Saturday, May 12, 2007


(Lookism) I swear I did not know that was an established term until after I almost finished writing this post. I was actually thinking of something to describe what I was thinking after I read the last few comments from my previous post, and the word looks-ism came into my mind. I googled it, and there before my very eyes, was the word Lookism featured in Wikipedia no less.

So anyway, I am reading a comment from "rikyrah" one of the great and insightful commenters who I am so glad contributes to this site, and the response to her comments from "ravenravings", another commenter who fits in the above category. (why these two people do not have their own blogs by now is beyond me) "rikyrah", while explaining the tragic death of a young man, mentioned his good looks and seemed to imply that because of his good looks "handsome young man" his death was even more tragic. This apparent misstatement was immediately noticed and checked by the next commenter, "ravenravings." I thought the response was interesting and incredibly insightful, so much so, that the word (looks-ism) popped into my head, and there it remains.

Now to be fair to "rikyrah", no one knows (at least I don't) what the young man she was referring to looks like. And beauty, as they say, is in the eyes of the beholder. (Insert your field and Lark Voorhies jokes here) Or at least that is what society would have us believe. So rikyrah's young man might not have fit other people's definition of what's beautiful. Still, it would appear, that in her eyes, because he was "handsome," that made his death even more tragic.

But is this rikyrahs' apparent problem or our societies? I dare say its the latter. rikyrah seemed to be basically reflecting in her comments,(damn I hate speaking for people) the thought process of most people in our society, and as many people are prone to do, she used that description to drive home a point about a particular tragedy. People tend to use these types of descriptions to explain how smart a victim was, or how pretty, or what a beautiful smile he or she had etc. As black folks this phenomenon becomes particularly problematic. Stop me if you haven't heard this one before: "She was really dark skinned BUT she was cute. He or she has really GOOD hair, he or she looks like an African, or he is really cute, cause he looks almost white.... and I could go on, but I will spare you.

So who is this beholder? Well when it's the entire society at large, how successful one becomes or how far they reach in the pursuit of their goals often depends on how they look. Studies have been done to show that "attractive" people have a greater likelihood of success than those society views as non attractive. As black people we are still struggling with what is the ideal standard of beauty for us. Living in America, we are slaves to the big advertising companies, and a media that projects an image to us of what beauty should be. Most of the time... no scratch that; all of the time, that image has to have European features as the dominant look to pass as beauty. And before we blame it all on America, as a child who grew up in 96% black Jamaica, I can tell you that the European rule applied there for years as well. So it would seem that many black folks have bought into this beauty myth, whether it's from the media projecting to us, or our own self hating issues and pathologies.

I don't think it was conscious, but somewhere along the line we bought into the European American perception of beauty. And I could live with this, if there was not certain forms of lookism associated with this that is manifesting itself in our society. When we think someone is smarter, or more worthy of our praise and attention (think Natalee Holloway) than that person deserves, then lookism is raising its ugly head. (No pun intended)

"Oh field you are such a hypocrite, this from someones who has spent the last few years of his life hunting Lark Voorhies. A woman who would seem to fit into this American perception of beauty herself."

Mmmmm,OK so maybe I need some checking too, -been living in America too long. Maybe I have sold out too much when it comes to my taste in beauty. Although to be fair, I not only find Lark Voorhies attractive, but I think Nia Long, Dawn Robinson, and Alek Wek are all attractive as well-although Alek could use a few pounds- Besides, my love for Lark goes way beyond beauty. I think she was such a great actress in*** "Head Of The Class,*** and......OK OK that's bull shit! I think she is hot! Hey, I didn't say I was perfect. But at least I am aware of it, and I am fully aware of the the whole lookism bias thing going on.

Hopefully one day in this great country of ours, people will be judged by the content of their character, and not the texture of their hair.
{Correction, that was **Saved By The Bell not Head Of The Class**
Thank you savingmokhsa :) I should have known better. }


Abadiebitch said...

I think you mean, "Saved by the Bell," not "Head of The Class."
HAH! I know because it was a show my daughter watched.

Why would anyone not think Jamaica would be excused from the influence of western ideology? It is very western, in location, and it seems in other regards. My good friend of many years is Jamaican/Chinese, born and raised in Jamaica and is one of the most materialistic, superficial, capitalist, money-grubbing, beauty is everything in magazines, type of people that I have ever met.

Anonymous said...

Maybe I was guilty of lookism. When you see the picture of this young man, the first thing that came to my mind was ' what a handsome young man'. Good looking and brave, too. Doesn't make him any less dead. Any less tragic. That I can literally hear the collective soul of the community cry for losing someone of good character.

Then, it comes so close to Virginia Tech, and I think he combines the agony of the loss of the Brother from Georgia, who was a Senior, Mr. Clarke, and the Sister from Virginia,Miss Peterson, who was a Freshman. The Brother was just what we needed as a people, as was this young man here. Died, like Mr. Clarke, coming to the aid of someone else. And, like Ms. Peterson, he was an only child, which means his parents, like Ms. Petersons, have totally broken hearts.

I don't even know why this is weighing so heavily on me, FN. I just can't seem to let this one go. Sorry to be so serious in my response.

Anonymous said...

On the topic, we are a victim of our society. But, you missed the other element of this - money. Because, money adds ' lookism' to some people.

Point in case: Paris Hilton and Tara Reid. Paris Hilton is rich, blonde, but she is NOT pretty. Neither is Tara Reid. They just have money.

Prince William and Harry - not handsome boys by any stretch, though I don't think most people would agree with me.

Now, Princess Caroline of Monaco's children?

