"When I think of colorism, I think of light-skinned versus dark-skinned and, being that I am a black woman, my thoughts definitely go towards my own community. I think of instances where attractiveness and perceived worthiness go hand-in-hand, just because of the shade of my complexion. I think of lighter-skinned people being automatically held at a higher value simply because they aren't dark-skinned."—Sheriden Chanel, managing editor, xoNecole
I find it pretty fascinating (and also a sign) that, as I'm sitting down to pen this, the second episode of the fourth season of Queen Sugar is on. The scene that I'm watching consists of Charley—a biracial woman—reading a passage out of her sister Nova's—a dark-skinned woman's—book.
In it, the topic of colorism comes up. Here's just a part of what Charley read back to Nova that Nova wrote about her:
"My sister. Born to privilege, raised with wealth and half-bathed in whiteness, used her light skin as her shield and her sword. Weapons, in every room she entered, every deal she made…she used her honey skin to keep her safe, all the while keeping her complicit in the continued oppression of Black bodies."
Colorism. In this case, it's not just between a light-skinned and dark-skinned woman, but also between a light-skinned woman who happens to be biracial. Bookmark that, OK? I'll be coming back to it. But first...
The Pop Culture of Colorism
Before going any deeper into this, please forgive me in advance, because colorism is something that deserves to be a docu-series and a five-day seminar and a series of TED Talks and…and…and. Yet here, there are simply not enough inches to give the topic all of the unpacking that it truly deserves; not even close. Still, with headlines like "Scottie Beam Talks Light Skin vs. Dark Skin Colorism, the Humanitarian Crisis in Sudan & More [Video]" "Mathew Knowles Talks Colorism's Role in Beyoncé's Music Career" and (sigh) "Tory Lanez Responds to Claims He Staged Video Allegedly Showing Colorism (UPDATE)" that were published, all in one week, my editor and I agreed that while this can lean towards being a "touchy subject", that doesn't mean that we shouldn't acknowledge it.
And by "acknowledge", I just mean, let Black women know that I/we see you. Light, in between light and dark, and dark-skinned alike. We know that colorism is something that shouldn't be ignored, sugar-coated or skirted around, especially within our own community. We get that although it can be uncomfortable, and even sometimes painful to explore the issues of color, it must be done. It's irresponsible not to. Full stop.
That said, I want to initially approach the traditional definition of the word from this angle. Because I am (mostly) a relationships writer, I think colorism is quite… "bold" is the word that immediately comes to mind when it comes to the dating scene; especially the celebrity dating scene. As a popular YouTube blogger by the name of Paris Milan—who regularly addresses the issue of colorism (along with other beautiful sistahs like Leah Gordone, I Am Eloho and Chrissie, who is the publisher of the magazineDivine Dark Skin)—and I were discussing her feelings about colorism, we took a moment to try and think of famous Black men who were with dark-skinned Black women. We both sat in silence for quite a while. A few came to mind (Idris Elba, Dwyane Wade, Keith Powers), but what we agreed on is that we shouldn't have had to strain our brains to come up with some. "I think there is something to be said for preference," said Paris.
Then after a pause, she continued, "I also believe that it often is a mask for colorism. It's very interesting that a lot of Black men will make sure to say that they love Black women, but we never see them with us. It's like they know that they have to cater to us in some way because we are their audience, but their words don't line up with their actions. In their personal life, women are light, biracial or white."
"To me, when your message doesn't line up with your life, that's when it crosses over into pandering. And there is certainly a lot of that. And, if you don't want to discuss it, you're deflecting."
I agree. Colorism definitely goes beyond relationships, though. Paris and I also discussed how dark-skinned characters like Pam (from Martin) and Maxine (from Living Single) may have made their shows in a lot of ways, but they were also loud and, as Paris put it, "less feminine than many of the other characters". Was that by design? Or even if you fast forward to now, many Black people don't feel like the Blackish spinoff Mixedish is must-see TV because "Blackish is already mixed", and as another Black YouTuber by the name of Masani Musa said, "Biracial people are dominating Black spaces in entertainment".
