African Americans Still Victims of Colorism

Color has always been the dividing line to make African Americans feel less worthy of a legitimate social identity than Euro-Americans and less favored over those with lighter skin within their own race. Consequently, this color line between light and dark complexioned African Americans has caused division, schism, and contention among themselves that still exists today. Many African Africans have accepted the ideology of the white racial frame that lighter skin tones and straight hair makes one more acceptable to dominant group members. Mainstream advertising sustains subtle self-differentiation based on color preferences for African Americans. A case in point, L’Oreal was recently denounced for making Beyonce’s skin lighter than what it really is in their new series of L’Oreal product ads, according to this article. Although the company refuted the accusation, the fact that it raised a racial issue is evidence of the on-going contention that the color of one’s skin constructs different realities for African Americans and other social groups. There is a general consensus that the color line division among African Americans has caused self-hatred between those with lighter skin and those with a darker hue.

Beyond this, the CNN documentary, Black in America, alludes to this fact too. In the second airing of Black in America: The Black Man, some of the participants indicated that the color line division between lighter and darker skinned blacks has been evident in their lives. Other Black participants believe this negative social identity stems from slavery and has made its way into the new century. You will have to watch the entire video to fully appreciate this documentary.

Historically, African Americans with lighter skin have contributed to colorism because they have benefited from the privilege of having a skin color closer to that of Whites and have embraced the notion that privilege comes with having light skin in America. For example, during slavery, the house slave received more privileges than the field slave. In modern times, lighter complexioned or biracial African Americans appear to gain more access to the social, political, and economic institutions of America than darker skinned blacks, generally speaking. Even though W.E.B. DuBois was an advocate for the Black cause, his skin tone was of a lighter hue, and he was a graduate of one of the most elitist and prestigious universities in America, Harvard University. However, he experienced problems when he took on the Black cause.

Look, for instance, at President Barack Obama. Although he embraces the African heritage and his wife is African American, he nonetheless is biracial. He, too, is a Harvard graduate. I believe if he addressed the racial issue in America, he would be crucified. He would be told to focus on job creation rather than racial issues because white America, as a whole, is not interested in black problems. Anthony Williams, a participant in the CNN documentary said, “You have to almost change yourself, dilute yourself, to live in a white society.” Another African American male, Vince Priester describes reaction to the CNN documentary on race here. ( Vince Priester describes being black in America) I, by no means, discount the positive experiences of darker hued African Americans because some are doing quite well for themselves but at what price. Despite this notion, America remains a racialized society where skin color and race still matters.

As Angela P. Harris states,

. . . Colorism operates sometimes to confound and sometimes to restructure racial hierarchy. Meanwhile, the circulating meanings attached to color shape the meaning of race. . . . Colorism as a series of symbolic economies is embedded in material economies of production, exchange, and consumption. (Shades of Difference: Why Skin Color Matters, Stanford University Press, p. 2)

The White Racial Frame and the Old Patriarchal Frame: Are they Interrelated?

The white racial frame and the old patriarchal frame are interrelated and do overlap in the way they operate. The white racial frame operates from a white-dominated society that sees everything from a white point of view that “does not,” “cannot,” and/or “will not” take into consideration the experiences of racial groups of color. It is about what is good for whites only. Everything was designed by whites for white prosperity. If whites do not experience a situation and do not interpret this situation as good or bad for society or an institution, then that experience will not be legitimated by whites. If whites have experienced a situation, then that situation is legitimated by whites because it is not good for society or the institutions in which they operate. The white racial frame is limited. The only worldview it sees is the white world and all the economic trappings that go with it to keep whites safe from the contamination that exists outside that frame, the existence of minority racial groups and the unnecessary problems they suffer created by a racist society because of the color of their skin. Professor Joe Feagin explains that

this white racial frame encompasses not only the stereotyping, bigotry, and racist ideology accented in other theories of ‘race’, but also the visual images, array of emotions, sounds of language, interlinking interpretations, and inclinations to discriminate that are still central to the frame’s everyday operation. Deeply embedded in American minds and institutions, this white racial frame has for centuries functioned as a broad worldview, one essential to the routine of legitimation. (The White Racial Frame: Centuries of Framing and Counter-framing, New York: Routledge, 2010), Kindle Electronic Edition

For this reason, whites cannot have genuine emotional relationships with minority racial groups because they operate out of a frame that sees the negative attributes of these groups, especially African Americans. Consequently, the white racial frame has enslaved most whites and treats “whiteness as property,” which means that if whites do not go along with overt or convert racist behavioral practices in their communities, they will find themselves exiled to social ostracism and probably stripped of any material inheritance, if applicable. Some whites do not approve of the ill-treatment of African Americans, but they will go along in order to get along for fear of social ostracism and loss of their jobs if they spoke against racial discrimination.