They've won the cosmos lottery: rich and beautiful. It just can't be argued - aesthetically, they are just gorgeous.

For me, even though we are bombarded with ' White is Beautiful' everyday, it's just not true. I find very few White guys handsome, let alone hot. The overwhelming majority, even in Hollywood, for me, are just 'eh'.

And, Alek Wek? She's a human clotheshanger, FN. It's her gig, so let her earn her dough..LOL She can eat a few sandwiches when she puts her modeling days behind her permanently.

And, it's not just here in America - remember in India, light is right. And, all over Asia, women are getting their eyes fixed to look less Asian. And, despite the deposit of Africans all over the Americas, look at their tv - the only thing Black is a servant. So, the issues are not just us in The United States of America.

Anonymous said...

She was really dark skinned BUT she was cute.

I have been the recipient of this back-handed compliment myself.

I did a research paper on this phenomenon in college and I found that most non-European cultures have the same standards of beauty. Asians value rounder eyes and pale skin. They also value lighter eyes. Indians (from India)view lighter skin as more beautiful and so do Hispanics. I think the reason why it appears so pronounced in our community has to do with the fact that our features for the most part are features that are the most dramatically different from European features. Ironically, it seems that Europeans tend to value more non-European features as of late. Collagen lip implants and Brazillian butt-lifts are very popular cosmetic procedures. Tanning became popular in the 40's and 50's and romance novels always describe the male protagonist as "swarthy" or "bronze-skinned" or "golden".

The bottom line is, beauty seems to be based on what is the most difficult to achieve or what is uncommon for a group of people.

Liz Dwyer said...

We are plagued by lookism on so many levels. Absolutely if a victim is good-looking, then there is more empathy. It shouldn't be that way but it is. This also makes me think about how we rarely see a significantly overweight female senior executive at a company Pudgy guys get a pass (Karl Rove!) but Condi better get that Kanye Workout Plan going every single day. As for preferring a European standard of beauty, I don't know if my believing Orlando Bloom is hot is merely the result of cultural programming, cause dang, the guy is easy on the eyes. The problem is when people think someone's color or hair texture adds to or creates their appeal. Or if they only find certain skin tones, hair textures and bone structures appealing. I personally think both Queen Latifah and Kate Moss are beautiful. (Those are good pictures of both in your post.) Some people won't like the Queen because she's full figured, has a big chest and is brown. Some people will diss Kate because she probably weighs what my six year-old does. The lookism thing comes in because Queen Latifah isn't modeling for top fashion houses on a regular basis, even if she does have a deal with Maybelline.

Angela L. Braden, Writer, Speaker, Professor said...

I really don't know where to begin. I'll probably end up posting a few times until I get all of my thoughts out on this subject. So, I apologize now.

When I first read Ravenravings' response to Rikyrah's post, my first thought was that Ravenravings was being a little testy. But after I took a few minutes to really think about what he/she was saying, I got it. I thought about what rikyrah's statement seems to imply. "It's more sad when a good looking kid gets murdered than it is when an ugly kid is murdered."

I think most of us are guilty of this type of prejudice. That's crazy for us to even think like that. Why is a a so called beautiful person's life more valuable than a person that society may view as being unattractive/ugly.

A friend of mine went to one of the prisons here in Texas to do some ministry work. He called me when he got home and started to vent about what he saw. He was distressed because so many of the young men in the prison were nice looking men. As if a good looking boy can't pick up a gun and rob a store, kill someone, smoke crack, steal a car, sell drugs.

My second thought... This is a response to one of the posts before mine. No matter how much white folks like to lie out in the sun and get tanned, trust me, they don't want to look like us. A tan is a world different from being black. They like some of our features, but they are just fine being their white selves. JMO

Third thought... I took a sociology class in undergrad that talked about what has been best described as "lookism." It's true... When you go into the swank offices on the top floors, you will find attractive people in management and in administrative positions. It's sad that we have taken this thing this far. That's why political consultants and commentators are saying that Gore needs to lose weight if he is going to think about announcing a run for the dem tic.

Next thought... When I was in college, I'm so pleased that there was a certain frat that really helped me out a whole lot. (I'm blind and needed a lot of help with reading, researching, going to the store, and so on.) Well, I had this thought one day. I wondered if I was "an ugly woman" would these brothers be so willing to help me out? I wondered if i was dark skin with kinky hair, would they have been so willing to let me hold their arms to guide me throughout the campus? I dare not accuse these brothers of being shallow, but... You know how we can be.

Sadly, I have privately thanked God that I am what people think is pretty. Because trust me, I believe that the little help I get would be basically none if I was what people think as an uncute babe. This is so sad...

This leads me to final point for the night. (smile) I've always heard dark skin women complain about people saying that they are pretty in spite of being dark. I've had the same type of comment made about me when I was overweight. "She's cute for a big girl." Or here's my favorite... "She's big, but she has a pretty face." Now I can get over the fat comments because I know that fat, with the exception of a few cultures, is pretty much universally unattractive. Plus, it's not healthy. So, I will not be like Monique and go to my grave defending something that needs to be lost. But I digress.

Getting back to my point... I hate hearing people say that about being dark. Because skin color is not like weight. Skin color is what you were born with. Your skin color is apart of the design that God stamped on your DNA.

Plus, what it implies is sickening. White is right. And white is beautiful. (Nonsense!)

I somewhat have to put up with the same thing. I meet people all the time that tell me that it is a shame that I'm blind. There next sentence is... Because you're so pretty. They say, "You're too pretty to be blind." I guess it would be okay if I was ugly. I guess they think that ugly people don't deserve ish in life. No fun, loving, life, 5 senses, money, or top-paying career for you, if you're ugly... (Utter nonsense!)