Then there's music visuals. When's the last time you saw a chocolate (a descriptive that Paris said made her feel "delectable") sistah as the romantic lead? Or even when you look at the pics from the nights when Miss USA, Miss Teen USA and Miss America won their titles, why is it that the two light-skinned women (Cheslie Kryst and Kaliegh Garris who also happen to be biracial) didn't straighten their hair, but Nia Franklin, the dark-skinned winner, did? Was that personal preference or pressure? Colorism is everywhere, y'all. And I do mean everywhere.
The "Lighter" Side of Colorism
Remember how, at the top of this piece, I asked you to "bookmark" the fact that Charley was not only light-skinned but biracial? I think her experience has its own subtle sides of colorism. Tia Mowry-Hardrict released a semi-recent video entitled "Growing Up Multiracial. It's COMPLICATED!" and, last April, actor and activist Jesse Williams (whose mother is white and father is Black) shared with Sway his thoughts on colorism. At the 26:00 mark in the interview, he speaks on the fact that he finds it to be "unnecessary" and "self-imposed complication" to complain about the challenges of being biracial, although he admits that it can be confusing to unpack.
"We live in America," Jesse expounded. "This country's racial politics are so poisonous and clear. Race doesn't exist scientifically, but it exists in real life…lived experience matters. Your personal experience matters and I'm only a product of mine. It feels like I'm almost…gonna sound insensitive, but it's a lot harder to be f—kin' Black. Do you know how easy it is to be biracial and mixed?...I imagine it is a lot more confusing to be dark-skinned. And be told that you're trash, but we also want to worship you and be like you. But we hate you. I've gotten so much in my life because I'm light, because I have light eyes. It's way easier, period."
I wonder. When Jesse speaks of the privileges that he has or how accepted it is that he feels in mainstream society, how much of that is about how "light" he is vs. how much white that is in him? Is there too an issue of colorism as it relates to light-skinned Blacks and biracial individuals? Are they automatically one in the same? Have we forgotten race-related facts like, "Not only does the one-drop rule apply to no other group than American blacks, but apparently the rule is unique in that it is found only in the United States and not in any other nation in the world"?
Do we realize the damage that this rhetoric alone has done?
My godchildren's mom, Rissi Palmer, an artist and activist, is a light-skinned Black woman, would probably not easily pass the South African hair "pencil test" (another byproduct of racism). And yet, she finds it off-the-charts offensive whenever people assume that she must be mixed or when she hears that she has "good hair".
"I'll admit that I have some PTSD from my childhood when it comes to this," shares Rissi. "But I didn't really struggle until I went to a school that had a lot of Black children in it. There is when I was told that I wasn't 'black enough'. Honestly, I think the white kids listened in and caught on to the fact that within my own ethnicity, there were issues with color. Then they started to mimic statements like 'You're not Black Black.' Do I think that dark-skinned Blacks have it much harder? Definitely. But I do think that light-skinned Blacks have been infected by whites and their constant attacks on us as a whole too. At the end of the day, they want us all to not feel like we are good enough. Skin tone and hair texture doesn't matter, so long as we hate ourselves—and each other."
Colorism Divides. However, Talking About It Does Enlighten.
"So many of us are brainwashed by white supremacy and don't even know it," Paris states. "As a result, a lot of us project colorism, without realizing it. But here's how you can know if you've got issues with colorism. If you associate skin tones with someone being better or more attractive. If you use phrases like 'good hair' to describe a person. If you're surprised when someone with a dark complexion excels in a particular field, you have colorism issues, no doubt about it. And you know what? Gone are the days when dark-skinned people are afraid to tackle these topics head-on. We don't have to conform to any kind of standard of beauty or expectation and we're going to spread awareness to let others know that they don't have to either. Black is beautiful. That's a complete sentence."
After I got off of the phone with Paris, I put on a song by a friend of mine named Classik Levine who's an independent artist in Louisville. It's called "DSGWAB" and that stands for Dark Skin Girl with a Body. I remember when it first came out and some light-skinned women were like, "Why does he have to single out dark women?" Meanwhile, I was more like, "Where are your T-shirts, so that I can buy them for some of the chocolate women that I know?" I think I responded that way because my mother is light. My father was chocolate. My complexion is somewhere in between.
