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.

South Korean citizenship and military service

South-Korean military musician

South-Korean military musician (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Yoon Jee Hyun (JeeJee)

South Korea, an unstable peninsula under the idea of democracy, has continuous anxiety on the never-ending possibilities of warfare with the Communist country of North Korea. Due to this country’s precarious diplomatic situation with its neighbor, having a strong military system is a highly significant governmental role to achieve in South Korea. In order to have a concrete military system, male Korean citizens have to serve in the army for about 2 years, except in the cases of fourth-generation only son, child patriarch, persons with disease, and persons who have foreign citizenship. Once a male person has “South Korean citizenship”, it is his fate to enlist in the army.

From the reading of “Citizenship and Immigration: Multiculturalism, Assimilation, and Challenges to the Nation-State”, Bloemraad, Korteweg, and Yurdakul define ‘citizenship’ in four different dimensions: legal status, rights, political participation, and a sense of belonging. Simply to identify citizenship firstly as a legal status means people can get citizenship status by their own birth place or parental origins or through naturalization process. Citizenship as rights grants authorities such as basic rights to the people from the state while individual has to obligate state’s set rules. Citizenship in terms of political participation is that people are privileged to actively participate politically to shape the nation whereas the state itself can govern its people within its territory boundaries. Lastly, people have ‘in-group’ feelings by sharing the same community under the suggested definition of citizenship as sense of belonging by Bloemraad and her co-authors. All these four different dimensions integrate altogether; the notion of citizenship can be enhanced and can be advanced.

In case of South Korean citizenship, I think the emphasized meaning of citizenship as ‘rights’ plays an important role. The nation (South Korea) provides rights to its citizens such as rights to a basic education and rights to be able to live in a healthy environment. Vice versa, South Korean government can impose rules to Korean citizens that people should and have to follow. This both-way obligation process related to rights of citizenship could facilitate military service system in South Korea.

In other words, under the status of ‘Korean citizenship’ and male gender, the people are obliged by governmental law to protect their family, friends, and the nation through entering 2 years of military service.

Reference

Bloemraad, I., A. Korteweg, & G. Yurdakul. Citizenship And Immigration: Multiculturalism, Assimilation, And Challenges To The Nation-State. Annual Review of Sociology34, 153-179.

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”.

Tokyo Sonata shows Japanese society

Tokyo Sonata

Tokyo Sonata (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anonymous student post

I am writing about the film Tokyo Sonata. This movie describes the collapse of a normal Japanese family. Ryuhei is the father of the Sasaki family. One day, he was discharged from his company, because his company adopted cheaper Chinese workers. After leaving his company, he encountered a “soup line” which is to be rationed a soup in the park. There were many people who were homeless and wearing suits. He recognized that a lot of people were discharged and could not say it to their families. At the same time, he met his friend by chance in this park, and his friend was discharged 3 months earlier, too. Although it was a really huge impact for Ryuhei, his friend set him at ease. New job could not be looked for, and he could not say it. He went to Hello Work, but it was difficult to find a stable job. He was recommended unstable jobs like an unskilled laborer. He was puzzled what to think for his future.

On the other hand, the Sasaki family started to break down gradually, although he did not notice it. His wife Megumi is a really good mother, she supported their family and did all housework by herself. When the Sasaki family came back home, she always said “okaeri (welcome back!)”. One day, she found her husband standing in the soup line. Then, she recognized he had lost his job and had hidden this fact from the family. However, she reached the limits of her endurance at the moment of when she saw him working as a cleaner at shopping mall. After that, their house was broken into by a robber, who took her away. However, she was released from him soon.

Ryuhei’s son Kenji was in the sixth grades of elementary school. His hope was to learn playing the piano, but his father was against it. Therefore, he learned to play the piano in secret. But his piano teacher said he is a genius and he should go to music school. When Ryuhei listened to this, he got very angry and held Kenji down by force. It shut Kenji’s heart. Kenji’s older son Takashi decided to join the US Army without asking his parents’ permission, and he went to America.

In precarious Japan, families have their own role by themselves. Fathers have to work and to earn the money, mothers have to support the family and do housework, and children have to be good children. It is very normal thinking for Japanese. When their role is broken, the family will start breaking down. In this movie, the father lost his job, the sons did not depend on their parents. It is the breakdown of the relationship between human time and capitalist time. It is important to have a dinner with family. While they have food, they talk about myself and what happened around myself. It is good time to communicate with family. However, recently in Japan families often have dinner separately. No one in the Suzuki family talks about what happened around us for family. If everyone ate at the dining table, it was a silent place, which felt like a fish out of water. Family and economy are hope for Japanese, but it is not functioning these days. It is a serious social issue, and we have to try to solve it.