FN and everyone else, I'm sorry for the very long post. That's all of my thoughts. So, you won't have to worry about seeing my name and my comments on this subject after tonight. Thanks for the outlet to vent. (smile)



field negro said...

rikyrah, don't be sorry for feeling the way you do, I am glad you shared that story with us. And I hope I represented your position correctly.

chasingmoksha, good looking on that Lark oversight, WTF was I thinking? This is like Einstein [sic?] not grasping the minutia of physics. It has been corrected :)

liz, great point about how sexism plays into this as well.

cocoa goddess, I would love to read that paper some day.

Angela L. Braden, Writer, Speaker, Professor said...

I'm asking that no one clobbers me for the statement I made about overweight people. I don't want anyone to think that I think that it is okay for overweight sisters and brothers to be discriminated against. I also don't want anyone to think that I believe that obesity is just something you can snap your fingers and change. I realize that no fat people want to be fat. (Including Monique... I don't care what she says.) I know from personal experience that it is hard to lose.

I was only trying to make a point. Maybe I shouldn't have used that example to undergird my position.

Always attempting to be fair,


C-dell said...

great post. this is a very interesting post.

Rich Fitzgerald said...

I'd have to agree that many of us are guilty of lookism, but I would further say that it is a quality inherant in man.

This post brought to my mind the selecting of David to be King (See 1 Samuel 16). When Samuel the Prophet was sent forward to select King Sauls predecessor, he was directed to go to house of Jesse. Jesse had several son's and one of them was extremely easy on the eyes. Upon seeing him Samuel, who keep in mind was a prophet of God, immediately presumed that Jesse's son Eliab was the successor.

7But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."

My point is that, we can't help it. It's part of our nature.

Good Post

Anonymous said...

I'm asking that no one clobbers me for the statement I made about overweight people. I don't want anyone to think that I think that it is okay for overweight sisters and brothers to be discriminated against. I also don't want anyone to think that I believe that obesity is just something you can snap your fingers and change. I realize that no fat people want to be fat. (Including Monique... I don't care what she says.) I know from personal experience that it is hard to lose.


Didn't think anything offensive at all. As someone who has struggled with weight and am on my health journey, I spent years hearing, ' you have a pretty face'.

I went through years of sadness, but now that I've decided I want MY HEALTH, this is the first time in my life that I have been successful in losing weight. It's funny what happens when you release the drama of the outside pressures of a ' thin life' and what it all means. Doing this meant that I had to let go of so many ingrained notions about beauty, and that means in terms of our community. It meant introducing myself to my own hair - haven't had a chemical in it going on 2 1/2 years. That, in itself, has been a path of education and self awareness.

Bottom line though?

I just wanted to put 15-20 years on whatever life I've been given.

PS-I don't believe Monique for one nanosecond.

Anonymous said...

rikyrah: After I started losing my sight, I started gaining weight. One reason was because the docs put me on steroids. The other reason is because my visual impairment decreased my physical activity. And the last reason was because I used food to find comfort. So over the years, the weight piled on.

I always wanted to lose weight. I wou ld go on diet after diet, trying to shake the pounds. The number one reason why I wanted to lose weight was so I could be fine and sexy.

In 2002, my 52-year-old mother had a massive stroke. My mother, a vibrant, active, drama/music teacher, who also happened to be overweight, was violently assaulted by a blood clot that entered her brain. One thing I discovered because of her experience was that I didn't want the same thing to happen to me. I started noticing that the overweight women in my family, which was basically most of them, started having serious problems with their health when they got in their 40's and 50's.

I made up my mind then that I didn't want to take the same course as they did. I began a serious journey to get this weight off of me. And this time I wanted to do it so I could live.

Yes, I wanted to be cute. That's always good. But primary reason was because I wanted to be healthy.

I got enough issues not being able to see. I certainly don't need to be paralyzed on one side of my body, due to a stroke.

Since I've lost the weight, I feel like a brand new woman. Yes, I'm cute. (smile) But I feel good on the inside out. I'm not half as tired as I use to be. I'm off my blood pressure medicine, and the doctors say I'm quite healthy.

That's why I wish that Monique would stop this nonsense about being big and fabulous. Yes, sisters need to feel good about themselves. But let that self-esteem help you put in the hard work to lose weight, so that the girl you love so much can live. What good is being big and fabulous if one side of your face is twisted, or because you have to have a triple bypass at 45? I understand Mo's point. I just think that her thinking and the way she wants other big women to think is dangerous.

I feel strongly about this subject. Mainly because black women are the ones going down because of weight. Black women are more morbidly obese than any other group of people. Yeah, junk in the trunk is good. And we ain't gon' ever be as thin as white women. We are made differently than them. But that don't give us a license or a free pass to be 75 or more pounds overweight.

rikyrah, I'm still working on the hair thing. I'm not that bold yet. Don't know if I'll ever be. It's unfortunate; but I'm bit by that European snake. And the tripped out thing is that a sister like me, who has so called "good hair", can't see myself going without a perm for more than two months. I'm ashamed. So, ashamed...

Brother Field, thanks so much for this forum. Again, I'm sorry for the long posts.


FreeBeing said...

The other day, while looking up info on old television shows, I read a Wikipedia article on the actor John Amos. Apparently Howard Stern interviewed him once & remarked that Amos was the greatest actor b/c he was able to call Esther Rolle (acting as Florida Evans) "beautiful" and actually kiss her. Stern's feelings about what is beautiful are clear. I always saw Ms. Rolle's beauty as being uniquely African & more deeply defined than what we have been indoctrinated to believe.

