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.

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Colorism in Latin America; Not about Race

by Oscar Manzano

If you are reading this blog about colorism and you already have prior knowledge on the subject, chances are that you don’t agree with the title of this piece. This may be because Latin America’s preference, or more specifically the preference in México and Brazil, to talk more freely about a person’s skin color as opposed to race may seem like a contradiction to you. Why? I suppose it is because many believe that skin color or other characteristics that we attach to race, in order to be able to identify and categorize people, are indicators of race. It is this idea that I believe is incorrect, which leads me to believe that when Mexicans or Brazilians talk about skin color they are not talking about race as an American might see it. In this context I believe that color talk in México and Brazil is not the equivalent of race talk in America.

My reasoning for questioning color talks being the same as race talks draws upon human history and humans themselves. Humans have always had a history of migration and settlement. This alone prevents us from applying skin color or other characteristics to a certain racial group. So, unless we believe that Whites with certain characteristics grew out of the ground in Europe, and Blacks in Africa and Browns in Latin America and they all remained stationary, then can one possibly make a correlation with race and physical characteristics. However this is not so, and when we hear Mexicans and Brazilians talking about skin colors so nonchalantly, we believe that they what they are really talking about is race.

So if Mexicans and Brazilians are not talking about race, then what are they talking about when they refer to skin color? I believe that when Mexicans and Brazilians refer to skin color, they are acknowledging the great diversity and mixture of physical characteristics that have been as a result of human migration. Not physical characteristics of race but characteristics of human diversity. In saying that color talk is not a talk about race does not mean that colorism is preferred or more desirable over race talks, or that it is immune to social and moral problems that race deals with. On the contrary, the problems that color ideology faces are similar to those that race ideology faces. But the problems are not similar because racism and colorism are the same thing; rather, the problems stem from the fact that we have been socially trained to see physical differences and categorize them under a racial stereotype, confusing color and race.

A second reason as to why racism and colorism share similar social problems is because both are the result of global inequality. This brings up the issues of colonization. Why were White European countries the ones able to colonize? It would be difficult to say that Europeans were able to be the colonizers simply because their skin was white or their race was a certain specific one. It goes beyond that, and the ‘why was Europe the colonizer’ question involves a multi-sided understanding to find the answer to. Possible reasons include the amount of wealth, resources or strength those countries had and as a result, once colonization was achieved, the aggressors implanted various forms of discrimination based on race and color. In this sense it is possible that racism or colorism didn’t create inequality but inequality created racism and colorism.

Tri-Racial System and Hiding the Truth

by Lilia Yamakawa

Eduardo Bonilla-Silva and David R. Dietrich’s contention is that America is developing a complex “tri-racial” system of stratified classification that will be composed of whites at the top, honorary whites in the middle, and collective blacks at the bottom.

If we consider President Barack Obama, we can see that Americans still don’t really have that classification system. “The First Black President” of the U.S. had a white mother and a black father. He was raised entirely by his white mother and his white grandparents. Still, Americans see him as a black man. Why doesn’t he fall into the “honorary white” category which includes other multi-racial people?

Americans are still seeing race in terms of black and white. Other reasons for seeing him as black may be that he seems to self identify as black. Also, his wife is black. Finally, many Americans may tend to fall into one of two groups. They may be very proud of having a black president or they may feel uncomfortable or actually not like having a black president. Either way, we’re classifying him as black and stressing his blackness. Of course, because of his position as President of the U.S, Obama is not typical and is not viewed as typical. Still, it’s interesting to think of him in terms of the author’s thesis. We can see that the biracial system is still going strong in people’s minds.

Bonilla-Silva and Dietrich also explain that the way we currently talk about race includes the idea that “We are all Americans – no matter what color we are.”  This will create a tendency to ignore the fact that racism is a problem. Ignoring the problem, white supremacy will continue, and blacks and other minorities will continue to suffer inequality. They won’t have a clear starting point to argue against discrimination.

This is something like the Burakumin issue in Japan where people don’t want to give it a name or say there is a discrimination problem. If it doesn’t have a name, maybe it will go away. But is the problem being really solved this way? Do the Burakumin still face discrimination, just more of a “smiling discrimination” in the society?

Actually I think there is less discrimination against the Burakumin in my generation than in the one before. There is no pigmentocracy in the Burakumin discrimination issue. There is no racial difference. If the older generation continues hiding who the Burakumin are, or where the Burakumin area is, it will be very difficult to distinguish them. Eventually, the problem may disappear. But we have to find out whether or not discrimination still exists.

Reference

Bonilla-Silva, Eduardo and David R. Dietrich (2009). The Latin Americanization of U.S. Race Relations: New Pigmentocracy. In E. Nakano-Glenn (Ed.), Shades of Difference. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

The Burakumin: Japan’s invisible race . (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.tofugu.com/2011/11/18/the-burakumin-japans-invisible-race/