Filmmakers Explore Prejudice Toward Dark-Skinned Women Within Black Community

Ralf Nau

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men or better Black women, just better human beings on the planet.

EBONY: Would you agree that this movie shows how intercultural racism is just as devastating, if not more so, than racism from others?

Duke:    Oh, there’s no doubt. I mean, you know, it’s like you’re saying, the sin of commission and omission. The sin of commission and omission are social in the sense that if I have a film or a piece of media and there’s a positive image or there’s something beautiful or something just wonderful, you’re not there. Whatever looks like you is omitted, you’re not there. But when there’s something that’s buffoonery or something that is laughable, you are there. See, then there’s the sin of commission which also starts with your family. I was a dark-skinned boy, of course, and I’m still a dark-skinned man. But our own families, you know, joking. Your uncle may say, “Come here, crybaby. Come here, nappy head.” They’re not trying to hurt you, but in terms on their sense of beauty, your little Black persona, that’s something to them that’s comical. And so if I ever said to my uncle if you ever said to uncle, “You’re hurting that young man by saying that,” he would say, “What are you talking about?” But, it’s no less a negative impact than someone calling you a nigger or someone saying you’re ugly.

EBONY: Would you say that the media definitely perpetuates self-hate by defining beauty as light-complexioned women with Eurocentric features? We don’t really see ourselves as beautiful and especially not women whose complexions are pretty much as you deal within the documentary.

Berry:     I think that the media has a lot to say in how we think about ourselves and how we’re portrayed within other ways. It’s kind of easy to point at a magazine because we’re not there. We’re not held up to the standards of beauty that Caucasian women are help up to. When you look at these magazines or you look at Hollywood or the television or film industry, you see that these are things that our women don’t like. And Bill talks about this thing of issues of fashion and makeup and how these things change every season. It’s almost like the dangling carrot in front of a horse he keeps going for it and it’s pushed further and further and further away, but you’re spending more and more money dealing with trying to look like that particular image that’s presented to you and it’s devastating. It can be really devastating because the further and further you go into it, the further and further you can lose your identify. It’s an issue with us anyway having a lack of identity because when you think about it, we’re the only people who have undergone up to six different name changes. Every 40, 30, 50 years we go through a name change and I don’t know of anybody else who’s done that. I mean, Negro, then Black to Afro-American, African-American to colored. It’s tough enough trying to find our place. So these are probably some of the main reasons why we don’t know who we are and how we have a lack of identity.

Duke:    Well, the irony is, and Chann’s right on it, we address this in the movie from a sociology point of view, a psychological point of view, socioeconomic point of view, all those points of view so that it’s not a pity party. We imagine it in a way that from statistical information that’s been gathered over years, from the moment we landed on this continent, what we have been through and who we are now is the result of that process. But the ironies of it are, and I was looking at the footage yesterday, is severalfold. Right now, in India, the largest selling cosmetic is skin bleach cream for Indian men, because Indian women want to marry successful men, and if your skin is darker in an Indian culture, it means you’re working the field because you’re exposed to the sun. If your skin is lighter, it means you work in an office because you’re pale. Another irony is that we went to a tanning salon and these two White females are sitting there and we’re asking them, “How often do people come in to get tans?” They say at least once a week and we say, “Well, why do White women come in here to get tans, to make their skin darker?” And the woman literally says, “Because it makes them feel better about themselves.” Is that ironic? Here we are getting lighter, and they’re trying to get darker. Is that insane?

EBONY: The film has been two years in the making, correct?

Duke:    Yes, it’s taken awhile for us to really think through the vision