My point? We all are Black. We all deserve to be seen, honored and celebrated for being Black. Not one more than the other. Period.
Articles like "The Varying Skin Colors of Africa: Light, Dark, and All in Between" are blaring reminders that our diversity—all of the hues of Blackness—is a part of what makes us…us. Colorism blinds us to this very fact because it's designed to. That makes it a cancer. A disease. Something that works against, not for us, as a people. And yes, we must talk about it. Not deflect. Not duck and dodge. We must hit it straight on. Consistently so. How can we heal if we don't?
"I don't think colorism is talked about enough," shares Sheriden. "In fact, I've heard members of my community say that by talking about things like that, we make ourselves more divisive. I don't think acknowledgement in that regard is inherently divisive, as much as it's bringing awareness to an aspect of the community that might feel undervalued and underserved."
If you don't agree with that, you already know what I'm about to say. You, sis, have a real problem when it comes to colorism; not a little bit, but period. And there ain't nothin' good, healthy, positive or beneficial about that. Not even if you believe that you only have a so-called "one drop" of it in you.
Featured image by Getty Images.
- 5 Reasons To Talk About Colorism – Colorism Healing ›
- 452: A Conversation About Colorism & Impact With Fleure Maricaux ... ›
- The Difference Between Racism and Colorism | Time ›
- Opening up the conversation on colorism - New Day Northwest ... ›
- The Colorism Conversation Continues in 'Light Girls' - Video ›
- With 'Shades of Black,' The Guardian Enters the Colorism ... ›
- The Colorism Conversation Continues in Light Girls | Light Girls ... ›
Different puzzle pieces are creating bigger pictures these days. 2024 will mark a milestone on a few different levels, including the release of my third book next June (yay!).
I am also a Professional Certified Coach. My main mission for attaining that particular goal is to use my formal credentials to help people navigate through the sometimes tumultuous waters, both on and offline, when it comes to information about marriage, sex and relationships that is oftentimes misinformation (because "coach" is a word that gets thrown around a lot, oftentimes quite poorly).
I am also still super devoted to helping to bring life into this world as a doula, marriage life coaching will always be my first love (next to writing, of course), a platform that advocates for good Black men is currently in the works and my keystrokes continue to be devoted to HEALTHY over HAPPY in the areas of holistic intimacy, spiritual evolution, purpose manifestation and self-love...because maturity teaches that it's impossible to be happy all of the time when it comes to reaching goals yet healthy is a choice that can be made on a daily basis (amen?).
If you have any PERSONAL QUESTIONS (please do not contact me with any story pitches; that is an *editorial* need), feel free to reach out at email@example.com. A sistah will certainly do what she can. ;)
Exclusive: Gabrielle Union On Radical Transparency, Being Diagnosed With Perimenopause And Embracing What’s Next
Whenever Gabrielle Union graces the movie screen, she immediately commands attention. From her unforgettable scenes in films like Bring It On and Two Can Play That Game to her most recent film, in which she stars and produces Netflix’s The Perfect Find, there’s no denying that she is that girl.
Off-screen, she uses that power for good by sharing her trials and tribulations with other women in hopes of helping those who may be going through the same things or preventing them from experiencing them altogether. Recently, the Flawless by Gabrielle Union founder partnered with Clearblue to speak at the launch of their Menopause Stage Indicator, where she also shared her experience with being perimenopausal.
In a xoNecoleexclusive, the iconic actress opens up about embracing this season of her life, new projects, and overall being a “bad motherfucker.” Gabrielle reveals that she was 37 years old when she was diagnosed with perimenopause and is still going through it at 51 years old. Mayo Clinic says perimenopause “refers to the time during which your body makes the natural transition to menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years.”
“I haven't crossed over the next phase just yet, but I think part of it is when you hear any form of menopause, you automatically think of your mother or grandmother. It feels like an old-person thing, but for me, I was 37 and like not understanding what that really meant for me. And I don't think we focus so much on the word menopause without understanding that perimenopause is just the time before menopause,” she tells us.
