“Africa has had such a fate in the world that the very adjective ‘African’ can call up hideous fears of rejection. Better then to cut all the links with this homeland, this liability, and become in one giant leap the universal man. Indeed I understand this anxiety. But running away from oneself seems to me a very inadequate way of dealing with an anxiety. And if writers should opt for such escapism, who is to meet the challenge?”
Straight Talk by Dr. Kirleen Neely is a children’s book for girls 8-13 years old. The story depicts a mother’s conversation with her two daughters about the historical and social influences on people’s perceptions of natural black hair.
The story begins with the familiar ritual of combing hair and the girls’ anxiety about having to endure the ordeal. After the girls ask their mother for a relaxer so that they could have “good hair,” the mother realizes that the girls’ perception of their hair has been negatively influenced by others outside the home.
The mother then has an open and candid discussion with her daughters about the history of black hair from the continent of Africa before the slave trade up to the present.
The book ends with the girls realizing that their hair is special and so is the time spent with their mother while getting their hair done.
Colorism Healing promotes the idea that reading and writing should be an act of self love, especially for young people, and because Dr. Neely has previously written about hair shaming for Colorism Healing, I’m truly excited to share the continuation of her work in the form of literature.
Learn more about Dr. Neely and Straight Talk by visiting her website here.
“we were speaking of the hostility many black black women feel toward light-skinned black women, and you said, ‘Well, I’m light. It’s not my fault. And I’m not going to apologize for it.’ I said apology for one’s color is not what anyone is asking. What black black women would be interested in, I think, is a consciously heightened awareness on the part of light black women that they are capable, and often quite unconsciously, of inflicting pain upon them; and that unless the question of Colorism–in my definition, prejudicial or preferential treatment of same-race people based solely on their color–is addressed in our communities and definitely in our black ‘sisterhoods’ we cannot, as a people, progress. For colorism, like colonialism, sexism, and racism, impedes us.
There are plenty of ways to fight colorism in our everyday lives, and technology is obviously one of my favorite.
Technology, when available, is a great tool for fighting colorism because it engages your creativity, promotes media literacy, and connects you to people and information around the globe.
Here are 7 ways you can use technology in your daily life to help heal colorism.
1. Research your family history.
Researching your family history is a way to deal with personal struggles related to colorism because it can give you a better sense of self. By reconnecting with your roots, you gain perspective on where you came from, where you are, and who you’ve come to be up to this point.
If relatives join together to research their history, it can foster healing, growth, and bonding for the family. If your family has a wide spectrum of skin tones, hair texture, and facial features, this could also explain and encourage discussion about those differences.
Ancestry.com is my personal recommendation for a great way to start researching and documenting your family tree. Many local libraries also have special genealogy sections that are free and open to the public. However, there’s nothing like sitting and listening to the older relatives impart their own knowledge about the family history.
But even the old fashioned oral histories can be recorded and shared through the use of modern technology, which is probably a good idea so that stories remain long after the storyteller is gone.
2. Start or sign petitions.
The online tool for petitions that I’m recommending is Change.org. This site comes with lots of features that allow you to search for or get notifications about causes and issues you care about. It also helps you create and spread the word about your own petitions.
Some of the more popular petitions addressing colorism have to do with casting, such as the Straight Outta Compton casting call and the casting of Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone.
However, there are many other worthy causes pertaining to colorism and other issues that you can throw your support behind with a simple “signature.”
3. Download or stream movies, shows, videos, or songs.
I choose Netflix for watching movies and some shows. When I first signed up, I searched specifically for movies made by and about people of color in all countries. I created a really long queue of such films and watched them one at a time.
I’ve also streamed television shows and movies on Amazon. I discovered it when one of my coworkers was showing her students the movie Roots on Amazon Instant Video.
I buy songs either from iTunes or Amazon. Unfortunately, there are many songs I haven’t been able to access due to country restrictions.
Also consider subscribing to YouTube channels that post thought provoking, inspiring, or relevant content.
Because we have a little less control over what airs on television or what’s featured in movie theaters, the internet is a good alternative source for media that is affirming and that tells the often untold stories.
Obviously, the internet is also filled with a lot of “bad” stuff, so you must put in a little extra effort to sift through some junk until you find some gems.
4. Share positive posts, especially about people of color.
Okay, this seems so easy, yet we don’t do it enough, probably because we allow so much junk and negativity to clutter our social media timelines that we don’t see nearly enough good stuff. I know I’ve been guilty in the past for focusing on the sad, troubling, or controversial posts on Facebook and Twitter. But we’re making changes, right?
Sharing (or retweeting) positive posts starts with populating our news feeds with more positive, productive, inspiring content to balance out the other stuff.
Follow people who post non-junk and be on the lookout for an inspiring story or motivational quote to share. If you’ve found great content suggested in tip #3, share that too.
Notice I say SHARE, not like, favorite, or even comment (although these things are good to do in addition to sharing). If we want to spread the positive stuff, then liking, favoriting, and commenting aren’t going to help as much as sharing or retweeting.
Also look out for actual photos and images of people that main stream media don’t publish often, or people who represent a type that was once invisible (and still drastically underrepresented) in main stream media. Share those.
5. Buy products.
You’re probably going to buy a book, or a T-shirt, or a doll, or jewelry, or a piece of artwork at some point, right? You can search online for retail products that affirm the heritage, skin tone, hair texture, or features that you have, or that your children have.
There’s now a line of nude colored bras for black women.
You can also search for these products to help you and your family become familiar with, comfortable with, and appreciative of people’s differences.
Many small, local, minority owned businesses have online retail options, so you’re also not limited by transportation or location.