Sorry for the rant. Thanks for the interesting thoughts!

Anonymous said...

I feel strongly about this subject. Mainly because black women are the ones going down because of weight. Black women are more morbidly obese than any other group of people. Yeah, junk in the trunk is good. And we ain't gon' ever be as thin as white women. We are made differently than them. But that don't give us a license or a free pass to be 75 or more pounds overweight.

I began on my journey after Luther had his stroke.

Black women don't have to be a size 0. That's not my goal.

But, when I went into this, I began to read anything health related that I could find. Anything that said obesity in it, I was reading it.

And while genetics plays a role in health issues:

So much of it is UNDER OUR CONTROL.

So much of what ails ' us' is the ' bogeyman' that we can't control. We can come up with six different ways that our lives aren't our own, but are unwilling, for the most part, to step up to the plate and fight for what IS UNDER OUR CONTROL.

We're 142 years post the Civil War, why are we still eating a slave's diet?

We're literally killing ourselves. And, we're killing our children.

Nearly every disease out there has a diet and lack of exercise causal component. Obesity is killing us. It's not cute. There's a whole lot of difference between being a size 2 and size 24. Nobody's saying be a size 2. Just know that there aren't too many old people wearing a size 24 and above. There's a reason for that.

Kip said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kip said...

Marcus Garvey said: All mulattoes should be killed.

W.E.B. Dubois was mulatto and Marcus Garvey was a dark skin black.

At first, W.E.B. Du Bois gave tepid support to Garvey's ideas for black independence and to the idea of Garvey's Black Star Line. But by 1920 Du Bois had become deeply suspicious of Garvey's methods, ideas, and motives, and published his own damning expose of Black Star Line finances in The Crisis. The animosity between the two men became personal and venomous. W.E.B. Du Bois called Garvey the most dangerous enemy of the Negro race -- either "a lunatic or a traitor." He said Garvey "suffered from serious defects of temperament and training" and described him as " a little, fat, black man, ugly...with a big head." Garvey countered by calling Du Bois the Negro "misleader" and said Du Bois was "a little Dutch, a little French, a little Negro...a mulatto. Why in fact," Garvey wrote, "he is a monstrosity

Dangerfield said...

Yo Field execellent post. I agree with a lot of what has been said but I would like to add another thought into the mix.

I think thier is something that worsens all of our pathologies and that is the name calling/ridiculing/gossip and other mean spiritidness that festers in our community.

The reason why I believe this, is because even with all of the racism, poverty and other crippling issues we deal with all of these things are made worse when you have a culture that constantly ridicules and makes fun of people different or progressive and that emphasise some truly reprehensible things and discourages life enhancing things.

In black culture you will be made fun of if you have

African feature big lips, nose dark skin.

If you aint getting no loving by Junior high (specially if your a guy)

If you like to read and study and talk things other than clothes and a#s

If you only keep one women at a time.

If you treat your women with the utmost respect or if you give women the utmost props for thier commit to black children.

If you are honest about brothas not holding up thier responsibility.

If you work at mc donalds and others around are hustling you might be at looked as a fool in certain black communities.

We have a culture that teaches our youth and teens to not tell the police if they see a child murdured and on the other hand to show no respect and committment to education.

What I am saying is the self hate is perputually made worse and reinforced when you have a culture that emphasis gangsterism and teases people for loving to read and loving education.

In order for things to get better we must cut out the part of our culture that encourages us to emphasis ignorance and retarted behavior and embrace education, debate, learning an cooperation.

Even if many of us believe that dark skinn less attrative that dosent mean that D H Hugley should get on the Jay Leno show and call the Women Rutgers basketball team ugly.

If you keep telling people thier less than , ugly, or less than because clother, social status, looks, because like education and if the culture you have encourages such behavior everthing bad in thier lives will be made worse.

A women might be over weight but you still flirt and tell shes beatiful. Certain names and name calling that we in the black do to much should never be done.

Some say that racism is the cause for all of this in black people and that may be true but it dosent change the fact that these dysfunction are a part of who we now are and must be changed.

I personally think its part of the crabs in a barrel issue we have going on. We must change some of the mean spirited and extremely bitter aspects of african american culture.

Because until we do we will continue to tear each other down at the same rate and we will not be able to defend ourselves from the racism of the larger world.

Hathor said...

Black culture does value education; it has as long as our known history in this country. What is happening now is that we are letting the pop culture define black culture. We have accepted that the world didn't exist before mid 60's and let the "I have a dream" speech become a jingle. I think the rhetoric of the 60's started us down the road; that before then, our culture was invalid.

Christopher Chambers said...

I know this is off-point, but do you notice that white chicks like Fergie or Gwen Stefani or even Lindsay Lohan are trying to look and or act black, whilst our girls are blonding out their hair, starving themselves, getting their noses shaved down? I think Halle Berry is UGLY now. There, i said it!!! Skinny, bags under her eyes, that cute nose gone, hair stringy. Even Queen looks like a fat, swarthy-overly tanned white woman now. It took that HBO movie to remind me what she really looks and talks like.

But yeah, there is lookism everywhere. We and other people of color might have the added dimension of skin tone issues plopped on there but that's just another facet, not a whole different disease. There are ten whiteboys who can act circles around Brad Pitt; ditto for women and Angelina Jolie. But if Hugh Laurie gets shot on the street and Brad Pitt get's a hang nail--who will we naturally feel more sorry for? It ain't that ugly-ass "House!"

PS I did my first anti-Rudy Giuliani post on my blog. I feel refreshed...

