0

A Love For Light Skin

EDITOR, The Tribune

Last week, during the PLP’s rally, Patricia Deveaux introduced Senator the Hon Dr Michael Darville with specific language. Her words used described and amplified her colleague’s intellect and skill set based on his skin tone as opposed to other dark people who she suggests only bring heat. She expressed unequivocally that Dr Darville was a “real” doctor because he is not only, as she stated, “light skin” but also because he is “handsome (and) curly hair”—a statement which suggested that Darville holds a monopoly on knowledge because of his assumed proximity to whiteness. While Deveaux’s comments are both ignorant and incorrect—because neither matter when physicians are conferred their credentials—her comments not only bring to the fore a type of arrogant and unfettered mediocrity which pervades Bahamian politics, but it also demonstrates how vestiges of the colonial project continue to permeate and manifest itself in the Bahamian reality. It is most necessary and almost imperative that we focus on how her comments reveal a type of colonial continuity that whiteness is more desirable.

While it is easy to write Deveaux in the books of history as a colourist and self-hating Black woman who may praise eurocentrism and desire white recognition, Deveaux and her comments are part of a much larger structure of white western imperialism and colonialism that should be addressed. As a former colony, white supremacy continues to infiltrate our political structures and most of all the political imagination of Bahamians. We see this trope of white superiority manifest itself in the Bahamas daily as whiteness receives unlimited access to Bahamian resources while “darkies” are kept on the outside with unimaginable forms of bureaucracy which limit progress. Similarly, we see white supremacy through the mass accrual of concentrated wealth among whiteness while “darkies” live below the poverty line. It is important, however, to note that these oppressive circumstances are not pathological and should not be seen as a form of inherent inferiority among “darkies.” Instead, it should be seen as what it is, an anti-black and systemic, institutional phenomenon of colourism born of racism and the entire legacy of the colonial project. In this same way colourism, or the extent to which people of a lighter skin hue receive more degrees of freedom and privilege, cannot be separated from forms of misogynoir, homophobia, ableism, and ageism which are inherent to the Bahamian culture and are part of a long-complicated colonial history.

To understand colourism then, there is no need to look far. All that is needed is an honest and introspective look into ourselves and the ways in which we desire to be more like whiteness; in our actions and appearance. We make Black men cut and comb their hair to be more “respectable”—as if respectability has ever gotten us anything. We make our women straighten their hair, bleach their skin and practically starve their bodies to achieve a sort of whiteness that does not exist. Then, when those around us do not meet our criteria of whiteness, we victimise them, discredit their knowledge, disrespect their work and remind them of their place as “darkies” like Patricia Deveaux did.

Though sometimes nuanced, white supremacy and our internalised oppression and beliefs of inferiority make discussing colourism and its reality so hard to talk about and identify. I am, however, aware that we did not arrive at this place overnight and we will not get free overnight either. Therefore, if we are going to build communities that are authentic, we must do the work and engage in explicit discussions surrounding the denial of beauty in blackness and the desire for whiteness and white recognition.

SHELBY A E McPHEE

Nassau,

February 12, 2020.

Comments

jt 8 months, 1 week ago

A much better written letter than most, well done.

0

joeblow 8 months, 1 week ago

The robust sales of 100% human hair products along with skin lightening creams highlights the ingrained insecurities most Bahamian feel about their appearance, regardless of skin color!

0

themessenger 8 months, 1 week ago

Interesting reading, but rather ambiguous.

" white supremacy continues to infiltrate our political structures and most of all the political imagination of Bahamians. We see this trope of white superiority manifest itself in the Bahamas daily as whiteness receives unlimited access to Bahamian resources while “darkies” are kept on the outside with unimaginable forms of bureaucracy which limit progress. Similarly, we see white supremacy through the mass accrual of concentrated wealth among whiteness while “darkies” live below the poverty line"

Of course, there are no poor white people in the Bahamas, not now, never have been.

Once again trying to place the blame for the last 50 years of our successive black governments' failure to lift us out of "Colonialism" and create the level playing field they keep telling us about and the pundits' constant deflection whenever the topic of racism or color is raised.

Do the issues black Bahamians supposedly have with poor self-esteem really stem from lack of whiteness, "brightness" and good hair, or have they more to do with a failed educational system, voodoo economics, and continued tribalism?

Last time I checked we have plenty of very wealthy and socially successful BLACK Bahamian role models to fashion ourselves after, and the color of money and envy is, and always has been, green not black or white.

0

Well_mudda_take_sic 8 months ago

A lot of words to describe what is essentially a well known type of culturally ingrained caste system the world over. Absolutely right though that it will not be changed over-night. It may in fact take centuries of inter-racial marriage to fix skin colour discrimination. In the meantime I'm not inclined to try change my skin colour for fear of what happened to Michael Jackson when he tried to do so. Better to learn how to become secure with one's own natural skin no matter what shade of colour it is. And then pity the wrongful serious character flaw of those who try to define others by their skin colour; they are afterall racists!

0

Sickened 8 months ago

The vast majority of black people are quite happy with their lot in life - why else do they not advance in life. After all it's easier to blame something (anything) than to start saving for the future. The average black man intends to spend what he earns, the white man wants to leave his kids more than he had starting out.

0

Well_mudda_take_sic 8 months ago

Darker skinned Bahamians can only pity you and other 'proud' self-confessed racists like you.

0

Sign in to comment