Fuck Your Paper Bag

I wasn’t gonna blog about this. But I also wasn’t gonna drink last weekend and, well, that too was a fail.

There is an interesting kind of marginalization that goes on in communities, creating these sub-communities of sorts. It is prevalent in just about any group of people that share some fundamental similarities but other large differences; women get subcategorized according to whether or not they are mothers or career women, shouldering all the perceived attributes and scorn that may go along with being either. In the gay community, bisexuals are often further marginalized under the guise of only being “half gay” or “confused”. It happens, and is an ugly underbelly of communities that should be havens for the members that belong to them.

But none of these are quite as troubling to me as the way that we as black women marginalize each other according to skin tone.

Friday, when the press release and promo pics of new Carol’s Daughter’s spokeswomen Solange, Cassie, and Selita Ebanks were released, like many others I shared the prevailing sentiment; don’t no dark skinned women use Carol’s Daughter?

All over twitter and Facebook, I read the offhand comments and criticisms that I shared; while all three women are gorgeous, and obviously have different hair textures, skin types, ethnicities, etc., if the company really wanted to promote diversity, couldn’t they find some people more diverse? Other shapes, sizes, hair textures, skin tones?

I felt like that was a valid criticism. What started to bother me was when the conversation immediately devolved into the place it always does when we discuss complexion primarily and, to a certain degree hair texture, in our community; the prevalent thought that these women aren’t “black enough” to promote a black brand.

And here is where I start to have a problem.

But first a bit about me…

If you can’t tell from my black and white pic to the right, I am pretty fair. I have mid-back length curly hair. I have a tiny mouth and small nose (and a forehead big enough to be a projection screen, but we all need one feature that keeps us humble).You can tell I am black by looking at me, but that has never stopped some narrow minded asshole from cocking their head to the side, regarding my features confusedly and asking, “What ARE you?” as though they have encountered some three headed bird not found often in nature. My mother, while darker than I, shares many of the same features. My father has never considered himself anything but black, despite his green eyes and curly hair and often having to explain to concerned strangers when I was a kid that no, he did not kidnap the little black child who is holding his hand.

I say all this to say that I, by nature of my own ambiguous pedigree that I have never really bothered to explore, am uniquely familiar with this sentiment in a way that means I cannot be objective here. All of that being said…

I am fucking tired of being told I am not black enough by other people.

I get it. I do. For centuries we have been told that light, bright and damn near white is the European standard of beauty we should all aspire to, god given features be damned. That our personalities, sexualities, career trajectory and everything else is defined by our facial feature, hair texture and skin tone, that if we don’t pass the brown paper bag test, then we are less than.

Really, I get it.

My problem lies in what has becoming an increasingly popular method of celebrating oneself; disparaging another. Somehow, the push for acceptance and pride in darker shades has dovetailed with dismissal of lighter ones. Somehow, it is not enough for anyone to simply be happier in the skin they’re in; they must be superior to something else for some reason, no matter how disparaging, shameful or asinine.

It’s bullshit.

If you can’t celebrate yourself without attacking and denigrating another, it is no celebration at all.

And really, isn’t this type of behavior just as bad as someone else telling us to be ashamed of who we are? Maybe isn’t it even a little bit worse because WE ARE ATTACKING OUR OWN?

Perhaps I am sensitive because this has been an ongoing affair throughout my life; my black mother and black father, my black relatives in my black city and going to a black school are simply not enough to quantify my blackness. Because of my skin tone. Because of my hair texture. Because someone told someone else that in order to have valid black pride, one must be what is “acceptable black” to other black folks. But who are you to enumerate what is “black” or not? Is there some sort of mystical mathematical equation that yields a numerical value consistent with what can be considered black?

Remove that shit all the fuck from the paint, b.

You don’t get to tell me that I don’t qualify as black.

It’s a shame really and no less wrong, ignorant and self-sabotaging as anyone else telling us what we should look like. And what is even worse is that now, we don’t even have to rely on others to tear us down. We will do it for them.

7 thoughts on “Fuck Your Paper Bag

  1. Black enough for what, for who, for where, and for why? (he cringes when I say for why in public…heehee)
    If I cared to be and “they're” opinion mattered…I'd never be black enough. Even when I stepped into a “private black panther” meeting, even as the Israelites dissed me on 1-2-5, even as I dated a man who said he used to be ashamed to be seen out with me because I was too lite…I ain't never quanified who I was to no damn body…
    But…then again, I used to always think I was darker than I reall am. Ha!
    I learned long ago…it'll never change as long as there are insecurities.
    I shrug 'em off…who's the fool? The fool who argues with the wise man or the wise man who argues with the fool?


  2. La I am new here but I love your blog!

    For the topic at hand, Preach! I am forever the Oreo ( black on the outside and something else ont he inside) according to my family and some friends. My mannerisms, speech and eclectic nature make me strange in their eyes. When other people be on the your not black enough they get a major eyeroll from me…


  3. And this is why I didn't even touch the conversation at all on twitter. It annoys the SHIT out of me when people feel the need to justify what is “black enough”, and take the opportunity to talk negatively about what they feel isn't “black enough”. This is also why I steer clear of the whole “natural hair debate”.

    “If you can’t celebrate yourself without attacking and denigrating another, it is no celebration at all.”…..THIS!


  4. @sugar girl EXACTLY. Let me try to say I am not black or claim some long begotten heritage. Those same women will jump ALL OVER ME for “not wanting to be black”. SMH

    @adei “Bouncer of Club Noir” = my new shit. LMFAOOOO! Also, wtf is “regular black”? Who came up with all these labels?

    @Jess did Carlton say bitches? lol I don't think he did, but he should have. lol I got that alot too when I was growing up because I listened to country and rock music and spoke properly. My retort? “I bet I'll whoop your ass like a black girl.” Thank God for deliverance. LOL


  5. ugh black people get on my nerves with this “not black enough” mess…without getting on a soap box let me just say I feel you La. I've heard the same thing but not because of looks, because of the way I act. I'ma pull the ol' Carlton Banks line, “Black is not something I have to try to be. Black is something I am….Bitches”

    Maybe I took some creative license. No judgement.


  6. And you what's also crazy? Even if you're straight from the continent of gotdamn Africa (as in, my parents flew British Airways from Ghana some 30 years ago), you're still not black enough. I've been told on more than one occassion, “oh, you not regular black”.


    Well damn. *gucci mane voice*

    Who are these people? Where's the checklist? Is it based in data and research? Who died and made whoever you are the Bouncer of Club Noir?!


  7. You know I hear you, sis!

    Being mixed (and not just “I got Indian in me” but both my grandmothers were born in different countries) I have never ever been Black enough.

    Too often women have turned their noses up or snickered at my Black boyfriend who was dating the light skinned mixed girl with curly hair.

    But you know what is funny? Let me walk into a room with those same women and say that I'm not Black. They would be quick to say, “That heifer knows she's Black.”

    In my book, the only woman “Blacker” than you is that Smokey Robinson eyed heaux! (That was the funniest day, evah!)



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