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the focus, FN.

(Excuse the length--and the failure to spell check. Time.)

Lookism is a problem--and as noted it is not just a black problem. I do--as I said--beleive that it can have more acute effects in the Black community because of our internalizing of white supremacist standards which suggest that only exceptional blacks merit success--merit measured by what will be valued by whites.)

(I've taught in a professional school prep program. Participants were selected by blacks. The blacks were all exceptional good looking. The whites and other persons of color were not.)

So, notwitstanding a universalism of the problem, I believe that lookism--and--especially our definitions of beauty are such fundamental problems that, I believe, until they are resolved --in favor of native black standards of beauty--we cannot hope to nor will we be free. (OK, the sentence was too long.)

Again, we must be able to look at the main in our community--our pure forms, even--and find beauty. If we do not--but, for example, define ultimate beauty by white diluted forms only--we cannot hope to convince anyone that we are valuble people-not even convince ourselves. (If you can't think much of yourself, who else will?)

MI will try to beat this point in with a series of hypos involving role reversals: what if the great majority of all black women of moderate to great prominence exclusively sought after and coupled with white men? Would that not shout something sigificant and negative about the value the community placed on black men, on the value we saw in ourselves value? And to move from this--to lesser extreme, forget about white--what if black women aspired to and exclusively coupled with lighter or racially mixed black men? Would that not too say something significant about how we did or didn't value themselves.

Also wouldn't this also mean that we were--black women were- invested in and necessarily in celebration of whiteness--the necessary ingredient for your life partner.

I think that this is the necessary message black men send with a light skin fetish. For me, no matter the radical nature of the personal rhetoric, you can know that there will be limiits to a fetish driven black man's loyalty to his community.

I must question the judgment of any black man or woman who views the black community in its main as ugly/unattractive.

I, therefore, think that it is more than coincidence that strides in our progress coincided with our ability to say, "Black is beautiful." That a height of our advancement coincided with our willingness to celebrate absolutely dark skinned, and natural hair wearing women--the 70's. As we went Farah Fawcett, so did our progress and radicalism---and too the willingness of the government to take us seriouly.

I believe that prboably the most beautiful black woman to ever appear on TV was a woman from the seventies, very dark, open face, straight hair. I think her name was Peggy or Gail but she did a lot of bit roles--and was paraded as beautiful. I don't think she could even get work today. And, so goes the decline of our culture.

The fetish is also problematic because it also suggests to be critical about the imagery that we are fed. Stick thin is a trend. Not just Black men--didn't like it. Men preferred larger women. However, because the fashion industry (which is too much determined by gay men, who are--by definition--attracted to un-curved men--and by habit--YOUNG men--) tells us the curveless nymph is in, there go men diving in--even black men--at the diminuitive, pre-pubescent gay, anti-woman ideal.

We must think better than.

I could go on but I'll stop after making two other points. The first is to summarize: Beauty is deserving but I can't understand buying into a beauty standard that doesn't serve your interests. Two, here's a test I think one can adminster to determine whether one has a light skin fetish. Imagine the light skinned person as a dark skinned person, would she still be beautiful to you? If not, COULD BE just the skin color.

(Thanks, to ChasingMoksha. I want to blog but need to figure out how. Maybe, later this year.)

GiGi - The Shy Giraffe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hathor said...

There are very few so called pure black people in this country. And how is it that no African features can exist in light skin. It is more than lookism when it is determine that light skin makes someone beautiful it is colorism.
Colorism is more divisive among black people that lookism. If one is not the acceptable color in the group, there is some type of litmus test as too their validity. That can be quite destructive.

field negro said...

hathor, I understand your point when you throw colorism inot the mix, but I think raven...was agreeing with you about colorism affecting what we consider beautiful. I know there are very few pure black people in this country, but for the most part, we as black folks, still have distinct features that are more African than European.

Now I do think that ravenravings was generalizing when she said this:

"I think that this is the necessary message black men send with a light skin fetish. For me, no matter the radical nature of the personal rhetoric, you can know that there will be limiits to a fetish driven black man's loyalty to his community."

I know that there are a few brothers out there who are still like that, but I am pretty sure that they are few and far between.
(if I am wrong one of the sisters will check me on that)

I am with chris on this one. The more sisters try to Europeanize their features, the less attractive they become. Now if the sisters are feeling that way about us brothers, I think we are halfway there to solving our problem.

dc_speaks said...

excellent post, field. I talk about these issues on the regular.

again, using your blog to bring it to the front is great.

Kip said...

mulattoes should be separated from th black race and they should create their own culture this is how it is around the world. Then the light skin and dark skin thing will go away thse two should never have been put together.

JustMeWriting said...

This post is sooo on point. Looks have become the qualifer of life, things will just seem to fall at your feet with you 'look' deserving; or you can be ostracized and denied for the same reason.

We've been socially constructed to place the weight of ones worth on their appearence...people will enter into something (anything...from entertainment to a regular office job) and voluntarily modify their image or be forced to in order to maintain their status or position.

The other forms of 'image' superiority are statements like: ..."He comes from a good home" like AWWW, if he'd have come from any 'other' kind of home that would have been good for him.

Christopher Chambers said...

Interesting point on this pathology--Oprah had this battered sister on lats wekk. Light kinned lady, naturally auburn hair (even without the blonde hightlights). This big Ving Rhames-looking dude hooked up with her 20 years ago; they had four kids. His reason for getting with her: she was "fine and lightskinned." Now the case takes on national media attention b/c his brutish ass bullied their 16 year old son into videotaping some of the abuse this poor woman suffered. There's one section where he makes his kids call her a "white bitch." The outtakes from the show refer again and again to his calling her white or a lightskinned "ho."

