Black people come in every shade of brown you can think of. Let’s be clear on something. I love me some me! But, my people, WE sure have learned how to tear our own race down. Slavery has brought along with it some very shameful behaviors. One of the most destructive and minimized of those behaviors is the practice of colorism.


An actual test, along with the so-called ruler test in common use in the the early 1900s among upper class Black American societies and families to determine if a Black person was sufficiently white to gain admittance or acceptance. If your skin was darker than a brown paper bag, you did not merit inclusion. Thousands of Black institutions including the nation’s most eminent Black fraternity — Phi Alpha Phi, Howard Univiersity, and numerous church and civic groups all practiced this discriminiation. The practice has 19th Century antecedants with the Blue Blood Society and has not totally died out.

Zora Neal Hurston, member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated (Z-Phiiiii) was the first well known writer to air this strange practice in a public. The practice is now nearly universally condemned (at least in public) as being an example of “colorism”. Particularly cogent modern day critiques can be found in Kathy Russell’s “The Color Complex”, Tony Morrion’s “The Bluest Eye” (an Oprah Winfrey Book Club choice) and Marita Golden’s “Don’t Play in the Sun.” The best known send-up of the pactice, however, is Spike Lee’s scathing and hilarious 1988 movie, “School Daze.”

“Though the brown paper bag test is antiquated and frowned upon as a shameful moment in African-American history, the ideals behind the practice still lingers in the African-American community” — Rivea Ruff, BlackCollegeView.Com

In my household, my daughter, my son and myself are all different shades of brown. I’ve heard my daughter say that she doesn’t want to get any darker and that her brother is “dark.” Where do they get it from? I certainly don’t make a distinction, and yet that misguided concept is there. Even I struggled with this issue when I was younger – wishing that my skin was lighter and my hair was longer. It’s a very insidious thought that permeates black culture. It also exists in other cultures with indigenous people of brown skin. An excellent documentary, “Dark Girls”, takes a really hard look at the issue of Colorism.

Colorism is a very real issue, but the message is starting to get out. You are more than just the color of your skin and the texture of your hair. You are a voice. You are a force. YOUR BLACK IS BEAUTIFUL.


*This VERY AWESOME PSA/BHFOTD is brought to you by my sissie! YES, shaming my sister until she gives me what I want works!
** Does that mean I have to do a fact on good and bad hair now? Because, SCHOOL DAZE!