esteem, at least to a certain extent. Thus, Malcolm X was really great person because he tried to make people have confidence. He claimed a notion “black is beautiful” in order to fight against racism.

Nonetheless, it is not for criticizing or discriminating against white people, but for attempting to undo black-on-black racism. The reason is because black people were brainwashed by white power, so he thought that he needed to remove this structure as a priority concern. By stating this concept, he tried black people to have self-esteem.

In addition to this, there is a famous speech ‘Who taught you to hate yourself’ by Malcolm X. In the speech, even though his words were sometimes inappropriate, he encouraged audiences well by saying features that are supposed to be words for insulting black people, such as lips, hair texture and so forth. This speech was really helpful for those who were struggling, and they started to have Afro hairstyle to show their self-esteem. This hairstyle enabled black people to express their culture and historical identity.

In conclusion, cruel racism is still going on in today’s modern world unfortunately. Even though people have started to think more about it, racism is still harsh and out of control. However, people who are racially discriminated against should try to stand up and claim your opinion without any fear. Every single person should be oneself, not like others. Being another person by imitating others or dissimulating yourself is not the way you are. In my opinion, that is the end of your life when you have lost your self-worth.

Reference

Keith, Verna M. 2010. “A Colorstruck World: Skin Tone, Achievement and Self-Esteem Among African American Women.” In Shades of Difference: Why Skin Color Matters, edited by Evelyn Nakano Glenn. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

How African Women See Themselves

by Yutaro Nishioka

The term colorism is defined in the work of Verna M. Keith, “A Colorstruck World: Skin tone, Achievement, and Self-Estimation Among African American Women,” as “the privileging of light skin tone over dark skin tone” (Keith, 2009). In other words, people with dark skin are seen as inferior to those with light skin. This view was somewhat hard for me, as a Japanese, to perceive in Japan, especially before I went to Atlanta at the age of 16 as an exchange student. Before I went to Atlanta, I had never known a black person; I had not seen a black person at school, supermarkets, stations, parks, libraries, or any other public places. Hence it is natural that I could not really perceive or feel colorism in Japan.

According to Keith (2009), black women (and even girls) are encouraged or even told to “marry light,” that is, marry a husband of lighter skin tone, so that they can at least “save” their children from having to go through the hardship and pain of being discriminated against for having dark skin, even if they had to suffer it themselves. Young black girls are even told not to play outside in the sunlight because that would make their skin even darker, which would make them “less attractive (often not spoken aloud)” (Keith, 2009).

While white or European features, such as “blue, grey or green eyes, straight hair texture, thin lips, and a narrow nose” are seen as “higher status,” more attractive, and intelligent, black or African features, such as “broad nose, kinky hair, full lips, and brown eyes” are devalued both inside and outside of the black community (Keith, 2009). This phenomenon, in my opinion, is horrible because not only do young black children get discouraged from playing outside—young children naturally like to play outside—but also the reason or excuse that the adults, or society, use for this phenomenon is extremely lame: having dark skin is somehow less attractive, and any attempt to avoid darkening the skin tone is thus justified. This can even affect who black American women will “date and marry” and the kinds of jobs they end up having (Keith, 2009).

To my surprise, these advices are given “out of love, and a deep historical understanding” of the discrimination against those with dark skin tone (Keith, 2009). This may imply that many black American women would rather “suck it up” and teach their children not to darken their skin any further to avoid undergoing the hardship, than fight the society and discrimination. It might be that the power of the discrimination against people with dark skin is so overwhelmingly strong and influential that they do not have a choice but to suck it up and do what the society tells them to do, that is, to avoid darkening their skin tone and marry a light skinned husband to make sure at least their children’s skin tone turns out lighter.

