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Yet we practice the European model of a racial hierarchy. And, having adopted it, any value we believe we independently, consciously or not, attach to different complexions in our community is merely a pathetic imitation of its racist beliefs at the societal level. So, in this new age of consciousness raising it must be realized that we cannot embrace a color-based hierarchy among Afrikans without, at some level, accepting as truth a hierarchy of color among humans. There is no denying that the social organization of our community along lines of color precisely mimics the order fabricated by white supremacy. Black America (Afrikans) serves as a classic microcosm in white supremacy’s global macrocosm. The only appreciable difference is that we "discriminate" without power.

Racism, Colorism and Power

By Larry D. Crawford (Mwalimu A. Bomani Baruti)

Most of us would have little to no problem agreeing that the range of color Afrikan people possess is awesome. Black, in all its splendid hues, is indeed beautiful. It should also go without saying, that this variation is useless as an index for judging individual beauty, intelligence, aspirations and the like. One’s complexion is intrinsically irrelevant to any and all of these qualities.

Yet we practice the European model of a racial hierarchy. And, having adopted it, any value we believe we independently, consciously or not, attach to different complexions in our community is merely a pathetic imitation of its racist beliefs at the societal level. So, in this new age of consciousness raising it must be realized that we cannot embrace a color-based hierarchy among Afrikans without, at some level, accepting as truth a hierarchy of color among humans. There is no denying that the social organization of our community along lines of color precisely mimics the order fabricated by white supremacy. Black America (Afrikans) serves as a classic microcosm in white supremacy’s global macrocosm. The only appreciable difference is that we "discriminate" without power.

Therefore, since in fact we are guilty of complicity, one of the most fundamental questions we need to answer is why it is so critically important to some in our midst that we not discuss the skin tone stratification that does in fact exist in our community. Why is it that even the most intelligent exchange we have about how we perceive and treat each other individually, as a reaction to others’ reaction against how much pigment the Creator gave us collectively, is considered taboo or "airing our dirty laundry," even among ourselves? There is nothing wrong with range in complexion, or in liking your complexion wherever it may fall along that range. That should be a given. The problem is in the heavy and almost exclusive fascination with one end of that spectrum, the end perceived as closest to the European.

The almost immediate response when opening this already tender wound again is, "Why do we have to go there?" "Why are we dealing with a dead issue?" The assumption is that if we don’t talk about it it will somehow just go away. Essential to this acquiescence is the belief that everyone, especially Europeans deep down in their hearts, if we just patiently show them how by setting a nonviolent moral example, wants race to become irrelevant. In other words, if we state that we bear no identity other than human, we will by default become this in practice and eventually reality. That is an attitude of the vanquished from fear, from ignorance. For as Bobby E. Wright warned negroes, negroettes and other lost souls, "It is pathological for blacks to keep attempting to use moral suasion on a people who have no morality where race is the variable." What really happens when we won’t talk about it, when it is left to fester, is that it gains power among those individuals who have a vested interest in not discussing it because they tend to benefit disproportionately from it (be they others or some of us falling at the overemphasized end of the spectrum or hungrily lapping up the crumbs given to them for maintaining divisions among their own). Political silence from the dispossessed always strengthens those privileged by the status quo.

Ignoring it will not make it go away. It never has. It never will. If history teaches us anything, it demonstrates when things that can harm us are intentionally ignored they will eventually return with a vengeance on those arrogant, fearful or even careless enough to dismiss them. Universal law does not allow us to perpetually sweep pain under a rug. It accumulates until there is too much to be contained. Then, it returns like "chickens coming home to roost."

But first, before we engage each other in any meaningful discussion of this issue, we must sort out and clarify our definitions. Colorism, not racism, is the correct term for describing the prejudices that Afrikans hold about each other and seemingly use against or to the advantage of themselves and others of relatively similar complexion.

In this respect, prejudice, which is an attitude, a way of thinking, must be distinguished from discrimination, which necessarily involves action. An attitude or thought is without power unless acted upon. Colorism, in the cultural context of group power, is an attitude. This article is couched in terms of power. There is no meaningful discussion of the individual or group without a central and causative focus on real indicators of power for the individual or group relative to other individuals and groups. This is not a discussion of influence because no matter how measured it is a function of power. Without the perceived potential threat of enforcement through an exercise of retaliatory power, influence is meaningless and, in fact, laughable. In the European cultural context, influence without the perception of a sufficient power base is ignored.

In the white supremacist cultural context of European society, Afrikans have never been in the position to exercise power against Europeans based on the color of their skin. Colorism is reflected in intragroup interaction. It occurs within a group. It operates at the level of family. Racism, on the other hand, has nothing to do with family. It regulates the distribution of resources between two or more groups through the actual or threatening use of power. It occurs in the intergroup arena and is unquestionably, viewed through the telling lens of history, the natural posture of Europeans toward Afrikans and every other people with color.

...racism [is] discrimination by a group against another for the purposes of subjugation or maintaining subjugation. In other words one cannot be a racist unless he has the power to subjugate. What blacks are doing is merely to respond to a situation in which they find themselves the objects of white racism.

Racism is a European manufacture. They planted and cultivated it everywhere they went. It is a tool of white supremacy that elevates the European and creates oppression and antagonistic infighting among the remaining disempowered population. Their first institutionalization of racism occurred in India but, of course, did not end there. In that they are global trespassers, it is a global phenomenon. They were and remain its carriers. Racism continues to be replicated wherever they "discover" new, untamed frontiers and "uncivilized" peoples. It remains constant in those places where they have physically departed but remain absentee resource controllers.

That racism, however defined, has finally come to be conceded by European intellectuals and their audience as a permanent social fixture should not be news to us. The power it gives the beneficiaries of white supremacy should never have been thought to be relinquished easily, if at all. Racism is not logical. It is not susceptible to moral reason. It can not and will not be peacefully negotiated away.

Consequently, to keep the thin veneer of racial harmony intact, racism’s definition has been modified to exonerate its source. New world order everyone-should-love-each-other-and-forgive-and-forget-what-they-systematically-and-savagely-
did-to-our-ancestors-and-still-do-to-us-because-we’re-all-human propaganda is designed to make us feel that they are being unfairly accused and victimized. Racism and colorism have become purposefully entangled to the point where, "by making racism everyone’s disease, you make it incurable...the universalization of blame implies that people of color must suffer discrimination without hope of escape."


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