This post is a part of a continuous series on Woman and Beauty. Read the others you missed here. Throughout this series I have looked into myself and at the world around me. I have went on a journey of deconstructing and then reconstructing my idea of beauty.
There is a strange phenomenon that has begun to take place in America. I don’t know when it started but it is beginning to not sit right with me. It was something I first saw happen when I stayed in California for work. The first time it happen I was hanging out at a bar on the Sunset Strip and chopping it up with a very nice looking young lady. I was giving her my Mack Daddy Five and trying to learn more about her. An exert of the conversation went sort of like this:
Myself: So, where you from? Cause they say everyone that lives in L.A. isn’t from here originally?
Young Lady: Oh, I’m not! I’m German, Manchurian, Dutch, Portuguese, Puerto-Rican, and…. Black!
Myself: Oh really??Your family is from all those country and backgrounds?
Young Lady: Oh no! I’m from Cleveland!
As comical as that snippet of conversation was it is 100% true. The woman listed all of those ethnicities in her background. She wasn’t that much of an exotic looking woman but I was still thinking like damn this girl is the true essence of and a potential “International Lover” like Prince said. But, come to find out she was actually was just from Cleveland Really??!!!! SMH!
The conversation I briefly wrote about above happened a few years back but now it seems like women (particularly black) are trying to identify themselves with everything other than their blackness. The phenomenon I have described above is the idea that some black women feel they have to downplay their blackness like being black isn’t good enough. I understand a woman who is of a mixed race will want to identify with who they are but if your parents/grandparents are from Chicago and Birmingham I am really finding it hard for me to believe that you have all those nationalities in your immediate background.
Every time I turn around it seems I am either reading or hearing a woman who is clearly African-American go on and list off at least four different ethnicities she is “apart” of. So, now just because you kind of light skin or have a somewhat different look you can automatically add ethniticies to your heritage? How are you part Venezuelan and only know ‘Hola’ and ‘Como Se Dice’? It is just strange to me this identity issue when it comes to beauty.I mean I have seen women who are darker than Flava try to add four different nationalities onto their family tree.
Why is someone not comfortable with saying “My Name is Crystal and I’m from Philly .”? Is there something wrong with identifying yourself as beautiful and at the same time embracing your black heritage? Everyone in this country has a bit of German, English, Dutch, and Spanish because of the slave trade but to identify with a heritage that doesn’t even embrace you and have no knowledge of it is very suspect to say the least
Is this part of this new age of black beauty manifesting itself into a new age Imitation of Life? Is this a new age version of “passing” that is happening?
Imitation of Life is a powerful movie made twice in 1934 and in 1959 that tackles the idea of identity race and beauty. I have only seen the 1959 version starring Lana Turner, Juanita Moore, and Susan Kohner. If you haven’t seen Imitation of life, Lana Turner stars as a would-be actress who is raising her daughter on her own. She chances to meet another single mother at the beach: African-American Juanita Moore. Moore goes to work as Turner’s housekeeper, bringing her light-skinned daughter along. As Turner’s stage career goes into high gear, Moore is saddled with the responsibility of raising both Turner’s daughter and her own. Exposed to the advantages of the white world, Moore’s grown-up daughter (Susan Kohner) passes for white, causing her mother a great deal of heartache. Meanwhile, Turner’s grown daughter (Sandra Dee), neglected by her mother, seeks comfort in the arms of handsome photographer John Gavin. When Moore dies, her daughter realizes how selfish she’s been; simultaneously, Turner awakens to the fact that she hasn’t been much of a mother for her own daughter, whose romance has gone down the tubes. (Source)
There was a time where women were proud of their black beauty and men were proud to honor a black woman’s beauty. It seems like now we want to have and do everything unassociated with the culture. I understand a woman wanting to stand out and maybe even can somewhat a woman pushing their exoticism because of the industry but why do you need the exoticism when you are a manager at Macy’s? I have had my identity pushed hence the purpose of the War and the Beauty posts. I also have delved into my own personal color complex situation and somewhat addiction to exoticism in “To Redbone or To Not Redbone?” I understand how even men such as myself can proliferate this idea of exoticism with our ideal of what beauty is. We as men have done our part as well to push the idea of exoticism just as much. Do we as men become more fixated on getting a woman who is exotic looking or “passing”?
They used to say that in the 70s and 80s that the way women would try to display their exoticness was by shouting that they were Creole. Now they just say they have Dutch, Indonesian, Russian, Peruvian, and don’t forget black…
Let Me Hear Your Thoughts…
- Woman Trouble: Douglas Sirk’s Imitation of Life (kubrickontheguillotine.com)
- Imitation of Life: The Sad Modern Adaptation (omegetymon.wordpress.com)
- “This Nigga…” Say What?! (fancyayancey.wordpress.com)
- On Race, Feminism, and Jodie Landon (racialicious.com)
- An Open Letter to My Unborn Child (ashy2classy.net)