Reference

Keith, V. (2009). A Colorstruck world skin tone, achievement, and self-esteem among African American women. In Shades of Difference: Why Skin Color Matters, edited by E.N. Glenn. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Colorism within the black community in the U.S.

by Nami Irikuchi

When I first read “A Colorstruck World” by Verna Keith, I could not believe that there was/is a discrimination against black people by black people. As most of us know, white people have discriminated against dark-skinned people, African-Americans in the U.S. People have thought that white people are superior to black people. The lighter skin black people have, the better life they can have.

What I want to say is that the differences of their skin color occurred because of genetics. The activation level of melanocyte is different between blacks and whites, and its activation level is decided by their genes. Even dark-skinned people who did not do wrong things to others have been discriminated against.

In the reading, Keith writes that dark-skinned mothers try to protect their daughters from sunlight not to have darker skin. I thought that if I were a dark-skinned women and had a dark-skinned daughter, what advice would I give to my daughter? If it is now, then I would not, but I would have advised if it was the past, when there was more discrimination against blacks. When I advise my daughter, I would not tell why I would try to protect her from the sunlight. They do not need to know the fact that dark-skinned women would not be preferred, and also black people did not do anything that was worth discriminated. Just because they have the darker skin, they would get discriminated against.

Some black males now also think that black females are less attractive, though they have the almost same color. I think that it is related to not only racism or colorism, but also gender issues. I found an internet article which said that black men try to date light-skinned women because they find them more beautiful than darker-skinned women. Furthermore, if they got married and had children with those light-skinned women, there is a possibility that they could have children who have “favorable features,” such as lighter skin and eye color. Those children might face less discrimination.

However, in that article, there is no statement about women’s preferences. As we can see, women are distinguished by their appearance at first, and if the appearance did not match to the preference, then men do not try to have a relationship with them. Somehow most people have the prejudice for dark-skinned people, and women still get hurt not only in the white community but also within the dark-skinned community.

Slavery is over. Colonialism is over. But there are still or more discrimination against black people. I think that the situation is very similar to the Japanese people’s attitudes toward Korean or Chinese people. Those people were colonized by Japanese government in the past, and although that period has ended, there are still some Japanese people who think that Korean or Chinese people are bad and they have to get out of Japan. I think that they have stereotyped thinking, and maybe do not know the facts. I also do not know the reality both in the U.S. and Japan, so I really want to research about those problems when I go to the U.S., or encounter some demonstrations for Korean and Chinese in Japan.

When I hear the word “discrimination”, I came up with “against black people” at first. Unconsciously, people tend not to be an attacker and that is why Japanese people try to think about “discrimination against black people”, but not “against Korean or Chinese people.”

References

Garrell, M. Colorism in black community still prevalent, unacceptable. The University Star. Retrieved July 1, 2014 from http://star.txstate.edu/node/1047

Huff Post. (January 13th, 2014).  Retrieved July 3, 2014 from http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/4588825

Keith, V.M. (2009). “A Colorstruck world skin tone, achievement, and self-esteem among African American women.” In Shades of Difference: Why Skin Color Matters, edited by E.N. Glenn. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Skin tone and self-esteem: Impacts of colorism

by Keisuke Yamada

In “A Colourstruck World: Skin Tone, Achievement and Self-Esteem Among African American Women”, Verna M. Keith examines the relationships between skin tone, social and economic achievement, and self-esteem among African American women. Keith briefly mentions the history of slavery and how lighter-skinned blacks were more accepted than darker-skinned blacks because they had similarities with white people. As history clearly shows, colourism existed in the past when the skin tones you were categorised in decided what you can do and how you are treated. Even after the period of slavery, colourism continued to affect education, occupation, and income of African American women. The graphs the authour provides clearly show differences in education, occupation, and income among groups of people with different skin tones.