Reference

Allison, Anne. (2013). Precarious Japan. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

In Search of Muenshakai

by Atsuko Omura

These days, there are various kinds of cafés in Japan. For example, in a snack bar, customers select their drinks and chatted with neighborhood friends and the master. Thus, people offer foods or drinks, chat with customers and receive them warmly. Allison defines them as “global affective labor”. The Marxist sociologist Adachi Mariko pointed out that global affective laborers do not only sex work but care work, as seen in the recent migrations of Filipina and Indonesian caregivers into Japan (Allison, 2013, p.99).

Densha Otoko

Densha Otoko (Photo credit: Wikipedia) 

In Japan, maid cafés or imoto café have been popular in Japanese culture after the vogue of Densha Otoko and Akiba. And otaku culture has begun to spread. So many crimes have happened every year. For instance, the master hires girls who are so young. In general, the pay of global affective labor is higher than that of other jobs. In fact, the pay of a girl’s bar in Umeda, which is given in Townwork is about 1,100 yen per hour. Most pay of many places to eat in Umeda is from 800 yen to 900 yen, so the pay of the girl’s bar should be so attractive for young girls.

Young girls begin to work at the maid café, imoto café, girl’s bar and so on, drink sake and chat with customers. They are so satisfied with earning easy money to be able to play or buy many things only chatting with customers. However, these work are dangerous. Many cafés are situated in amusement areas―for example, Kabuki-cho, Namba, Umeda, Gion, and so on. At night, many people come and go. Many crimes tend to occur in these areas, so they may be implicated in a crime. And working at night may prevent the ordinary lives of students―getting up and going to schools in the morning, taking lessons in their schools, eating dinner with their families at home, and sleeping at night. So we should stop hiring young girls.

I think that the reason why people pay for affection from maids, hostesses, and other sources is that people want connection with other people. These days, it is said that Japanese society is “muenshakai”.  Everyone struggles and lives each life frantically. So I agree with Allison’s analysis, and not only the Japanese government but also the individual citizen should think about social problems in Japan and try to solve them.

 

Reference

 

Allison, Anne. 2013. Precarious Japan. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

 

Virtual affective labor: Looking for love in the virtual world

by Katsuya Nagasawa

The demand for affective labor is increasing all over the world, especially in developed countries. For example, many Filipino and Chinese caregiving workers spread in the world. It is because people lose the peace of mind in exchange for getting satisfaction about usefulness. Therefore, the society have gotten truculent and people came to want the calmness. Then, people start to go to cabarets, host clubs, and maid cafés. I think the trend is remarkable in Japan.

As Allison argued, in modern Japan, there are enormous problems such as killing family, bullying, unemployment, hikikomori, the gap of salary (kakusa shakai). In addition, female and youths are in the bottom in the society. Allison explain that as “the collapse of Japanese democratic system.” These problems made the precarious society and even the collapse of family. People cannot depend on other people, sometimes even their family, they visit affective labors because they can get the emotional feeling but formal feeling by paying money.

I think 2-D world is also affective labor. As Allison argued in the book, “otaku” gathered more than 2000 signatures about marrying a 2-D character, and there is a word for this, “nounaikanojo” in Japan. In the virtual world, 2-D characters never depress people, they contact with real people in friendly ways because they are programed to do so. Therefore people who are not good at making relationships, for example “otaku,” tend to sink into the virtual world. I think 2-D world is a form of virtual affective labor.

In the past, the era that there were no computers, people had to make relationship only in the real world. However, because of the appearance of the virtual world, people face to the computer, and some people think making a relationship is “mendokusai”. According to Allison, the effect spread to the marriage problem. People who think making relationship is “mendokusai” think marriage is also “mendokusai”. In modern society, people came to pay for affective labor to get comfort rather than trying to get along with other people because it is “mendokusai” to do argument, to disappoint in love. They chose that the effort replace into their money.

If the situation that people depend on the 2-D world or affective labor continues, we will depend all of our life on robots, as Allison writes. I think affective labor can never replace our family or friends, and we cannot live in the virtual world literally. Therefore we have to hold more real relationships. Depending on the virtual world is not equal to coexisting in a virtual world. We have to search for the way to coexist.

Reference

Allison, Anne. 2013. Precarious Japan. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.