BACK IN THE DAY…
Marc Lamont Hill: A hundred years ago, there was almost a one-to-one relationship between people’s color and how much humanity we saw in them. The closer to white, the more love we had for a person. There was a lot of deep self-hate. Michaela angela Davis: It’s part of the systemic leftovers of slavery and Jim Crow; we’re not supposed to connect. My grandmother was very fair with straight hair and was into the paper bag thing. My mother had to secretly date dark-skinned men. Right when my grandmother was about to die, I learned that she experienced post-traumatic stress from witnessing lynchings. Those in her family who were darker skinned were in fear for their lives at all times. At 18, 19 years old, that deeply affects you. So now, in her mind, lighter means living. When she told me that story, I was finally like, I get it.
Michaela Angela Davis: I’m so far on the light-skinned scale that I don’t actually benefit from the typical light-skinned thing. Growing up, I was so fair. I had blond hair and was often mistaken for albino. I was almost able to be a voyeur. My sister, however, is very Halle Berry. I held a panel once with black women who were really high up (at mainstream institutions) in the fashion industry, and [the two darker-skinned women] scheduled to be there couldn’t make it. My panel was light-skinned by default and the reaction from the crowd was so intense. I chose people based on their credentials. A part of me thought that if all these women had brown skin, no one would have been up in arms asking, “Where are the light-skinned girls?” [Panelist] Tricia Rose is a professor of Africana Studies at Brown—but they saw her as a “light-skinned academic.” Brown-girl under-representation is a real thing, but it doesn’t change the fact that in that moment, Tricia felt reduced.