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Black Like Who? Some Folks are Dying to be White

Under the new norm, anything goes, and few things are taboo. It seems like nothing is a given anymore. Before sex reassignment surgery if you were born male or female most likely, you lived and died that way. A medical or cosmetic procedure can now alter nearly every natural human feature. Laser surgery can permanently change eye color. Hair — that’s a no-brainer, think color, weaves or extensions. There are makeovers available for one’s BBF – breasts, butt, and fingernails. And Black people who so desire can change their skin color. That’s right. If you are a person of color and you dislike your appearance, you don’t have to stay that way.

“Say it Loud, I’m Black, and I’m Proud” was a 1968 hit song with a strong meaning by “the Godfather of Soul” James Brown. Sometimes, it seems as though Brown’s message of Black pride did not filter down to some Blacks in post-boomer generations.

Numerous high profile Black people are believed to have whitened their skin. Most notable is pop star, Michael Jackson. Some of the Braxton’s, fashion model Iman, rappers Lil Kim and Nicki Minaj are only a few among a growing list of celebrities who have chosen to shed their darkness and lighten up.

There are various ways to lighten dark skin. Glutathione treatments are popular. Depending on where you get the treatment, how many shots you take, and the maintenance doses required to keep you looking light and bright, the cost of regular injections can range from several hundred dollars to as much as $4000 per treatment. Skin-lightening can also have dire consequences.

In spite of the risk and cost, skin-lightening is not done exclusively by the rich and famous.

Glutathione treatments, bleaching creams, and other skin-lightening treatments are popular, not only in the U.S. but in other countries, as well, including India, Asia, and Jamaica where lighter skin tones are perceived as more beautiful than darker skin.

Although some skin-lightening crèmes are deemed to be dangerous because they contain mercury and cancer-causing chemicals, that doesn’t prevent the industry that sells the products from enjoying a booming business.

Many Blacks see skin-lightening as a rejection of black identity. What is it that causes some Black people to abhor their dark skin? Is it self-esteem? Vanity?  Mental illness? Anti-dark skin color bias and the notion that life and living are much easier when you are light or darn near white is an assumption that stems from slavery and racists propaganda.

How about you? Are you are a dark-skinned Black person reading this, if so, are you comfortable with who you are or are you shameless about changing skin color? Do you believe that dark skin color is the black man’s burden?

If you are conflicted, perhaps you will find some understanding about the subject in this stunning and sometimes graphic video. It includes a wealth of information concerning everything from the reasoning behind skin-lightening to the famous doll test. Teachers will certainly be familiar with the doll test. Set aside 20 minutes because once you start watching this video, you won’t want to turn it off.

 

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The Eye of the Camera Will Make You Fat

When I was a child in elementary school, on the first day of art class Mrs. Graves, our teacher gave each student a plain gray twin-pocket folder. She told us to store assignments that she would be giving us throughout the school year in the folder and keep it in the cubbyhole of our desk until she collected them. She then instructed us to write our name on the back of the folder and added that we had about 5 minutes to draw something of our choice on the cover. “Be creative,” I remember her saying. “Use your imagination.”

While we were sketching our amateurish masterpieces, she walked around the room. Stopping briefly at each child’s desk, she would look at the drawing and then hold up the folder for the class to see. Afterward, she’d offer encouraging comments about that student’s creation. Some of my resourceful classmates drew pictures of their home, a pet, or their family. One student sketched colorful birds perching on the branches of a leafless tree, and a couple of others attempted self-portraits. I looked intently at each folder. The skill of my classmates was evident. Then I looked down hopelessly at my naked cover.

As the teacher grew nearer to me, I became panicky because I couldn’t think of anything to draw. My brain was producing one big question mark. THAT became my cover. Question marks. Large ones. Small ones. Some were right side up, others upside down and sideways. Using every crayon in my Crayola box, red, yellow, blue, green, orange, brown, purple, and black, I covered the front of the folder with question marks and put down the last crayon as she arrived beside my desk.

Unlike the outspoken woman I became, the little girl back then was self-conscious and painfully shy. As I raised my arm and handed Mrs. Graves the folder, I simultaneously lowered my head to my chest, anticipating criticism for not being more creative.

“Curiosity. That’s what your drawing depicts.” She said cheerfully, after looking at my folder. “Lots of question marks. You are curious about things. Very good.” She handed the folder back, and I forced a smile as I exhaled.

I saved that folder for years and wished that I had it today. It must have been an omen because my insatiable curiosity hasn’t diminished over the years. To this day, I still ponder things that some folks wouldn’t give a second thought about; I want answers. I want to know the why behind the why.

