Behind the Color Lines


Last week I saw one of the ugliest tweets that I have seen in a while, and for the first time in a long time, the comment didn’t make me angry. I’ll admit that I was irritated but not irate, which shows that I am growing and learning to take ignorance just for what it is—a lack of knowledge. The tweet that I am referring to is the infamous tweet written by singer/songwriter/producer Tank.

For those who may be unaware of the story, allow me to fill you in on the details. Apparently Tank, an African-American music artist, posted a picture of his girlfriend, a light-skinned African American woman on his social media site. According to Tank, when he posts pictures of his girlfriend, he gets a lot of shade (i.e., negative and unfounded, derogatory comments) from dark-skinned African-American women.  Because of this, Tank apparently was fed up and wrote the following tweet: “I have an honest question.  What do dark skinned women have against light skinned women? Aren’t we all black at the end of the day??”

When I read the tweet, there were a few things that registered in my mind. First, I thought about how insecure he must be.  He is a dark-skinned man, yet he seemed to vilify the female version of himself.  While he maintains that his statements were made in defense of his girlfriend, he did not limit his attack to those who he felt had attacked his woman.  Instead, he placed the blame on all dark-skinned women for the actions of a few.  This is a terrible overgeneralization, but even worse, he mischaracterized an entire group of women—women who probably resemble his mother during her earlier years.

Second, I thought about colorism and the cultural evolution that is taking place within the Black community. It seems that you can’t turn on the television, log into a social media site, or read an internet page, in general, without hearing about how the Black struggle has changed.  So many people are rushing to claim that we have reached a post-racial society and that the struggle is no longer.  They cite Barack Obama’s presidency and a number of other Black firsts and notables as proof of their stance.  They speak of all of the evolution that has occurred.  When I read the tweet, I thought, “If we’ve evolved so much as a community, why are we still holding an ideal as antiquated as colorism?”  Everyone wants to scream about how far we’ve come, yet there are many celebs—black male celebs in particular—who are quick to make off color jokes and/or disparaging comments about dark-skinned Black women.  Need I remind everyone of the Kevin Hart tweet?  It’s just ridiculous.

Finally, I thought about why I wasn’t upset with Tank. To be honest, I know that people who make such comments do it to get a rise out of people, but I didn’t feel angry.  Even though I fit into the demographic that Tank wrote about, I wasn’t upset because I truly felt that his comment was more about his own insecurities and not about my self-worth.  As I alluded to earlier, if a person can make hateful comments about someone that closely resembles him/herself then s/he is insecure.  In short, no one who is secure puts down someone/something that is reminiscent of him/herself.

While I realize that his comments would have made me angry years ago, I can, now, recognize that I have turned a new leaf. I am no longer as offended by the ignorance of others.  Though he is a somewhat successful artist, writer, and producer who has grown a career with the support of the very women that he bashed during his tweet, he is still capable of ignorance, which showed in the hastiness of the tweet (done in anger) and the overgeneralization of his comments.  As such, I couldn’t feel anger but, rather, sadness and compassion.  He is an insecure man who has to denigrate others in order to validate himself. It’s sad.  He’s sad.  So instead of being angry at him or his tweet, I felt sorry for him and how misguided and insecure he was.  In the end, I was torn between two emotions—happiness and sadness, happy about my personal evolution in this matter, yet still sad to see another man in our community play the colorism game with Black women.

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