Dr. Na'im Akbar, a leading black psychologist addresses the issue of the psychology of colorism and self-destruction . We see the well known study of black children preferring white dolls and their belief that being black means you are bad or not as good as those of lighter hues. This particular study forces us to realize just how insidious the impact of white supremacy is and what it does to our young. Dr. Akbar warns us of the legacy of self-hate and low group esteem experienced by people of African descent in this country and throughout the diaspora. Yet, somehow we've managed to forge on with each generation in spite of it.There is also an admonishment that while many of us continue to struggle and do well, there are many casualties that must not be ignored who suffer psychologically, socially, politically and economically within many of our communities. The building of self esteem and worth in our children begins at home and is either challenged or enhanced by adults or our peers in our schools, churches, civic organizations and media. The sad and disturbing fact is that for many of our children, the first time they are told or feel inferior or "less than" is with their parents or relatives---the folks who look like them.
Briefly, he spoke of the devastating consequences of women in his country who are using home made bleaching concoctions to lighten their skin and for those who can afford it are buying creams with hydroquinones mixed with steroid cortisone. They feel that having lighter skin tones will increase their chances for advancement in jobs, educational opportunities and social connections. He cites unfortunate outcomes of hyperpigmentation, skin mutations, Cushing's syndrome and cancer risks for many of them. This practice is so widespread and insidious that he recounts an event in his office that was especially disturbing.
"I know of one woman who started to bleach her baby. She got very annoyed with me when I told her to stop immediately, and she left my office. I often wonder what became of that baby."
He further states that it's not just self esteem issues but the colonial past of this country and the fact that black was viewed as bad or evil. Every country that has a history of imperialism, colonialism and slavery by proponents of white supremacy continues to deal with these issues.
More are shedding light on this problem. Producer Bill Duke is trying to secure funding for his film titled "Dark Girls" which addresses this subject and hasn't had much success in public donations. I can't help but wonder why he hasn't spoken to the well-known black filmmakers to solicit their help. Who knows? He may have done that and there is a skittishness about the subject or it may have the makings of a flop, i.e. poor attendance by people of color. Many of us are in denial or hide behind the taboo of airing our "dirty linen" or frankly have become group weary and if it doesn't pertain to them as individuals--it's not a problem. I see more of that now and it's disconcerting.
Please view the trailer on "Dark Girls" and begin the dialogue in your homes and talk with your children when you hear them utter denigrating statements about darker skin hues. As adults watch what you say around our children. Stop the name calling. Remember our children are clean slates and what we say or how we say it becomes a part of who they are. We should have art in our homes depicting people of color with our wide spectrum of hues. I grew up in a neighborhood and in my own extended family where our hues varied and we didn't make distinctions based on that.
When we are reading those bedtime stories, get books that showcase our experiences as well as Dr. Seuss and Charlotte's Web. I used to read Children of the Sun and similar books with beautiful illustrations of black children and adults to my daughters when they were young. Lastly, adults should "call each other out" when denigrating remarks are made regarding skin color. It's hurtful with implications that stay with us and unfortunately are passed on to the next generation. This preview of Dark Girls makes that fact painfully clear.