Then, Keith moves on to look at the relationship between skin tone and self-esteem, which I personally thought very interesting. Keith provides two graphs which show the relationships between the level of self-esteem and skin tones in adolescents and adulthood. There is not a huge difference in the level of self-esteem in adolescents. However, as they become adults, self-esteem of very dark brown people drops, although the author says that the results may have been different depending on when you were born. More interestingly, Keith mentions how skin tone is not related or ignored in predominantly white environments. One suggestion was that in predominantly white environments, there is only a distinction between black and white. I had a discussion in the class whether this can be applied to other cases. For example, in a country like US where Asian people are the minority, it is often ignored which part of Asia they come from. However, from the perspectives of those Asian people, it is of course a big of deal where they originated.

As we discuss the issue, I heard that the ratio of ‘black’ and ‘white’ people is changing in some parts of the US, and I guess that some parts of the world may be experiencing similar shifts as well. So my last question was whether colorism would still matter for some people, considering this shift may occur in the future. I personally think that it would have less influence on one’s self-esteem and career achievements, but at the same time, it is also possible that there would always be some kind of distinction or differentiation beside the idea of colorism.

Reference

Keith, Verna M. 2010. “A Colourstruck World: Skin Tone, Achievement and Self-Esteem Among African American Women.” In Shades of Difference: Why Skin Color Matters, edited by Evelyn Nakano Glenn. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Double Consciousness at Miss Bronze Contests

by Miyu Fujihara

In “The Color of an Ideal Beauty Queen,” Maxine Craig talks about how Miss Bronze or beauty contests clearly show “systems of representation”, which makes contests such as Miss Bronze significantly different from beauty contests mostly for white women. System of representation can be simply explained as differences of perspective. Specifically skin color is one of the elements that decide representation, as well as other factors like body features. For example, blond hair represents white race and a dark-skinned person evokes the image of low social status, and so on. However, since systems of representation are different depending on the racial group, features can represent anything. Thus the definition of beauty differs a lot among groups, thus making different impressions. What black people and white people think is beautiful can differ.

As Craig mentions in her chapter, at the Miss Bronze Contest, black contestants try to walk carefully so they can show their well-educated behavior, which reminds people of middle class manners or the social representation of whites, and some straighten their hair to be “white” in order to achieve beauty acknowledged by the majority.

However, at the same time, since it is Miss Bronze, the contest which decides the symbol of the race, contestants want to keep their blackness or authenticity in their appearance. This is why some get their hair short in order not to be too white (long hair is regarded as element of being white). The one that meets the both expectations wins the contest, in other words, the one that is regarded as beautiful from both whites and blacks can win. This whole process to be the winner is said to be based on the one’s double consciousness.

From what I’ve mentioned above, this can be applied to Asian American women in the United States. Keeping racial identity and achieving the majority’s standard of beauty for them is to have black hair or Asian hair, but to keep it long like other white people do. Thus this shows how they have double consciousness.

In my opinion, this is something very considerable and profound in a way it shows that there’s more than one standard of beauty exists. Cherishing her race and natural appearance will build self-confidence and stop people from rushing to get plastic surgery whenever they want to change their race. As for the day a black woman won the beauty contest, it’s proved that the one that’s beautiful is not always white, but black or Asian and any other race. However, even recently it seems that  colorism still exists in a form of social hierarchy. This explains how the concept of multiple standards of beauty was established with color-based social hierarchy coming from colonialism. It sounds difficult to change this issue. Nonetheless, people at least are secured to have their own racial identity and are given the environment where they can be respected from each other in disregard of racism.

Reference

Craig, Maxine L. 2009. “The Color of an Ideal Beauty Queen” in Shades of Difference: Why Skin Color Still Matters, edited by Evelyn Nakano Glenn. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

“Bronze signified race but not a specific color”

Sharon Bailey, Miss Bronze Local winner Carolyn Blakey and Belva Davis (Pageant producer) (Photo credit: turnstyle news)

by Lulu Maginde

“Bronze signified race but not a specific color”

This particular statement seems to support the idea of the Miss Bronze beauty contest, however whether this is actually true or not is debatable.

