VIDEO – ‘A Girl Like Me,’ Youth Documentary
Kiri Davis, Director, Reel Works Teen Filmmaking, Producer

Get set ya’ll..or not.  I guess it depends really on whether or not you care.  But for those that do…

BET’s "MEET THE FAITH" is going to attempt to tackles the issues of race, skin color and what it means to be Black in America on Sunday, December 9 at 12:00 p.m. ET/PT.

Issues to be addressed include whether or not there are different levels of blackness (i.e. the Rupaul’s, Condoleeza Rice’s, and Ward Connerly’s of the world).  Does the "one-drop" rule still apply (i.e. Jennifer Beals)?  Does having light skin guarantee an easier life?

BET will discuss the life of bi-racial author David Matthews, who "passed" as white for 20 years of his life and air comments from Senator Barack Obama on race and being attacked for his level of "blackness."

"Nobody questioned my ‘blackness’ before I announced I was running for President," says the Illinois Senator.

Other guest panelists include Larry Whitmore, writer/producer and creator of "The Bernie Mac Show," Elizabeth Atkins, author of the books White Chocolate and Dark Secret, and Bintell Powell, author of the book Betrayed.  They’re going to discuss what it means to be Black and if light-skinned blacks have an easier life.  Then, CNN Correspondent Soledad O’Brien sits down with Dr. Ian Smith to discuss growing up multiracial and challenges she has encountered in her career.  O’Brien also reveals how her childhood affects the way she raises her children now.

History has shown that Black people with lighter skin were treated better.  In the days of slavery, the dark-skinned Blacks worked in the fields while light-skinned Blacks worked in the house, hence the terms “field Negroes” and “house Negroes.”   It got so bad, that not only did the slave owners, who were often responsible for the lighter shade of brown his slaves had,  give lighter-skinned Blacks more respect, but so did the dark-skinned Blacks.

Remember Spike Lee’s 1988 film “School Daze” and the scene played out in a beauty parlor between the “jiggaboos,” otherwise known as the darker-skinned Blacks with nappy hair, and the “wannabe’s,” the lighter-skinned Blacks with straight often times weaved hair.  Or who could forget the film version of Alice Walker’s novel "The Color Purple" in which Mistah asked for Nettie who was “chocolate” colored with long hair but was given Celie, who was dark-skinned with nappy and short coarse hair instead.  This was followed by a grown up Celie dealing with the harsh realities of beauty and Mistah’s in-house mistress Shug Avery.

Then you had Black sororities and fraternities who used the “brown paper bag test” to deny entrance to anyone darker than the bag.

So you see, we’ve got issues.

Flier
What I will say is that this is one of those issues that have never gone away.  The most recent example I can turn to would be the "Light Skin Libra Birthday Bash" which was to take place at a Detroit ’s APT Club and was the brainchild of a self described “dark skinned” African-American Detroit DJ and party promoter.  The party was intended to let "light-skinned" Black women into a downtown club free.  In his defense, Ulysses "DJ Lish" Barnes, said that he had plans for “Sexy Chocolate” and “Sexy Caramel” parties too.  The party was cancelled after protests and threats of lawsuits.

Perhaps in the discussion on Sunday, we’ll finally get to the bottom of what’s behind the need for Black women to lengthen, lighten, and straighten their hair, bleach their skin, and even resort to plastic surgery to change their African features while their white counterparts are busy with botox for thicker lips, breast and butt implants, and tanning salons that darken their skin…just enough for them to still be white.  And don’t get me started on white folks in dreds!  Now that’s a conversation!

I wrote a while back about how I attended L.A. ’s Taste of Soul Festival on Crenshaw Blvd.  and observed for quite some time the activity at a booth selling hair extensions.  Black women, young and old, light and dark, crowded the booth to touch and feel the long straight flowing hair extensions that were guaranteed not to shed or to “nap up.”  This while nearby booths, offering free diabetes, obesity, and HIV/AIDS tests went virtually unnoticed.  I received a little hateration from some sista’s on that one.  I don’t know why though.  Own your shit.  If you like sporting weaves that resemble the texture, color, and feel of Caucasian hair, that is most often times bought from Korean owned beauty stores in the hood, own it.  It is what it is.

Jasmyneoldschool_2
The fact of the matter is, we aren’t running out to buy hair that’s nappy and resembles the texture of our own hair, no—we’re buying hair that looks like theirs.  I am no stranger to straightening, weaving, and coloring my hair, although blonde has never been my thing. But when I learned better, I left it alone.  And learning better for me meant having the opportunity to be around sistas and brothas who loved their hair in its natural state and to see that it is possible to go without a press and curl and still be cute.  It didn’t happen for me until my 20s, but it happened.

And my American sistas need not feel bad.  While in Africa, I witnessed the exact same behavior among our sistas there with their hair.

But before I get hit with a lot of emails accusing me of being a hater, let me say that there’s a difference between getting your hair pressed and flat ironed and buying 24 inches of something that you know ain’t yours.  And I don’t buy the excuse that it’s easier to manage your hair when its straight.  That may be true, but then why the extensions?  It’s a deep psychological thing having to do with how we view ourselves as Black women and how I believe that most of us are still trained to believe that white is better.  You may not know it, but this message has been cleverly feed to us from day one.  This is something that has been subconsciously passed down from generation to generation.  Straight and long hair has always been considered better than short and nappy hair.  Like I said before, it is what it is.  Where do you think the term “good hair’ came from.  And no—“good hair” did not mean nappy hair.

Just like I know that straight hair is often times the preferred looked for Black women when it comes to employment and dreds are not the business for Black men and women in corporate America, that doesn’t mean we aren’t there wearing them in those arenas anyway.

I’m not sure of any of you caught the story about 3-year-old Jayce Brown’s dreadlocks and how they caused him to be expelled from Southern Maryland Christian Academy in August.  Let’s really look at this for what it is.  For not conforming to their image of how his hair should be it’s clear to see the racism that still exists in America.

A couple of weeks ago while hiking, my friends and I were engrossed in a conversation about hair and how just because you had locs didn’t mean you were conscious ( i.e. Lil’ Wayne) and just because you wore your hair straightened didn’t mean that you were somehow less conscious than those folks that did where locs (i.e. Oprah Winfrey).  I’d say I can get down with that.  It’s definitely true.  I gave the example of how since I went through “the change” and started wearing my hair in locs that it went from “hey baby girl” to “hey sista.” 

I know I strayed off topic a little, but like I said, we’ve got issues.  Anyway, it’s all connected.  Hair, race, skin color, acting Black enough, etc.

At any rate, set your Tivos now.

BETs
“Meet the Faith”
Sunday, December 9th
12 p.m. ET/PT
www.bet.com

Note: This is one of those touchy subjects.  Feel free to post your comments, but remember #8 on my F.A.Q.s page when doing so and we won’t have any problems.  While you’re at it, just for the hell of it reacquaint yourself with #5 too.