His disease manifested itself in being attracted to women like her based on colorism, and them wanting to destroy her. Now, his disease goes way way deeper and more profound, but it sheds light...pardon the joke...on how this stuff rears it's head in terrible terrible ways. She was attracted to "dark skinned, flashy bad boys" for similar reasons of self-esteem , etc. growing up.

P.S. I've already gotten threatened from bonheaded fools attacking me for attacking Giuliani. WTF?

west coast story said...

Haven't read the whole thread. Will do so but I am struck by the reaction to rikyrah's innocent comment. I didn't get any "lookism" from rikyrah's post about the dead kid. Maybe I'm off base but I'm really surprised that this much attention is focused on lookism and there's no thread to deal with the urban terrorism that soaks our streets in blood. Specifically, what happened to rikyrah has barely been acknowledged but the off hand comment has generated a discussion that takes us completely away from the horrible act that initiated this conversation.

This goes back to my gripe about priorities. Five children were shot up and we are concerned about lookism. We are really a very touchy people in a lot of ways and it's too bad because it keeps us from dealing with the pathology in our community.

We had two young people murdered in my area over the weekend. That's what I want to talk about.

Anonymous said...

West Coast Story,

I see no downplaying of the mentioned brutalities. (I am hard time too with the brother from Detroit who beat down a 92 year old black man.) Rather, I view this thread as carrying forward a discussion of those horrific incidents.

We are struggling to explain or understand these situations. Rikyrah suggested that no explanation was available. She also unfortunately engaged in lookism (as, has been said, is regularly done.)

About reasons for the violence, I, for one, believe that it is a problem of self-hatred. Thus, a discussion of lookism, colorism, imported standards of beauty seem most germane.

I also believe they actually answer some of the whys. Theorists explain to me at a recent conference on childhood suicide that the emotional cabalt that causes kids to kill themselves is just that which may cause them to kill others--depression, self loathing. As in when a relationship ends, one can be so despondent that one can want to kill oneself. One can be so despondent that one would want to kill their ex-mate--or the ex-mate's new lover. Different expressions of the same emotional turmoil.

So, this thread is about identifying the source of the emotions/rationalizations that led to the bad acts. If we don't understand this, we are destined for continual future experiences.

That you did not see lookism in Rikyrah's post is because it has become so woven into our way of thinking that we're blind to it. We have accepted the measures--uncontested. And so we just busy ourselves judging ourselves against them--impossible standards that most of us will not be able to meet. That has to be depressing--especially given our more limited access and lack of willingness to take anti-depressants.

Furthermore, I think your post, West Coast, reveals another piece of the impossible standards--that we invite judgment of ourselves without due consideration of our psychology. This is, I believe, a received approach. This is lynching. Certainly without any considerations of psychology or gradations of culpability, we were hung. The perceived act was enough. Just behavior. But we are humans, and not animals. We are not just our acts. We are emotions and rationalizations. And as higher beings, we are determined by this--and should be understood through these.

This is how whites treat their presumed human children--no matter the evil committed. The first question asked by whites is why did Ethan do a or b. The first question asked by us about Jamal is . .. . Well, we don't ask questions about Jamal. We just authorize, legitimize, and celebrate any kind of state action against him.

Because--as with lookism--an imperfect black person is entitled to almost anything that comes his way--no matter his motivation. He should know better--if he's digested the lessons of our history with racism--which we embrace too. You have to be better than everyone else. If not, oh, well. So much rubbish.

Finally, see recent biography of Justice Clarence Thomas. Apparently, he has a serious color complex. And, apparently, it plays out in familiar (see above re: Oprah show.) Clarence Thomas despises, feels wronged by light skinned blacks. Yet, he married a white woman, and is raising the mixed race child of his sister. There, then, seems to be envy here as well. But there is hatred of Black people too. And, so, I believe goes Thomas's jurisprudence. Is an expression of his hatred of himself (instilled in him by both the colorism of Blacks and the white supremacy of whites) and the hatred of others (a drive by shooting on all the black community.)

Finally, really to FN, did you merely intend to say, "Ouch?" :-)

west coast story said...

I didn't see any lookism because there was none. If she'd said he was handsome because he was a fair skinned young man with straight hair, my eyebrows would have gone up. To say someone is a handsome young man or nice looking young man is more a colloquialism than a statement about how they actually look. How come we didn't pick up on the fact that he saved the life of another youth? That would make him very handsome, in my eyes. That would make him one beautiful brother.

I was more struck by TV One's shameful "Black Men Revealed" program where the vitures of fair skinned women over their darker sisters were discussed at great length than an innocuous comment about someone being handsome. (I haven't seen this disgusting program on the network lately so I will presume that someone had sense enough to be embarrassment by these ignorant black men and pulled it off the air.)

Maybe it would be appropriate to ask people how they define handsome because my guess is that we all have different standards for what that means.

Anonymous said...

With all due regard, West Coast, you're confusing issues. In regard to lookism, there are two separate ones. One, the suggestion that looks have value beyond their esthesism--however one defines good looks. Two--a different issue--how is it that one defines "good looks."

So, even if one believed a gecko was the model of good looks, one could suffer from lookism if one reasoned that because of a person was had ideal gecko looks that person's death would be more remarkable, tragic, or that the good-Gecko-looking person deserved a different form of justice.

I hope that helps.

west coast story said...

