The Mélange of life

A NYC Actor's story
JANUARY 11, 2010 4:44PM

Dark Skinned...Light Skinned....Truth?

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So the leading  Senator Harry Reid stated the Obvious(NY TIMES) " suggesting that Barack Obama could become the first African-American president because he was “light-skinned” and because he did not speak with a “Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.”

Now the republicians are calling him a racist and comparing Reid's comment to comments made by (obvious republican racist) Trent Lott said this  (NY TIMES)  "Mr. Lott spoke approvingly of Mr. Thurmond's 1948 campaign. "I want to say this about my state: When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We're proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years, either," Mr. Lott said"

 Well...the truth will set you free!! 

The country needs to come out of the closet when it comes to race. This issue runs deep.

This whole "dark skinned/light skinned" thing is nothing new.  Harry Reid spoke the truth.  If Obama spoke in an inarticulate manner, (like George Bush Jr) he would not have been elected.  If Obama was dark skinned... he would not have been elected.  I totally believe that.  Part of the appeal of our President for blacks and whites... is that he is Bi-Racial.  He is black and white.

Remember Obama's speech at the Democratic convention a few years ago?   He said...  "Go into any inner city neighborhood, and folks will tell you that government alone can’t teach our kids to learn — they know that parents have to teach, that children can’t achieve unless we raise their expectations and turn off the television sets and eradicate the slander that says a black youth with a book is acting white. They know those things." Enough said.
I have to say that most of this country speaks in some sort of idiotic dialect...but the issue is the “Negro Dialect” so that’s what I’m gonna talk about.

Even though this country  is “integrated” it’s  really not.   A large number of black people and white people just do not care to mix.  And since there may be more white folks than black folks in this’s easy for a White person in “middle america”  to only get  information about Black people from what they see on Television.

Therefore... that  "Negro Dialect" that the Senator is referring to is probably what is seen on TV.  We all know that that accent is not associated with success.  In popular culture and the media... this "Negro Dialect" is a benchmark of the un-educated. It is seen on Television shows like Cops, used by gangster thugs...  you hear this “Negro Dialect” when you watch any given cop show or hospital saga or Tyler Perry Movie or TV show... we see the hookers and hospital victims, the finger wagging plus sized  finger wagging “sistah”... may I also mention usually you you see these portrayals of folks they are...dark skinned.  

(If you look at the movie “Precious” you see the impact of these images on a young dark skinned girl. I’ll talk more about this in a future blog).

The truth of the matter is that since slavery... black and white folks have been programmed to react in a negative matter towards dark skin.  (Our country isn’t alone in this... it happens in London, India, Asia  lighter=better in some viewpoints)
When OJ was in the newspapers... they darkened his mug shot.  Michael Moore saw the obvious in “Bowling for Colombine” during the whole “Scary Black Men” section.  I remember when I worked in an office and wasn’t smiling... people were really intimidated.
Yes, I’m laying this all down quickly and with tons of unedited emotion.  I am happy that this came out because it is what everyone is thinking.   Recognize this...within the black community skin color is an issue.  Jack & Jill (an elite private club for upper class African Americans) used to have a  “Brown Paper Bag” test as one of their rules for admittance.  If you were darker than a brown paper bag you would not be admitted into the club...even if your family had a ton of money.  The World Famous Cotton Club only admitted light skinned show girls you see it in film from Lena Horne to Halle Berry...light is considered more appealing in the African american community.  It’s important for black folks to address our internal racism as well.
This skin color represents wealth, education, prosperity...white.  While, in many opinions, the dark skin color represents poverty, ignorance,  I am not saying that is true... but I am saying that it exists and we never ever ever want to admit it or talk about it. We just live it and it festers and blows up every few years.  I am also not saying that light skinned black people are perfect, more beautiful or better than dark skinned black people.  Light skinned blacks have challenges as well... trying to be accepted as a “real” black person... connecting with the community being “black enough”.
As someone who was called an “Oreo” when I was in urban black communities (Stupid term black outside white in the middle)  and worse at my old High School in Northern VA... Robert E Lee (who’s school flag is the Confederate flag) because I speak in a standard american accent... I say this... I am who I am.  I was so happy to see Barack Obama become our President because he represented the best in all of us.. black and white.  To see Michelle Obama a (dark skinned woman) as our First Lady...supporting him and raising two beautiful little girls.  This represents the hope for our future.  Yes you can be a dark skinned educated person who speaks like a Harvard grad because they grew up with a focus on education and went to Harvard!
And I just have to say... I’m so happy to have a President who represents this country with honor.

