Black Colorisms

By J. Tebias Perry

As September 4, 2020 approaches in anticipation of another celebratory Black gay Pride, the question remains “who’s all coming?” As an honest reflection, we used to bounce from club to club, parking lot to parking lot, to Piedmont Park and back to one of the well-respected clubs. It was just the thing to do in the late 80s to early 2000s. Patrons from all over the country and from around the world would embark upon Atlanta’s for its most well-known weekend. Spending the rent, car payments and other obligations meant nothing during those times only to get a taste of the 404! Strangers kissing strangers as DJ Ron Pullman and DJ Sedrick gave the kids what they came for. But then there were some “not so fun facts” about Black Pride”: the battling 

J-Setters and dance teams would entertain entire parks with their dance talents and a hot “16-count routine!” Far too often, a violent fight would ensue triggered by the light and dark-skinned dancers. I never truly saw the purpose of fighting because all of them seemed professionally trained, but the determinant of skin tones and colors puzzled me even more.

And then there was COVID-19!

Fast forward 20 years, and we are facing the same questions of colorisms and featurism with minorities. More importantly Black folks! As most of America erupted in support of Vice-President hopeful Kamala Harris, my Facebook feed transformed my reality of what blackness meant to only a select few. The quantification of one’s blackness is not solely determined by being biracial or even multiracial. Who sets the standard for how you identify physically or culturally? Generally, mixed colleagues and friends self-identify without the influences of any measure other than how they were raised. I have found that parents who educate their biracial children on both, better equip them with a more balanced life ahead. In other cases, I have researched that social status plays a vital role in determining the child’s identity; as well as attending public school over private school.

Headline news reported of a woman, Caucasian born, who physically and culturally identified as a Black woman! And passed! She was so “unclockable” to the point she was the President of her NAACP chapter! Swallow that little-known fact. Yes! Then there are the O.J.s and Tigers, who actually ethnically are part Black but allegedly choose not to identify as either. And have elected to denounce both the NAACP and BET Awards ceremonies.

Why must a Eurocentric view of the color spectrum be the standard? Questioning your commitment to Blackness doesn’t make you more or less black; it makes you confused. The most visible part of a person is their skin. Even if you sprayed your skin and tanned until the can was empty, you cannot escape what God gave you underneath. No matter how you chase Amazon or online products to “restore that natural glow”, it only distorts your true essence of Blackness. 

America has toyed with placing a hierarchy of lighter skinned African Americans over darker skinned African Americans with natural hair. Tokenizing color for better jobs and positioning in Fortune 500 companies only push us further from our realization that Black is beautiful PERIODT! 

Even in the 80s light skin was popular at most HBCU schools and was even further perpetuated in the movie “School Daze” written by Spike Lee in 1988. Having mixed race kids who had features like Al B. Sure! and El DeBarge was in. The movie also danced around colorism and elitism based on “Wannabees over Jigaboos”. 

Using measurable sentiments such as, “you’re beautiful to be dark skinned” or “damn girl you are pale! You need some sun!” demonizes both!  The more we feel justified in dissecting each other, the more convoluted the solutions will be.

Find yourself diving into whether not the person is a good person over their ethnicity. What does it gain for you to make a friendship for life over a conversation about race that will last for less than a minute?

Black Gay Pride is exactly that! Proud of being BLACK! Prepare your minds to gravitate towards what we share as a commonality over what divides us further during this pride celebration.

Happy Black Gay Pride, Atlanta!

J. Tebias Perry is an Atlanta-based writer, activist, and leatherman, who contributes regularly to Peach ATL.

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