First of all, the question has to be addressed, would someone find it offensive if they were to be labeled as bronze in terms of their race? Why one thought that it made sense to associate bronze with race or a beauty contest for that matter, is beyond me, especially during a time where one was persecuted because of their race, however in some aspects it did help in dissolving color boundaries so to speak.

The beauty contest that was created during the height of segregation in the 60s, for the purpose of bringing together African American women of all different skin colors as well as making a political statement. Originally most of the winners of the contest accounted for were light-skinned and most commonly came from stable backgrounds. Due to the contests, ‘black beauty queens became important symbols of black worth’, yet if winners were being chosen for the lightness of their skin tone, how do people differentiate between what they are supposed to stand for and what they are being led to believe by these contests? And also what is the standard of measurement for black women, if according to beauty institutions, black worth amounted to the accomplishments of lighter skinned contestants?

It seems that after the first dark-skinned contestant was crowned, people suddenly started taking notice. In an institution that has been dictated by this sense of “white is right”, having a dark skinned beauty queen symbolized that this idea of the lighter skin girl was not as significant or dying down.

For the longest time the many people, from the judges to audiences and even contestants had applied a form of “double consciousness” in regards to their appearance. This sense of double consciousness, where African Americans see themselves and judge themselves as white people see them, as W.E.B. Du Bois described it, only seemed to become less important throughout the end of the 1960s, being replaced by black empowerment. The Miss Bronze beauty contest was the first of its kind created for black women and so it meant a lot this division of color did not persist.

The role these black beauty contests in shaping the way black girls and women in turn see beauty had a great impact as in turn the color regime whereby light skin was the dominant was disappearing, all due to that one lady.

References

Craig, L., M. (2009). The color of an ideal Negro Beauty Queen: Miss Bronze 1961-1968. In Glenn, E. Shades of Difference: Why skin color matters. (pp. 81 – 94).Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Gee, R. (April 21st, 2011). Sharon Bailey, Sacramento producer of the Miss Bronze Pageant, Local winner Carolyn Blakey and Belva Davis.

Retrieved from: http://turnstylenews.com/2011/04/21/belva-davis-black-female-and-breaking-news-for-40-years/miss_bronze/

Measurement of beauty in the Miss Bronze Beauty Contest

by Moe Miura

The concept of “beauty” is something really strong in many places. If we say a single word “beauty”, though it is just a one single word it have different meanings for each person who hears it. The definition of the idea of “beauty” is now so expanded that people have started to have their own idea of “beauty”. However, if we look at how one society, or even many countries together, define the idea of “beauty”, we see the “trend”, or collective ideas about beauty. Often, the way of promoting or influencing these trends to people is to define “what kind of people is beautiful”; and often, that is done through the beauty contest.

It is not exaggerated when we say the winner of the beauty pageant shapes the idea of beauty that people have. Often, these beauty contests had excluded “black beauty” from the criteria to measure people’s beautifulness. Then there was born the beauty contest called “Miss Bronze”, and it actively recruited a lot of women of color for the contest. Even with this situation, skin color was something to measure one’s beauty, because they still had the idea of lighter skin as better and more privileged than darker skin by various reasons.

However what I want to look close to are elements other than the skin color. Though skin color has been talked about one of the most important elements in defining “beauty”, however there is particularly one thing that I would like to focus on: hair.

As people set the ideal image of skin, people also try to achieve the ideal hair. As for the Miss Bronze contestant, since they were African American, many had short and tight-curled hair. However the ideal hair was “long and straight/wavy/silky” hair. Even until today people have been using hair relaxer to straighten/soften their hair, though it has harmful side effects.

I believe there are a lot of similar points between the action of whitening skin and relaxing hair; first advertisements (magazines, commercials, and so on) played a big role in making people believe that using these product will give them better life or privilege. Also, these two factors strongly connect with social stratification. Both claim that having lighter skin or straighter, smoother hair will result in privilege. With the created ideals and brainwash of the media, people who has too seek beauty (people in beauty peagent) and even others are seeking the way to go close to their ideal image of “beauty”.