Here’s some quotes from George Bush Jr  to remind us of how it used to be...
"The Holocaust was an obscene period in our nation's history. I mean in this century's history. But we all lived in this century. I didn't live in this century." 
...Governor George W. Bush, Jr., 9/15/95
"I believe we are on an irreversible trend toward more freedom and democracy - but that could change." 
...Governor George W. Bush, Jr., 5/22/98
"People that are really very weird can get into sensitive positions and have a tremendous impact on history."
...Governor George W. Bush, Jr.

"Verbosity leads to unclear, inarticulate things."
...Governor George W. Bush, Jr., 11/30/96


  Oh and  just for fun lovely Mrs. Palin:

"Here in Alaska, we don't have hardly any black people, I never talk to them, so I was
 surprised that a black girl beat me in the 1984 Miss Alaska pageant"

"Todd and I talked about Hurricane Katrina as God's way of
cleansing New Orleans of the blacks who have sinned, the Bible predicted
it" (2005)

"I don't know a lot about Iran, I just heard that they are bad people"(2006)

"He can say he is a christian but as far as I'm concerned, Obama is a muslim, look at
his middle name" (2007) (from

So let the discussion begin!!!  I don’t have an answer but part of the way of finding an answer is saying that there is a problem.

As one of the commentators said on an ABC talking heads show"  Just because the conversation is about race..doesn't make the conversation racist."


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What can I say? You are 100% right. Just look at the "ginger kids" incident. Everyone has an "us and them" attitude but when you let it run your life things get bad. Reid should be replaced for a number of reasons and this is just the latest but the Republicans only want vengeance for Lott getting caught by his own attitude. They aren't complaining for the right reasons, but the selfish and vengeful reasons.
oh my goodness! I love this on so many levels. You speak volumes and you do it so well. I will give a longer response one day soon-but I'm still at work so can't for now. But soon.
Hey I want to be clear... I don't think Reid should be least not for this. There's truth in his words and until this country begins to have a realistic adult conversation regarding race... we won't be able to move forward.
R. is a clown if he ducks for cover after this. He was only telling it like it is, and we know it. We have to start kicking back at the opposition that has been responsible for the worst behavior since before segregation was ended.
Is that you, dancing? You go girl!
Very good post.

I think that part of the problem is that for thousands of years, the other was seen as a possible danger/threat. If you look different and sound different, the you aren't of my tribe and don't have my best interests at heart. It's easy it be off hand and dismissive of someone who makes a racist remark, but looking at why people feel the way the do and how to fix it takes a little work. And we do need to fix it. Being provincial long ago was a benefit, today it is a detriment to modern society.
Okay... I'm assuming you guys who have made comments are all white folks. :) Yes... I am making an assumption.

I disagree that this man made a "racist remark" he spoke the truth...

I think alot of white liberals are afraid to recognize this truth. In that way... hate to say... the Republicians are speaking some truth.

To say that Obama would not have been elected if he spoke like Snoop Dogg is the truth!! I don't want to have a President representing my country who doesn't choose to speak the english language in a way that brings pride to the country.

We all know what we think of when we think of a dark skinned Negro speaking in a Negro accent! Step & Fetchit, Amos and Andy, the characters that Tyler Perry writes... I wouldn't have voted for anyone like that either. Does that make me a racist?

Now... Martin Luther King was dark skinned with a negro accent that I am so proud of. I would have voted for him to be my president in 1960 if I was alive... oh wait... I wouldn't have been able to vote for President in 1960.

I think we need to get beyond the surface nonsense and discuss the fact that this dialect thing is connected to education.

The Accent/ intelligence not just connected to the "Negro Accent"

I am a dark skinned Negro, African American, Colored, Black Person. I don't have an "Negro" accent. When people talk to me on the phone... they think I am a white woman in her 20's from California or Nebraska.

When they see me... they are confused.

That's their issue... not mine. Okay... I feel another blog coming on...


Just think about how different accents a
I agree that Reid was speaking the truth. Obama would not have been elected if he spoke with a "Negro Dialect" or was dark. It is an uncomfortable truth and even more uncomfortable because the last President ("elected" twice) spoke so poorly. A black man (no matter how "light") would never had been elected with the C average grade point, arrest record, and speech flaws of Bush. I heard Obama speak when he ran for US Senate in IL. The thought occured to me then, he could be "the one". His intelligence and grace and charm was undeniable. I hoped he had a squeaky clean record, because it would take someone almost perfect to become the President. His biggest obstacle it seemed to me, was his name. His world view and experience to me was a plus, but I knew would be suspect by others. I have also (and still do) feared for his personal safety.

There is so much work that needs to be done in our country to eliminate racism but it is imperative we take it on. Like a disease, it will not go away without acknowldegement, diagnosis and treatment. Reid's statement should be used to speak frankly. It's time. It's past time.