Take photographs for instance. There is a common saying that the camera adds 10 pounds to the person in a photo. I’ve long wondered why people look fatter in pictures; then they do in person. Wait a minute. I think I hear the sound of the PC police approaching. Lest I be accused of body-shaming and offending someone, I’ll restructure the question. Granted that I already have more thickness than I desire I’d like to know why do I – let me emphasize I – look fatter in pictures?

According to Gizmodo, Business Insider and other sources of my research, the camera gives the illusion of people being larger than they are because cameras have a single lens through which they capture images while humans have binocular vision (meaning that we have two eyes). Our brains compensate for this double vision. When we focus on photographed images, we perceive depth and can see around the edges of objects. This perception can give the impression that an object is wider than it is, including our bodies. Other factors contribute to our perception of the images in photos including lighting, posture, poses, clothing, the angel (shooting position) and even the camera lens. When any of these things are askew, it can make images appear larger than they are. Viola! Extra pounds.

If my rudimentary explanation on why pictures make us look fat have you second-guessing whether you ever want to be photographed again, this short and entertaining video will provide some tips on how not to look fat on camera.

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Not Easy Listening

Today’s sound of music is a far beat from the 1965 Mary Poppins’ soundtrack. Old school sanitized hits like I’m Gonna Make You Love Me have been replaced by a genre of sexually explicit (some would say downright obscene) tunes like My Neck, My Back.

A sexagenarian (How’s that for a play on words?) friend of mine enjoys good music as much as I do. Like other mature people of our generation as we aged-out of youthful imprudence into responsible adulthood some things changed, but not our taste in music. However, unlike me, my friend can readily identify some of the contemporary and hip-hop artists about whom I know nothing and could care less. And while I consider much of the present-day music to be a waste of talent and airspace, he often defends it. But something that occurred recently when he was dining in a buffet-style restaurant gave him second thoughts.

When he began telling me the story, I figured that he was going to gross me out about the food. I didn’t want to hear that, because I have occasionally eaten at that place (that I will not name), although it has never been on my list of favorites.

It turns out that his complaint was not about the food or the service. His beef was over the sexually explicit lyrics in a song that was playing over the restaurant’s sound system as he was preparing to leave. He said he approached the owner and a clerk who were standing at the register near the doorway and in an unobtrusive voice complained that the music playing was unsuitable in a family diner. His expression of disapproval apparently motivated some other patrons who were standing nearby because a few of them chimed in. One man, who my friend guessed to be fortyish in spite of his backward-turned cap, said, “He’s right. There are small children in here. They don’t need to be listening to that s**t.”

Then, an older woman described as having the demeanor of a no-nonsense, church lady, added, “It’s a shame. This is a family restaurant. That music is totally inappropriate in a place like this. This ain’t some hip-hop joint.”

The owner apologetically explained that it was Sirius XM radio and added that he had no control over what the station was playing. As he left, my friend heard someone in the group (perhaps it was church lady) say, “Is it unreasonable to think that you could change the channel?”

When I asked my friend what was the name of the song. He said, he didn’t know it, but then he repeated some of the lewd lyrics. (Did you think that I was going to write those words here? Really?) No, I’m can’t name that tune either, but I’ll bet it’s on the Rankers list of rappers with the dirtiest rhymes. Finished reading this post, before your curiosity leads you to rush over to that page and check out the list.

Some of you readers may remember that in 1985, Tippy Gore, wife of Senator and later Vice President Al Gore, spearheaded an organization called The Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC). It championed the cause for including Parental Advisory labels on albums containing foul language and explicit lyrics.

PMRC faced strenuous objection from numerous people, including many in the music industry like John Denver, Ice Tea, and Frank Zappa, who protested that the proposed labeling would result in censorship.

In his book, “The Ice Opinion” published in 1994, Ice T wrote, “Tipper Gore is the only woman I directly called a bitch on any of my records.” In the same book, he later seems to express regret, saying, that he was 15 years old during the time of the PMRC controversy. He continues with, “I am now 41 years old and the father of two teenaged girls.” Ice T, whose real name is Tracy Lauren Marrow is now 60 years old with three daughters. I wonder how much has he changed his tune?

Although Tippy Gore and three other women whose husbands held prominent positions were successful in forming the PMRC, that guidelines and rating system did not last.

The current Parental Advisory warning label, trademarked by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) grew out of the PMRC. It was introduced in 1990, the same year that PMRC shut down. The label, now affixed to germane music products and other merchandise, does not control what is broadcast over radio programs. And while some broadcasters play edited versions of songs to eliminate content that may be considered objectionable or age-inappropriate, owners of restaurants and other businesses should assume some responsibility for music played in their establishments.