Photo by Brian Thomas
"But you can experience a lot of the same things during that period that people talk about, that they experienced during menopause. So you could get a hot flash, you could get the weight gain, the hair loss, depression, anxiety, like all of it, mental health challenges, all of that can come, you know, at any stage of the menopausal journey and like for me, I've been in perimenopause like 13, 14 years. When you know, most doctors are like, ‘Oh, but it's usually about ten years, and I'm like, ‘Uhh, I’m still going (laughs).’”
Conversations about perimenopause, fibroids, and all the things that are associated with women’s bodies have often been considered taboo and thus not discussed publicly. However, times are changing, and thanks to the Gabrielle’s and the Tia Mowry’s, more women are having an authentic discourse about women’s health. These open discussions lead to the creation of more safe spaces and support for one another.
“I want to be in community with folks. I don't ever want to feel like I'm on an island about anything. So, if I can help create community where we are lacking, I want to be a part of that,” she says. “So, it's like there's no harm in talking about it. You know what I mean? Like, I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change. I'm just getting better and stronger and more intelligent, more wise, more patient, more compassionate, more empathetic. All of that is very, very welcomed, and none of it should be scary.”
The Being Mary Jane star hasn’t been shy about her stance on therapy. If you don’t know, here’s a hint: she’s all for it, and she encourages others to try it as well. She likens therapy to dating by suggesting that you keep looking for the right therapist to match your needs. Two other essential keys to her growth are radical transparency and radical acceptance (though she admits she is still working on the latter).
"I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change."
Gabrielle Union and Kaavia Union-Wade
Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images
“I hope that a.) you recognize that you're not alone. Seek out help and know that it's okay to be honest about what the hell is happening in your life. That's the only way that you know you can get help, and that's also the only other way that people know that you are in need if there's something going on,” she says, “because we have all these big, very wild, high expectations of people, but if they don't know what they're actually dealing with, they're always going to be failing, and you will always be disappointed. So how about just tell the truth, be transparent, and let people know where you are. So they can be of service, they can be compassionate.”
Gabrielle’s transparency is what makes her so relatable, and has so many people root for her. Whether through her TV and film projects, her memoirs, or her social media, the actress has a knack for making you feel like she’s your homegirl. Scrolling through her Instagram, you see the special moments with her family, exciting new business ventures, and jaw-dropping fashion moments. Throughout her life and career, we’ve seen her evolve in a multitude of ways. From producing films to starting a haircare line to marriage and motherhood, her journey is a story of courage and triumph. And right now, in this season, she’s asking, “What’s next?”
“This is a season of discovery and change. In a billion ways,” says the NAACP Image Award winner. “The notion of like, ‘Oh, so and so changed. They got brand new.’ I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
"I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
She continues, “So I'm just trying to figure out what's next. You know what I mean? I'm jumping into what's next. I'm excited going into what's next and new. I'm just sort of embracing all of what life has to offer.”
Look out for Gabrielle in the upcoming indie film Riff Raff, which is a crime comedy starring her and Jennifer Coolidge, and she will also produce The Idea of You, which stars Anne Hathaway.
Let’s make things inbox official! Sign up for the xoNecole newsletter for daily love, wellness, career, and exclusive content delivered straight to your inbox.
Feature image by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images
Have you ever been in a relationship with someone and felt so deeply connected to them? Everything about the relationship was intense – good or bad? Then you might be in a part of a soul tie.
The concept of a soul tie binds individuals on a level beyond a relationship's physical and emotional aspects; it’s more than a mere connection. You can form a soul tie with anyone – lover, friend, colleague, etc.- but we are discussing romantic partners for this article. Think of you and your partner as an intensely burning flame. The flame can burn passionately to light the relationship’s way or chaotically burn everything in its path. Either way, it leaves an indelible mark on the souls involved.