I understand both issues. I'm very comfortable saying that the young man who was killed was better looking AND had more worth than the youth who killed him. What made this young man who was killed a more attractive human being was that he seemed to be on the track to doing something with his life. He gave his life to save another, which is extraordinary. We aren't comfortable with any notion that suggests that all people don't have equal value. I'm not proposing genocide against criminals, I don't even support the death penalty, but let's not pretend that thugs who randomly open fire on innocent people have equal value with people who are not running around with a gun and using it indiscriminately.

I think what is bothering me most in this discussion is how it came up. It came up on the back of a dead kid because someone described him as handsome. This dead young man did have more worth than the person who killed him. If we can also call him handsome, all the better.

Perhaps if this topic had come up independent of a sensless killing, I might be expressing a different point of view. These kinds murders are not some abstraction for me so forgive me if I get a little testy over the pointless death of a young man who was doing nothing more than living his life. I feel this discussion in a way has trivialized who he was and what happened to him.

Anonymous said...

OT: The African-American Wellness Project

Anonymous said...

"This dead young man did have more worth than the person who killed him." West Coast Story

I don't agree witht this statement. When I see a kid murdered, I see two lives wasted. My heart aches for the one who was killed and the one who did the killing. Both of them deserved so much more for their lives.

Don't get me wrong, I thinkthat the one who did the wrong should be punished. But I dare not think that their life was worthless.


west coast story said...

It's hard for us to come to terms with the idea that there are socio-psychopaths in our midsts who act out extremely violent behavior. The fact is, with all the thugs running around on the loose, most of them don't kill people. Most of them will not fire a gun randomly into a crowd because they see someone they want to "get."

We tend to see all black people involved in "mess" as victims. Using the same yardstick to measure these two young men is just sad. There is a universe separating the shooter and the dead youth.

The shooter made a decision to fire a weapon into a crowd. If his life is "wasted," it was his decision. The dead youth didn't have a choice.

Anonymous said...

"We tend to see all black people involved in "mess" as victims." West Coast Story

I hope you you didn't interpret my comment as thinking that I see these two young men as victims because they both were black. The truth is that I have no idea what race these kids are. I'm assuming that they were. But that's me being presumptuous . However, my feelings have nothing to do with race.

Whether or not the kid that did the shooting brought this on himself doesn't make his life more worthless than the child he killed. The point is that his (the shooter) life was wasted. I see that as a great loss. And for the record: Because the shooter was so careless with the responsibility of making good/bad choices, he should definitely be punished. That's never a question of mine.

Also for the record: I have no problem believing that psychos are among us. In fact, I believe that crazy/selfish/severely mentally ill individuals are more plentiful than we realize.

Have a great evening.


Anonymous said...

"lookism" from rikyrah's post about the dead kid. Maybe I'm off base but I'm really surprised that this much attention is focused on lookism and there's no thread to deal with the urban terrorism that soaks our streets in blood"

west coaststory, you obviously have not been reading this blog. I have devoted countless posts to this subject. In fact, I have a running count of the murder rate in "Killadelphia" on my side bar.

So I am not sure what gave you the impression that I am not concerend about the horrific and detestable killings going on in our community.

I will not answer your comments regarding the choice of "lookism" for this post. Rather, I will defer to ravenravings' illuminating response to yuor query.

Tsedek said...

. Stop me if you haven't heard this one before: "She was really dark skinned BUT she was cute.

You gotta be kidding?? *_*

Francis Holland said...

I think that we could all learn a lot about ourselves by looking at how we feel about our color and others' colors through the lens of what I call "CEIBD," which "Color-aroused Emotion, Ideation and Behavior Disorder." Above Christopher Chambers tells about a man who appeared on Oprah because he felt compelled to get with light-skinned women and them torture them emotionally and physically (kids as well) about their light skin. Obviously this man has very deep emotional problems, perhaps even Extreme Color-aroused Emotion, Ideation and Behavior Disorder (ECEIBD).

What can he do about it? Probably nothing. In our society, it's psychiatrists who help people with extreme emotional problems that cause them to abuse their families. But psychiatrists have officially recognized that there are extreme Emotions, Ideation and Behavior around skin-color, even though cases like this one show that there are.

Cases like the one Christopher describes show that, for Blacks as well as whites and others, our emotions, thoughts and behaviors are OFTEN determined by our reactions to the skin colors of ourselves and of others, to our detriment.

Of course, politically it's always risky to admit that we have an problem that affects our thinking, emotions and behavior. But right now Blacks who have this problem and show up in emergency rooms are being diagnosed as schizophrenic at at rate twice that of whites, probably because they say (quite correctly) that "it seems like everybody's out to get me." In our society, many people and institutions ARE out to get him and that has resulted in complex feelings, thoughts and behaviors that need to be looked at realistically.

This is a question that psychiatrists either need to study, diagnose and treat or frankly admit that they do NOT study all mental problems, but only those in which the various modalities of white male domination of American society are not clearly implicated in the genesis of the problem.

Anonymous said...

Francis L. Holland,

You make a good point. I like the labels. They work. Can we say, "Michael Jackson?" I am always amused how commentators pass over the WHY of Michael Jackson's color change even as they work painstakingly through each of his various surgeries and skin treatments. They know that there is something there--a twisted admiration--perhaps--even a rational recognition of the benefits--of light skin but they dare not speak of it. To speak of it, I gather from reading Holland, is to recognize it as a clear disorder--not a proper order of things--for people to want or to celebrate white skin as a black people.

Blacks/black commentators talk about it as self-hatred--a psychological problem, true--but I think Holland's terms gives it greater specificity and revives the topic for current discussion in the context of our advanced understandings of psychology.

Again, until we can look at each other and see beauty we just can't hope to be free.

west coast story said...