6. Create collages.
Because main stream media does a poor job showing positive images of people of color, especially those with dark skin, we must be more proactive in surrounding ourselves and our children with such imagery. Creating collages is a great way to do this.
I made this collage with Photovisi. It’s super simple because it’s all done online and there are very few features to distract and confuse you.
I used a slightly more complex Collageit program to make this one. Collageit requires downloading software from the internet, which should be done with caution. But overall, I love the features!
7. Create Songs or Videos.
The first thing I recommend is that you create a YouTube channel. Simply sign up for a free YouTube account if you don’t already have one. This is easier to do if you already have a Gmail account.
YouTube will allow you to capture, create, edit, and share your video. You can keep the video private and only share it with people you choose, or you can make it public for anyone to see.
If you want fancier videos, there are plenty of video editing programs you can use to create the video and then upload the finished product to YouTube. Such programs can be pretty pricy, though, so I recommend using those only if you’re serious about your video making. You may also find free access to video editing software through school or another institution or organization.
These seven tech based ways to fight colorism are simple and fun places to start. Explore these strategies, and your sure to discover even more creative things you can do.
How do you use technology to spread positivity?
As a fan of Selma, I was eager to see Melissa Harris-Perry’s interview with director Ava DuVernay. And now I’m a fan of DuVernay herself. Although she didn’t win a Globe, she’s definitely winning hearts!
In this interview, which aired the morning of the Golden Globes, DuVernay is effortlessly intelligent, creative, passionate, and talented. Go ahead and swell with pride at seeing this black woman’s brilliance on full display!
I just saw the much anticipated Selma movie. Aside from the great writing, acting, and directing, there are three other things I take from the film that I want to share with you.
1. Respectability Politics Don’t Work.
“Respectability Politics” is essentially the belief that black people will get respect when they deserve respect.
After the murder of Michael Brown (and countless times before) people of all races claimed that the “ghetto” and “thuggish” ways of blacks are the source of all their problems. People were actually outraged that others of us were outraged about racism and systemic inequality.
Proponents of Respectability Politics insist that if blacks stop sagging their pants, stop talking slang, stop listening to rap music, stop being lazy, stop killing each other, focus on getting good grades in school, get off the streets, get jobs, and just be productive and “respectable” citizens, then police brutality would not be a problem in their communities. Not only is this notion based on stereotypes, it’s also dangerous for the very people who subscribe to it.
Respectability politics ultimately blames victims and lets the discriminators, rapists, murderers, and bullies off the hook, giving them license to continue doing harm to others. People turn to respectability politics because white privilege and male privilege means that people of color and women are responsible for staying out of trouble while whites and men are not held responsible for causing the trouble.
People turn to respectability politics because they can’t accept the idea that bad things happen to “good” people too, that something bad could happen to them no matter how hard they try to live “good” lives, or that life is often beyond their control. They want to feel safe, so they convince themselves that victims of cruelty, violence, or injustice must have brought it upon themselves. Some even go so far as to believe that the only people who deserve to be treated humanely are the ones who look, think, believe, behave, talk, and live like them.
The Selma movie exposes the lie of Respectability Politics by showing unarmed women and men, who are well dressed in conservative suits, dresses, and work clothes, being brutally beaten, shot, and killed by police officers. The Selma movie shows well spoken, church going, educated, gainfully employed women and men being hatefully beaten, shot, and murdered by police.
The scene most condemning of respectability politics comes early in the film with the church bombing that killed four innocent young girls. What did those girls do to deserve such a tragic death?
The Selma movie shows that hatred and racism are not about what the victims do or who they are. It shows that hatred and racism is not about the targets, but about the perpetrators.
2. We can be United Despite Disagreement.
One of my favorite aspects of the movie is that it highlights the many figures who worked ahead of, along with, and after Dr. King.
These other leaders often disagreed with Dr. King and with each other.
But private arguments did not stop their public efforts.
The film even touches on the fundamental, ideological difference between Dr. King and Malcolm X. Selma subtly illustrates how Malcolm X used that difference to support the greater cause of voting rights.
Another conflict highlighted in the film is between the SCLC and SNCC. At several points in the film we see disagreement, even anger, from each organization, and at several points in the film we see the two organizations joining together despite their different approaches and opinions.
The conflicts aren’t always resolved, but Selma shows just how possible it is to be allies even when we disagree on the details.
I would hope that activists in our present moment see Selma as an example of how even when we start on different paths, sometimes those paths cross. I hope they see Selma as an example of how we can be moving toward the same destination even though our paths sometimes diverge.
3. Everyone Plays an Important Role in the Movement — On One Side or the Other.
“We Must Take Sides. Neutrality Helps the Oppressor, Never the Victim.” —Elie Wiesel
Selma shows us that saying and doing nothing, minding our own business, keeping a low profile, not wanting to stir things up or step on anyone’s toes, makes us complicit in the hatred, violence, and oppression.
The movie shows that actively fighting for justice in the face of longstanding institutional, political, and social oppression takes enormous courage, yet the movie also forces us to consider which side of history we want to be on. What kind of legacy will we leave?
From President Lyndon B. Johnson first resisting then finally agreeing to change legislation, to the men and women of all races and creeds acting and serving in the struggle, to the officers terrorizing innocent and peaceful citizens, to the men, women, and children attacking innocent people or cheering on violent and murderous police riots, to the journalists documenting the events, to the spectators watching it all on television — everyone plays an important part in the outcome of the struggle. Everyone has to live with the role they chose to play.
Have you seen the Selma movie? What are your takeaways?