A soul tie should not be confused with the term “soulmate.” The main difference is that a soul tie can be positive or negative, while a soulmate is a mutual, harmonious connection. Unlike a soul tie, a soulmate relationship is generally characterized by mutual understanding, support, and shared values.
However, the more we learn about soul ties, the more it becomes evident that they are not monolithic; they vary in nature and intensity. As someone who has experienced a negative soul tie, it is crucial to discern whether they contribute positively to personal growth or hinder you from flourishing.
If Your Soul Tie Is Positive
A positive soul tie creates a deep and affirming connection between individuals. One key indicator of a positive soul tie is effective communication. If you’re experiencing a positive soul tie, a shared understanding fosters open and honest dialogue, contributing to a sense of connection and support.
Mutual growth is another hallmark of a positive soul tie. When individuals in a relationship encourage each other's personal development and evolution, it signifies a positive and uplifting connection. This mutual support leads to an environment where both parties can thrive individually and together, contributing to the overall health of the soul tie.
Emotional security is a crucial element in identifying a positive soul tie. In such connections, individuals feel a deep sense of trust and comfort with each other. This emotional security forms a stable foundation for the relationship, allowing both parties to express vulnerability and foster a strong, positive bond. These three indicators—effective communication, mutual growth, and emotional security—underscore the positivity inherent in a healthy and affirming soul tie.
If Your Soul Tie Is Negative
A negative soul tie manifests as a detrimental and draining connection between individuals. One clear sign of a negative soul tie is the presence of emotional turmoilwithin the relationship. When the connection becomes a source of constant distress, causing emotional upheaval and hindering personal development, it indicates a negative soul tie.
Codependency is another red flag for a negative soul tie. In such connections, individuals may become overly reliant on each other, impeding their ability to thrive independently. Codependency often leads to unhealthy dependencies and can result in a toxic dynamic that hinders both individuals' growth and well-being.
A lack of effective communication is a third indicator of a negative soul tie. When there is a breakdown in communication, misunderstandings and unresolved issues can fester, contributing to a strained and unhealthy connection. In negative soul ties, the absence of open and honest dialogue can perpetuate a cycle of negativity and prevent the resolution of underlying issues. These three indicators—emotional turmoil, codependency, and poor communication—point to the negativity associated with an unhealthy soul tie.
Putting Out The Fires And Breaking Your Soul Tie
Unfortunately, my deep, intense connection only caused destruction. And despite the obvious red flags, it took a minute before I broke the connection. Why? Because I was addicted to the relationship, we both were. But it is possible to break a soul tie if and when you are ready because if you are not, pretending you are when you are not is a waste of your time.
Breaking a soul tie requires intentional and purposeful actions. Establishing clear and firm boundaries is a fundamental step in severing the connection. By limiting contact and emotional engagement with the person involved, individuals can gradually weaken the tie and create space for personal growth.
Seeking professional support is another effective strategy to break a soul tie. Guidance from therapists or counselors provides valuable insights and coping strategies. Professional assistance can help individuals navigate the emotional challenges associated with breaking a soul tie, offering a structured and supportive environment for healing.
Redirecting energy toward personal growth is important in breaking free from a soul tie. Engaging in activities that promote individual well-being and create a sense of independence allows individuals to refocus their attention on their own growth and development. This redirection of energy is essential for breaking the emotional bonds of a soul tie and moving towards a healthier, more fulfilling life.
The last step I advise everyone to go through is the mourning period. My partner and I did our song and dance for years before I walked away. And I would be lying if I didn’t say that I mourned our relationship while I healed.
Recognizing the presence and nature of a soul tie in your relationship is crucial to understanding its impact on your well-being. Whether positive or negative, the intensity of a soul tie can shape the course of your personal growth and happiness. Breaking free from a negative soul tie demands intentional efforts, from setting clear boundaries to seeking professional support. Redirecting energy toward personal growth and allowing oneself a necessary mourning period are vital steps toward healing and liberation from the intricate ties that bind.
Let’s make things inbox official! Sign up for the xoNecole newsletter for daily love, wellness, career, and exclusive content delivered straight to your inbox.
Feature image by JD Mason/ Unsplash