FN: Thanks for the feedback. I am not suggesting that you haven't dealt with black on black crime (or random thug crime involving any race/ethnicity). The story of five youth getting randomly shot up is awful. Over the past weekend, several folks were murdered where I live. I live in the middle of this madness and so it's hard for me to wrap my mind around a concept of lookism in this context. I got stuck on the notion of five kids getting shot. Perhaps I'm just feeling overwhelmed at the violence that seems to occur everywhere.

field negro said...

no problem west coast story, I feel your pain. It's real! Not sure where you live, but here in Killadelph, we are feeling the maddness too.

francis, thanks for the info and the knowledge. It's always nice to hear from the hardest working man in the blogosphere :)


Christopher Chambers said...

FN--time for us all to bow our heads for jerry Falwell. I just blogged on it. Now there was an ugly man--inside and out...

MediaJunkie said...

It is the seemingly innocuous remarks that can be the most powerful and toxic over time, and what makes the "handsome" qualifier so significant.


west coast story said...

It's not significant to me. I'm more bothered by the fact that DL Hughley went on Leno and called the Rutgers players nappy headed and ho's and saying they were some of the ugliest women he'd ever seen. This is what I mean about priorities.

Together with the colored men from the "Black Men Revealed" program over at TV One, we have "revealed" some fairly serious issues that some black men have about black women.

Anonymous said...

Ms Rolle worked hard to project a positive image for US. She was an OK actress, but nonetheless, she did good for US.

The fact that she was very unattractive has nothing to do with her physiological africanness. She was just plain unattractive, like Bea Arthur was. It's not a race thing.

She had an annoying voice, her neck was VERY multilayed, like a stringed salami, and the overall shape of her head wasn't so great. I personally liked her gap tooth, as it's usually pretty sexy on sisters (I find). She had full lips, was dark and a flat nose, but so what? Those features were actually elegant, to me. Honestly, the overall physiology just didn't work out, period. Isn't it possible to be black and imperfect? What's that about?

Anonymous said...

It is our god given right as white people to pursue self-preservation of our race. This does not mean that any other race must be oppressed, discriminated against, or hated. Blacks have every right to wear the "Black is Beautiful" slogan, and wear it proud. Italians have every right to brag about their ancestry, as they always do anyway, regardless of whether or not it "offends" people.

But with whites, you see - it's a jealousy thing. The dirty little secret among non-whites is that everybody knows that whites are superior, but doesnt dare say it. Why ?

Its offensive, because everybody already knows this, and people don't see why such an obvious truth needs to be re-affirmed, and rubbed in their faces. With "Black is Beautiful", it's a statement which warrants doubt, and so affirmation is necessary. Thus, we have the shirts bearing that slogan, the acknowledgement of "rap music" as a legitimate art form, the mainstreaming of "urban" or "street" culture, and what have you. This is all affirmation in the face of doubt. Everybody knows whites are superior, in the same that way everybody knows "rap" is an inferior form of music.

In other words, if you wear a shirt which says "white is beautiful", it's tantamount to rubbing and obvious truth it in people's faces, kind of like being a sore-winner. If the smartest kid in the class was the only one to get an 'A' on the test, and went around wearing a shirt which said "I aced the test !", it may be true, but nobody would like that - it would be offensive. Wearing a "Black is Beautiful" shirt is okay, because there's doubt - it's not an obvious truth. Its like saying "I studied hard, I did relatively good, and I am proud of my C+". Nobody is annoyed by that, the way they are at the kid who aced the test and wears a shirt bragging about it.

The acceptance of urban culture, and the over-rated work of blacks in art, music, science, and everywhere else - is like adjusting the curve for the kids who got a C+ on the test, so that they dont feel bad. Everybody knows that whites are superior. It doesnt mean that blacks should feel bad, or be discriminated against. It just means that whites are superior. Of course, not every white is superior to every black. But by and large, statistically, whites are superior, and everybody knows it. Thats why "White is Beautiful" is offensive, because it's like being a sore-winner.

Anonymous said...

Everybody knows that niggers smell much worse than white people do when they sweat. Everybody knows that niggers cant be quiet in the movie theatre. Everybody knows that niggers have no respect for human life. Everybody knows that niggers cant use proper english. Everybody knows that niggers cant keep a house clean. Everybody knows the neighborhood has gone to shit, when the niggers move in and start propping crappy old jallopy cars up on cement bricks in the driveway. Everybody knows this is all true. And, everybody knows that regular black people hate niggers the most. Who gonna contest this ?

Anonymous said...

'Superior' my ASS!! More like the most arrogant,self-centered,delusional,STUPID,backwards,ego-mad,assinine,childish,hypocritcal and FULL OF IT bunch of petty,bitter,whiny,phony,insecure,inadequate dumb s**ts EVER!! And neither are your heavy metal or slasher movies or stupid reality garbage or your sicko porn 'art either a##wipe! Well look ugly,nonsense spouting,drunk,crackhead,dumba$$ trolls have come to offer 'perspective' more like make whites look WORSE than they already do. F--k off troll a-holes!!!

Anonymous said...

I've read the whole thread. I was loving it... until the end. WTF, anonymous assholes? WTF? Why come into a perfectly reasonable and intelligent discussion and just FART in it? I am ashamed of my race. Not all the time, but right now? Oh hell yes.

I apologize. I have no other contribution to the discussion.

Cindy said...

How to turn a pony into a show jumper. Click for more information.


Anonymous said...

I like your post a lot! You should write some more on this!Great job coming with such terrific post!


Unknown said...

Those look interesting. Keep posting.