In fact, many whites do not want to hear about racial problems because these problems continue to be exacerbated by systemic racism and whites benefit from systemic racism. They cannot understand what it means to experience racism and its negative effects on minority groups’ economic, educational, social, and political experiences because whites are the carriers of this disease called “racism,” whether they are consciously or unconsciously aware of this disease.

The old patriarchal frame accents the white racial frame, but operates from a male-dominated view. This frame operates out of ideological hegemony. It tells women and minorities what is good for them, what is bad for them, what they can have, and how much they can have. The patriarchal frame reluctantly acknowledges race, class, and gender issues. These issues do not seem to be of importance to white males because they are not affected by them. In fact, this frame views these issues as ideological abstractions. Since we live in a white male-dominated, white male-identified, and white male-centered society, white women are the only oppressed group that is closely identified with white males because they are “white.” They are the only group that truly has benefited from Affirmative Action. It would make sense that they would prosper from Affirmative Action because white men typically work more closely with white women, mostly marry white women and what better way for white men to improve their household economics and hypocritically use white women as a springboard to political success.

With reference to my post, I want to make reference to my earlier post. I posed the question do women desire to take the master’s place? White women have been economically empowered in their own right. Before the Civil Rights and Women’s movements, white women were stay-at-home mothers and took care of their husbands and children. Now that white women are just as educated or more educated than many white males, are as financially secure as white males, and have the highest hiring numbers in male-dominated positions (law, politics, etc.), they still have to fight discrimination because there still exists an invisible glass ceiling. By operating in male-dominated politics, few of them want more and will do anything to get it, such as Sarah Palin.

Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann are used as examples because they are the two political females who dominate the airwaves, and they feed on it and President Obama. They are not only encouraged to provide a false reality about President Obama, but they receive the full support from conservative right-wingers. The make absolutely no sense, and do not come across as knowledgeable gurus. It is also clear they want to please their Republican masters in order to rise to higher political positions or to make a lot of money for doing the dirty work for their masters. While the Republican Party is currently going after women’s rights, Palin and Bachmann have remained silent. However, the Republican Party treats them as if they are still little girls needing daddy to hold their hands and protect them from whatever republican-party-women-need-handholding It is clear they operate out of a white racial and old patriarchal frame with a touch of gangster mentality. It is quite obvious they are the Republican appointed designees to level attacks against the President. It is non-stop with these masculine-behaving women. In order for women like Palin and Bachmann to thrive in the white-male dominated political arena, they have to operate out of a vicious, cut-throat, greedy nature, a nature that is usually associated with cut-throat men in corporate America.
This is how I believe these two frames interrelate today that now cuts across race, class, and gender.

White Women, Women’s Rights and the Republican Party

More white women are joining the ranks of the Republican Party and are rolling back the gains women achieved during the Women’s and Civil Rights movements. The Women’s Rights movement was really about White women’s rights. Had women of color tried to gain their rights before white women, white women would have stood side by side with racist White men to stop this endeavor. There would have been many arrests and perhaps killings; women of color would have been fired from their demeaning jobs; and the Constitution of the United States would have been used to justify these arrests. U.S. society has shown that persons of color can rise up in protest and fight for their rights but not until whites have achieved their rights. Since White women always have been part of the “race, class, and gender” divide, they usually achieve their rights before Americans of color can achieve theirs, hypothetically. However, Black men got the right to vote in 1870 (15th Amendment) 50 years before white women (and black women) won the right (in 1920, 19th Amendment):

Many states, North and South, required payment of poll taxes, property ownership, or literacy as a condition of voting. The 15th Amendment did not address any of those stipulations. Feminists, especially, fought against the amendment because women were not included in the guarantee of suffrage. (source)

Today, no matter the qualifications of women of color, white women had to be the first individuals to break the glass ceiling. They were first to have access to education, first to hold professorships, first to become presidents of universities, first to hold political offices, first to become vice-presidential candidates, and first to run for the office of the presidency. Even if women of color had stellar qualifications and were more qualified than white women for professional jobs, for example, systemic racism would prevent them from being hired in a job perceived for “whites only.”

Michele Bachmann / Sarah Palin Button 2010
Creative Commons License photo credit: Mpls55408
Former Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin (former Alaska governor) and Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) have rolled back the gains women have achieved during the Women’s Rights movement. Women fought for their rights and this was no easy feat. Palin, a contributor of Fox News is an appointed designee to carry out the radical agenda of Fox News, to keep alive the barrage of criticisms and attacks on President Obama and the first lady. She’s forever discrediting the president’s policies, initiatives, and performance, when she could not complete her term as governor. When former first lady Barbara Bush criticized Palin during an interview with Larry King, Palin retorted and called the Bushes “blue-bloods.” When Senator McCain’s daughter criticized Bachmann stating that she is “not a leader, and she’s not the leader of the Republican Party” and called her a “poor man’s Sarah Palin,” there was no sound bite from Palin or Bachmann. Had Michelle Obama suggested that Palin remained in Alaska, Palin would have maligned and called her a “racist” because she is the wife of her perceived nemesis. No matter what President Obama does, there’s Palin criticizing his performance and telling her base she could a better job. But what’s missing in her ability to do it better than Obama is the unveiling of her plan to show us how she would do it better. Bachmann, a Tea Party darling, appointed herself to critique President Obama’s State of the Union address on January 25, 2011, and she was highly criticized for it, even by Senator McCain’s daughter (see this link for more details).

