When the Guardian Newspaper brought to light that a Globeleza carnival queen lost her title because she is “too black”, I was shocked.
I still am; actually I feel sadness more than anything.
Racism and its cancerous child, colourism are such primitive constructs, but their foundations seem unshakable.
The video below, reminds me again that colourism, is very much a part of black culture in the diaspora.
In Brazil, a country reported to contain the highest proportion of black people outside of Africa – a carnival samba queen who won by public vote, was subjected to racist comments online, by white, mixed and black Brazilians! Following the abuse that she suffered, she was then stripped of her crown without explanation. Later replaced by a lighter-skinned samba queen, who didn’t win by public vote.
I’ve been to Brazil and I noticed a socio-economic colour divide. I saw more brown skinned people when I visited the favelas than I did while walking through the pretty suburbs of Rio de Janeiro. I remember some of the surprised looks from hotel staff when they saw me walking through the hotel; maybe they were not used to seeing black people in hotels on the Copacabana beach front. Some people thought I was Brazilian, so maybe that’s what threw them off.
You can hear how the carnival queen, was stripped of her crown and how she felt in this video.
It’s enough that other races see black people at the bottom of the food chain, but how do we see ourselves?
The samba queen above was ridiculed because of her skin tone by black Brazilians too. I’m not giving a pass to some people of other races who may have an habitual disdain for dark skin, but we are also perpetrators in this colourism crime.
The inception of the trans-Atlantic slave trade solidified the perception that dark skin women are less ‘beautiful’ and even less human than their white and lighter skinned counterparts.
White supremacy notions of beauty and superiority have been propagated from generation to generation by black people to their children, because of oppression. Not surprising as this is what we’ve been taught. We’re still subjecting ourselves to these negative stereotypes consciously and/or subconsciously. Dispelling such stereotypes seems to be a never ending PR exercise, but will become an impossible task if we’re complicit in keeping those ideologies alive. A waste product of being divided and conquered.
The US, is another country with a large proportion of black people and probably has the most famous civil rights history in the world. When rapper Kendrick Lamar, casted a dark skinned girl in his music video Poetic Justice, nearly three years ago, it became a talking point, within the black music culture community.
Why would casting a dark skinned black girl in a hip hop music video even be a cause for discussion?
This isn’t a pity party, yes there are black women who are given opportunities, like Viola Davis and Lupita Nyong’o. However, the fact that their prominence was such landmark moment when it happened, during the millennium, shows there is still some way to go.
Snippets of an African legacy from a colourful perspective