Colorism, segregation, and beauty pageants

by Shinoko Itakura

In 1977, Janelle Commissiong of Trinidad and Tobago became the first woman of African descent and also the first black woman to be crowned as Miss Universe.

“Miss Universe” is the most famous beauty pageant in which female representatives of each country compete. In 1977, Janelle Commissiong of Trinidad and Tobago became the first woman of African descent and also the first black woman to be crowned as Miss Universe. Until this happened, there had been many attempts to argue beauty of black women against colorism. “Miss Bronze” was one of such attempts, challenging racial exclusion and colorism. Each woman is representative of her own black community.

I was a discussion leader of this topic today in the class of Race and Ethnicity in the Modern World. I have come up some questions and two of those were “if there is beauty pageant TODAY for only white people, do you think this is discrimination against non-white people?” and “What about if it was for only black people or Asian people?” I was expecting that the most of my colleagues would say yes right away to the former question and no or maybe after they consider for the latter question. Yet, one of the colleagues said that this is not about racism nor discrimination but the idea of having different beauty contests of ethnic groups or racial groups are same as segregation. I have realized that the idea I have come up without any concerns was horrific thing which colored people have been suffering. Also “The standards of beauty” including not only skin color but also physical features are based on white standards. For example, in the beauty contest, fat people or short people cannot be seen. Everyone is extremely skinny and tall.

Women always want to stay beautiful. “Beauty” is forever theme for women. However this beauty should not be decided based on one particular “standard of beauty”. There are different styles of beauty. Every woman is beautiful no matter what skin color she has, no matter how tall or how skinny she is. Every woman has right to show how she is beautiful. No one can judges whether the woman is beautiful or not by skin color.

Reference

Craig. M. L. (2009) “The Color of an Ideal Negro Beauty Queen.” In Shades of Difference: How Skin Color Matters, edited by E.N. Glenn. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Color? Look for beauty in its own

by Kanae Mukaihara

“Hey!”

When a person sees another person and exchanges a word, they likely have already distinguished the other person’s race according to their appearance. This is the reality. In current time periods, there still is obvious discrimination in the society. For example, in Japan, many foreigners are not able to get a part time job or even rent an apartment. In addition, sometimes, still a sign “Japanese Only” may be seen in shop entrances. This may not be regarded with their skin color, yet people still judge others by skin color. If one is non-white, others would regard one is inferior to those who are white.

“People do not want to be distinguished by their skin color and at the same time people do not want to distinguish others with their skin color.” I wish every single person in the world would think in this way. It sounds simple, yet wheels within wheels, it is more complicated than it first seems to be. Those who have white skin color tend to have better employment, better income, better treatment and even better life (Nakano, 2009). Society is constructed with bunch of people in which discrimination are occurring from color differences. Thus it should have been actively argued for everyone to have equal eyes more than equal society. However, in a sense of beauty, it could be different.

The standard of beauty differs among countries. However, world widely, having lighter skin color, taller nose, bigger eyes, blond hair is considered as beauty in most of the countries, including countries in Asia (Chung, 2011). In Asia, Westerners have been the role model of beauty.  For example in Japan, people would buy cosmetics which is lighter color than their real skin color since they have the idea of white or lighter skin is more beautiful. Korea as another example, it is more severe. In Korea, beautiful women are more likely to be employed and to have better life (Stewart, 2013). Thus, people get plastic surgeries and try to become beautiful to compromise to the society. Regarding white as beauty in the world is more common while has becoming a standard. Yet, in Brazil, they discover beauty in darker skin.

In Brazil, race is classified by skin color, which mainly has category of white, brown and black. In the society of Brazil, as same as other countries, the lighter skin one has, the better employment and income they could get (Nakano, 2009). In Brazil, there is discrimination in society. However in Brazil, not like Japan or Korea, women want to have golden and tanned skin. Thus women with lighter skin color use darker cosmetics to make their skin color darker than they have now (Stylist, 2014). In addition, in comparison with Korean more focuses plastic surgery in face, yet Brazilians more focuses on shape of their body. There are not many countries which find beauty in darker skin.