Both Palin and Bachmann were/are considering a run for president in 2012. But the problem with these two women is that they have no fundamental understanding of American history. Palin makes up words like “refudiate,” when she should have said “repudiate,” in her criticisms of the building of the Muslim Mosque near ground zero Error! Hyperlink reference not valid.. Palin cannot tell commenters what books she has read on “America’s greatest leaders.” When she was criticized for making up words, she defended her ignorance, likened herself to Shakespeare, and played the “victim.” In fact, when Palin speaks on issues to which she tries to discredit President Obama, she makes absolutely no sense. In similar manner, Bachmann has shown a real misunderstanding of American history. Bachmann claims that the founding fathers worked “tirelessly” to end slavery, when many of them owned slaves.

Clearly, Palin, a highly paid court jester for Fox News and Bachmann, a sycophant for the Republican Party, are not qualified to be president of the United States. Both Palin and Bachmann lack knowledge about the history of this country. Presidents cannot afford to make up words or engage in constant criticism of their enemies, which is undignified behavior. If presidents spend time defending every criticism lodged against them, they would never get anything done. If presidents do not have a good understanding of American history, they would be considered un-American. Perhaps Palin and Bachmann were whisked through college without learning a thing. Many political pundits and politicians have called President Obama un-American when they themselves do not know American history that well. If you ask the average American citizen about the slavery or the Civil Rights movement, they would not be able to demonstrate that knowledge. However, it is a sad day in our history when elected officials are unaware of these important U.S. events.

Since Palin and Bachmann are engaging in political behavior practices that go against the continued “race, class, and gender” struggle for women’s rights, history shows us that

White women wanted equal rights and slavery abolished, but, they didn’t want to be equal to Blacks, even after the Civil War.

We must ask ourselves, are White Republican women like Palin and Bachmann in complicity with their own oppression? Do they desire to take the master’s place? Consequently, are these women operating out of the typical patriarchal frame from which they were nationally emancipated in order to please their former oppressors by reversing the gains women made during the women’s rights movement?

Is the Republican Party Racist?

Has the Republican Party become a party of hegemonic practices, one that threatens if they do not get what they want? Have members of the Republican Party become sycophants and puns of their own Party that majority of them have lost their freedom of speech for fear of being punished and ostracized by their own party should they speak the truth.
When President Obama was first elected president of the United States, there was a wave of enthusiasm that swept across the world. Through the lens of the media, the people said Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna!

Now the president is being attacked every day not only by the media such as the extreme right-wing Fox News that calls him the anti-Christ, a Muslim, and a socialist, but also he is attacked by the Republican Party that’s wasting the taxpayers’ questioning the legitimacy of his presidency and the legitimacy of his citizenship, putting doubt in the minds of their gullible base. So now we hear Crucify him! Crucify him! Crucify him! It would appear to the average uninformed American citizen that this is good ole fashion politics, but is it really good ole fashion Jim Crowism and racism at its best performance. Well, if we want to stick our heads in the sand and say the election of Barack Obama has transformed us into a post-racial society, we are deluding ourselves. White racism is very much alive. One does not have to call Americans of color “niggers,” “jiggaboos,” “house niggers” (educated African Americans), “Hymie” (Jews), “Spic” (Hispanics), “swamp nigger” (Native Americans), or “wetback” (Mexicans), because it is politically incorrect to do so, especially if one is a politician. But the use of political cartoons illustrating watermelons on the front lawn of the White House, manipulating a photograph to make the first lady look like an ape, calling her a typical street whore are more racist than calling the first family a nigger.

The Republican Party seems to embrace the racist tendencies from their predecessors. More recently, Republican Governor Haley Barbour wanted to revive the ways of the old South by honoring a confederate general who slaughtered a black regiment during the Civil War that tried to surrender.

Some might say that the Republican Party has African Americans and other Americans of color as members. This is true, but they do not speak against the barrage of hate speech against President Obama and are afraid to speak against the biases and unjust behavior against African Americans and other Americans of color. Other Americans of color like Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana have spoken harshly against President Obama, but he fails to consider his own native country, India, that was under the colonial rule of the British–and many of them respond to the English like black slaves responded to their masters. Those of oppressed groups would call African-American and other-Americans-of-color Republicans the servants of the Party, the most loyal servants to their master.

The question before us is “why would any person of color associate themselves with a party that engages in practices that border the practices similar to the days of slavery and the Jim Crow era”?