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Me Too: Why Women Hesitate to Speak Up

Watching the Kavanaugh hearing this morning is difficult for me, as was the Clarence Thomas vs. Anita Hill testimonies. It is resurrecting memories from an evening in the 1970s when I had an unfortunate encounter with a person in an authoritative position who I once thought was a friend. As I tussled with him and told him numerous times to stop, I interjected what I thought would jog him to his senses, “I will report you to the police.” “Go ahead,” he sneered. “Do you think they will believe you or me?” The only thing I know that stopped the attempted rape was my silent prayers to God, because for no other reason that I can think of my perpetrator suddenly released me and left. I never talked to or saw him again after that. But if he is ever a candidate for a prominent position and I have the opportunity I would indeed speak up about his character as I remember it that evening.

Until this day, the only person I ever told about that incident was my best friend. I didn’t even tell my mother. Sadly, my confidant died a few years ago. I will always remember and appreciate when I telephoned him, in tears, and told him what had happened how supportive he was. “Report him to the police. Right now. I will go with you.” He said. I was a young, divorced mother of two, and as Dr. Ford said, “terrified” so I never reported the attempted sexual assault.

Because I didn’t report it, doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen. So for the holier-than-thou women and men who might be judging Dr. Ford (and other women in the me-too movement), I say this. Women do not forget things like that. Not in days, weeks, years, or decades. The terror of such an encounter never leaves you. So, if you are a woman or man standing in judgment, I pray that you are never a victim of an assault of any kind.

Whenever I hear about women, who have been assaulted and remained silent because they felt that they would not be believed I feel like crying.

Decades ago, one of my cousins was raped in her junior high school. My mother told me about the attack, and I’ve never forgotten that conversation. I was shocked that such a thing could happen inside a public school and more surprised that it could happen to someone I knew. At that time you didn’t hear about things like that occurring inside a school. Although my cousin and I are occasionally in touch, I have never mentioned it to her, but I do not doubt that she is still dealing with it. I will not name her here. If she chooses to tell about the incident, it is her story to tell, and I will leave that to her.

As Former Prosecutor, Cynthia Alksne said on MSNBC this morning, during a break in the hearing, “When you are the victim you remember the trauma.”

 

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Gimme a Head with Hair:  My Own

I think every woman should have a daughter. Take my daughter, for instance. Some might say that when she was a tot, she was a mini-me. But as children do when they grow older, she came into her own. And now the tables have turned. Wherein I used to advise her about fashions and hairstyles, now she encourages me to become more contemporary. That’s difficult to do when you are comfortable being old-school and not much for fakery.

Mind you; I’ve worn my hair in a short afro for what seems like a hundred years; except for a few weeks last year when I deviated from my natural and decided to try something different. Recently, I stepped out of my zone again and accompanied my daughter to her favorite weave salon. After we left there, she jokingly told me that I would probably not be allowed back in that shop, because of the way I “coached” the hairdresser working on my head.

“No, that’s too much hair.” “Uh-uh. That’s too long, cut it down.” “Twist it more to the left.” “I need a style with a bang to cover my high brow.” And those were just some of my well-meaning directives.

Undoubtedly, the thought of grabbing some clippers, shearing off every strand on my head and then saying, “How do you like it now?” occurred to the stylist more than once. But, during the two hours that I sat in her chair while she cornrowed and weaved until I was satisfied (or so she thought), she was professional and patient. And I’m sure the tip I handed her afterward made enduring my complaining worth it.

Need I say that I finally yielded to the suggestion of the stylist and left the shop with a style that I believed had me looking more like Whoopi Goldberg than myself? I had no problem with the cornrows in the back. That’s what I asked for. However, the stylist could not get the front of my hair to look the way it did in a photo that I showed her. In fairness, she tried, but whenever she thought she was done and said, “Nice.” I shook my head and replied, “Ugh. Not so.”

Finally, after growing tired of her snipping and clipping, I relented. The stylist seemed pleased (or relieved). My daughter said it was a nice do. And I felt … well, let’s say that the hairdo is not me. To add insult to injury, my daughter snapped a photo of Whoopi-Me while we were on the way home.

Afterthought:  Years ago, after I left the workforce, I freed myself from being a slave to facial makeup. Just like my daily commute, the every morning application of face paint has become another thing gladly left in my past. Now, I only wear makeup on rare occasions. However, while sitting at my dining room table grumbling over dissatisfaction with my hairdo, even with it swept to one side, and contemplating what to do with it, I had a lightbulb moment.

I decided to see if makeup would make me feel better about my hairstyle, so I applied some. Low and behold, as it often does for most women, the makeup transformed me from I hate it – to – I can live with it. As you can see from the before photos (Numbers 1 and 2) and the three subsequent photos, I look like I feel better about the hairdo. And I do. Nevertheless, I am certain that sometime sooner more so than later, I will wake up one morning and decide that I’ve had enough. I’ll want the real me back, and my ultra ego will stop humming the song from the musical Hair. “Darlin’, give me a head with hair, long beautiful hair.”

 

 

 

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