From these findings, I consider that one should not be treated based on the skin color they have or their looks. In a sense of beauty, the standard of beauty should be created by countries and create the standard of beauty from cultural aspect and also careful consideration in the society. Every race has its own charming point in every single part of their body and personality. From doing this, I believe more women in the world would be able to find much more confidence as who they are. Respecting others, respecting cultures, respecting one’s looks will lead to brighter future I believe.

References

Chung, C. (2011). ‘Westernizing’ surgery on the wise. Retrieved from http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/beauty/westernising-surgery-on-the-rise-20110905-1jsye.html

Stylist. (2014). Made in Brazil: Why Brazil leads the way with beauty trends. Retrieved from http://www.stylist.co.uk/beauty/made-in-brazil

Stewart, D. (2013). I can’t stop Looking at these South Korean Women who’ve had plastic surgery. Retrieved from http://jezebel.com/5976202/i-cant-stop-looking-at-these-south-korean-women-whove-had-plastic-surgery

Telles, E. (2009). “The Social Consequences of Skin Color in Brazil.” In Shades of Difference: Why skin color matters, edited by E. N. Glenn. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Race, Color, and Beauty in Brazil

by Deanne Walters

First Flag of the United States of Brazil (Nov...

First Flag of the United States of Brazil (November 19, 1889 – April 14, 1960). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Brazil is a country with a long history of racial mixing, so the common system of classification for people is not one by race, but one by color. The three main categories that are used in the census are white, brown, and black. Even with the long history of mixing there are still benefits given to people with lighter skin and beauty is racialized.

To start off by looking at economic disparity can show how race and color play out in a society. When looking at economic benefits, in 1980 people who were black in Brazil made only 40 percent of what someone who was white made, and someone who was brown made only 44 percent. Looking at the data from the 2010 census there is a similar divide. Someone who was black earned 48 percent of someone who was white and someone who was brown earned 49 percent.* People in economic power often reinforce that privilege in other ways, such as with beauty.

So there are clearly economic benefits for being white, but are there also benefits in terms of beauty? This is where race still plays a part; facial features and hair are racialized often with white features and hair being seen as more beautiful than black features and hair.  Brazil does promote the ideas of a mixed race person being seen as beautiful in Brazil, but it only goes so far. While people with darker skin tones are seen as beautiful they are still held to the western standards in other regards such as with hair and facial features.

An example of how this manifests is with plastic surgery. When looking at why people get plastic surgery they are trying to make themselves more beautiful, but the kind of features they are going for is more similar to someone who is white; the features that they are getting surgery on are often the one they think they get from their nonwhite parents or grandparents. So while Brazil promotes this myth of mixed race beauty. The reality is that this myth just reinforces very similar beauty standards with a slightly different skin tone.

*Disclaimer I analyzed this data myself and did not control the data for other factors, so it can give  a rough idea of the situation, but the actuality may be slightly different.

References

Edmonds, A. (2007). ‘The poor have the right to be beautiful’: Cosmetic surgery in neoliberal Brazil. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 13(2):363-381.

Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística [The Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics] (2010). Tabela 1.3.5 – Pessoas de 10 anos ou mais de idade, por cor ou raça, segundo o sexo e as classes de rendimento nominal mensal – Brasil – 2010. Retrieved from http://ftp://ftp.ibge.gov.br/Censos/Censo_Demografico_2010/Resultados_do_Universo/Resultados_preliminares_sobre_Rendimentos/tabelas_pdf/tab1_3_5.pdf

Telles, Edward. 2009. The social consequences of skin color in Brazil. In Shades of difference: Why skin color matters (pp. 9-24). Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.