Yes, I am white. My husband is black (dark brown) and children and grandchild are in various shades of brown. While I agree that Obama's being light was an additional factor, I find it is also ironic because when my husband and I got married 33 years ago the primary argument against it was having "mongrel" children...something a certain judge in Louisianna was still trying to prevent recently. Light skinned blacks may be more accepted, yet the way that happens is not?...unless it is only accepted if the lightness was achieved by the master raping his slaves? I could go on and on but I'll stop now.
I haven't followed this that closely. Did Reid apologize? Because I wish he wouldn't. I wish he'd say something like you say here, but of course in politician speak. Not that he will--I don't like him for other reasons; he's archaic. But it would be cool if he said, "Hey, quit calling me a racist. I'm not saying I'd prefer a light-skinned black man, I'm saying that's what was politically feasible in this country at this time. I don't know anybody in the social sciences field who would disagree with me."

I hate the way the Republicans have jumped on this, but I would like to ask (and I'm asking myself this as well): Would it have played differently had it come out that McCain said this? I would like to think that I would have understood the remark as one meant through a political lens whether it came from a Republican or a Democrat. But I suspect that many of us would have taken umbrage, and in that matter, Republicans might well be onto something when they claim a double standard.
Yes Mimetalker!! Please keep talking don't stop:) I love this discussion ... you say "Light skinned blacks may be more accepted, yet the way that happens is not?...unless it is only accepted if the lightness was achieved by the master raping his slaves? "

Love it!! You have brought a total different nuance on the subject from a perspecitve I don't have.
I wasn't saying lightness was only accepted by the "master raping his slaves"...

But from my perspective...

The issue of being lighter skinned in the African American community is an internal racial bias that is never brought up.

Many Dark skinned people in the past (and today) did not want to marry anyone who was dark because they did not want their children to be dark skinned.

There were more opportunities for you if you were lighter skinned. That was the philosophy. Assimilation. As much as possible. This is why the black power movement was so spectacular.

In my own family... my dark skinned West Indian Aunties did not want my Dark skinned Father marrying my Mom because she was 1 too dark... #2 A Southern Negro.

But my Daddy loves my Mom and it's interesting my one Auntie who opposed the marriage never married (she's in her 80's) the other married a light skinned man who cheated on her and they divorced back in the 60's and she never married again (she's in her 90's)... While my Parents are healthy strong and married for 51 years.

In the entertainment industry... The Cotton Club only allowed it's show girls to be light skinned... from Lena Horne to Halle Berry the standard of beauty for African American women has been to have lighter skin and straight hair. Closer to white.

This issue is so confusing... on one end the black community looked down on interracial parings.. yet the highest standard of beauty in the community was how light is she... does she have good hair? Everyone was so upset when a light skinned child was born with kinky hair. Can you imagine?

These are the effects of colonization my friend.

Many Dark skinned black men preferred to marry light skinned women because they were considered more beautiful... closer to white.

Some folks in the "Black Community" believe that now since interracial relationships are more accepted... Black men are overlooking light skinned women and happy to be with any woman as long as she is white.

These are all issues that are floating around under the surface that none of us ever talk about except in the "same race & gender" conversations we all may have.
I'm not sure if your husband would even be aware of this particular history... many black folks don't want to talk about this at all.

Also... Mimetalker :) i just saw you've been married 33 years... so you have a definate perspective I don't have.

The fact that you and your husband are together is a miracle. Your love is an example that love is the answer.

I'm sure if you have been together so long.. you know about all I speak and more.. and the fact that you are still together speaks volumes....
I don't know if Reid made a racist remark because it's out of context. I've only ever seen one paragraph and it doesn't tell me specifically how the conversation came about and why he answered the way he did. Was he talking about Americans and whether or not they could accept a black president or was he saying that he thought Obama was ok because he is lighter and speaks well. It's not racist to be analytical, it is if it's the criteria by which you judge someone to be acceptable.

Consider that Bush mispronounced things (nuclear) and made gaffs all the time but was given a pass. I don't think Obama would have the same equality. In Bush it's a non-issue, for Obama it's crucial. Palin barely has a coherent thought, but she's acceptable. If Obama was this way they'd say he was on drugs. Sexism? Racism? I dunno.
ttfn ... I think you may be commenting on the subject matter of another blog... My point isn't about is what Harry Reid said racist...

I am saying he spoke the truth.

Who said what when is not really relevant... what is relevant is that it was said and everyone knows people in this country have thought about this.

Equating skin color and accent to competence and intelligence is done all the time and that's what I'm discussing in this blog.

let's dig deeper and hear about what you think about the real conversation.. not the superficial stuff...