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Are Dark-Skinned Black Women Perceived to Be the “Ugly Sisters” of Bi-racial Women?

July 16, 2012

Thandie Newton is a remarkable actress and human being.  But I have to admit that when I first laid eyes on her in a commercial for the movie “Mission: Impossible II”, I was not sure whether she was a black woman.  The commercial showed flashes of her and with her pale complexion, rail thin physique and bone straight hair she could have been of any race.  Later I would learn that she is mixed, the child of a Zimbabwean mother and a British father.  It is this bi-racial background that has made many of us shocked and appalled to find out that she has been successfully casted to play Olanna, the voluptuous, brown-skinned and strikingly beautiful Igbo heroine of the film adaptation of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s award winning book “Half of a Yellow Sun”.  Simultaneously, the lovely brown-skinned Anika Noni Rose will play Olanna’s unattractive dark and boyish-framed fraternal twin sister Kainene.

To me, the casting may reveal the embedded prejudices of Hollywood.  Did the people who casted the film find it hard to conceive of a strikingly beautiful brown skinned, shapely and unmistakably Sub-Saharan African woman?  Is the term “black and stunning” so much of an oxymoron in their minds that they had to choose someone who is half white?  Is the idea that shapely is more attractive than thin so untenable that they casted the shapelier woman to be the “ugly sister” and the thinner woman to be the “beautiful sister” and thereby disregarded Adichie’s descriptions?   I’m reminded of a Facebook conversation that I had with Kola Boof in which she said that she literally could not get an accurate film adaptation of  one her books because the protagonist of her book is a sexy charcoal skinned lady and movie execs could not fathom a sexy charcoal skinned beauty.  This insult was not lost on the Nigerian people and in January of this year a Nigerian woman named Ashley Akunna created a petition on change.org to protest the casting.  These are some of the most poignant words from the petition.

“Thandie Newton is an accomplished and talented actress in her own right. However, she is not Igbo, she is not Nigerian, and she does not physically resemble Igbo women in the slightest…This petition is important, because we live in a world where mass media sells us the belief that white, and anything close to white is right, and black is not only wrong, it is unattractive, and undesirable. We are indoctrinated into these beliefs consciously and sub-consciously through media images. Like many other countries in Africa, Nigeria suffers from the epidemic of skin bleaching. ..This casting choice is an abomination to Igboland…This petition is not an attack on Thandie Newton or bi-racial people. It is simply a demand for accuracy and authenticity.”

The demand for authenticity is a demand to be human and to be seen and appreciated as we are as black people without the pressure to be mixed in order to be perceived favorably.  There are roles in which the complexion of the character is not a part of the movie or where the character is specifically bi-racial.  The role of Olanna is not one of them. 

Let me be vulnerably honest, I’m saddened by the thought that women like me or Anika Noni Rose may usually be perceived as and portrayed as the “ugly sisters” of biracial women.  I hope that love is enough for our collective healing.

Here are my other random thoughts.

The image of a stunning brown woman like CNN’s Aisha Sesay came to mind when I read about Olanna.

 

Other more appropriate pairings might have been the more voluptuous Genevieve Nnaji as Olanna and the thinner Adepero Oduye as Kainene.

 

If more known American actresses were needed than perhaps Kerry Washington (she should put on a few pounds) as Olanna and Regina King as Kainene.

 

64 Comments
  1. I did not read this entire article because I just can’t handle it but to suggest Regina King play “the ugly dark skinned twin sister” is insulting to me. Regina is by no means ugly nor unattractive AND I don’t consider her dark skinned. How about casting some one that fits the description? Someone not typically, commonly considered beautiful albeit their features, face shape, skull, jawbone, teeth et cetera but can REALLY act.

    • Loveessence permalink

      Oh Ms. Bernadette. So sorry to have offended you. In my view, none of the actresses mentioned are ugly. All of them are beautiful. To be honest, I actually would not call anyone ugly. But someone has to play the role. :-) In thinking of other potential cast members I was more focusing on size and body type and softness of features rather than actual facial beauty.

  2. Asantewaaspeaks permalink

    Thanks for this post. Some people were calling the lady who started the Change.org petition insecure and accused her of low self-esteem. I was disgusted by that. I mean are those people living on another planet? How are dark skinned black women supposed to be secure and confident when Hollywood goes through all sorts of acrobatics not to place us in desirable roles in front of mainstream audiences? There are entire industries such as skin bleaching and silkly hair extensions which are worth billions of dollars and are predicated on black women feeling less than beautiful as we are.

    • Tina permalink

      Well, self-esteem can only come from oneself. YOU have to find things about yourself that you are special. Nobody can give you selfworth; it’s something you have to learn and acquire for all on your own. Because all people, Hollywood, media should be able to do is affirm what you already know.

      Anytime I’m I’m a wavering with the experiences I have in this country, I always remember this quote “Your value as a person is not dependent on how you are treated but on what you do.”

      Please remember that, because I’m sure you were put on this earth to be more than a puppet for visual pleasure and only appreciated for being a pretty picture. People can tell you that a thousand times in your life, but it will never give you self esteem -ever. Trust me on this one, because it’s hell knowing that the only claim you have in life is something that slipping away by the year and can be taken from you anytime according what people like at the time. People’s tastes change what’s ugly today is hot tomorrow, so just keep focused living to be the woman you were meant to be on this planet.

  3. I realized that Black women fuel this issue. We praise light skinned women just as much if not more than dark women. Identification with the oppressor syndrome. I have a host of DARK SKINNED friends who praise light skinned beauty but dont’ say a word if a dark sister shows up. I don’t feel pity for black women. We have enough knowledge and awareness to change our perception of beauty. We are the ones running to get weaves or hair altering methods. When do we stop blaming others for our self hate. Over it. I am brown, my sis dark, my other sis is light. We are ALL FINE! Never had a problem with a man or our own sense of self worth. Instilled from my mom who constantly used West African beauty standards as the norm. I never wanted a white barbie. When I feel insecure, I put up images of beautiful black women and keep it moving!

    • I whole-heartedly agree with you. The system of Hollywood is whose to blame, not the thought process of any group of people. I hate the term “Mixed” as I feel it’s a strategic way to separate “whiter blacks” from “darker blacks”. I’m multicultural AND Black and I do think “mixed” beauty is looked more highly upon in the black community. Should it. Hell No! I know way too many gorgeous women to even suggest that. It’s a mentality that should be stopped. At the end of the day, especially in America, it doesn’t matter what you consider yourself. “mixed” “multicultural” whatever. In the eyes of the public you are black and are treated accordingly. So. in short, separation based on whose half-breeds and whose not only further divides us into groups. And the anger and self hate perpetuates. It’s hard reading things like this too. It’s not easy looking like Thandie Newton reading that she isn’t brown-skinned. She is brown-skinned. Just a different shade. I’ve had my own people tell me I’m not black. REPEATEDLY. It hurts. Especially since clearly whites will never claim you either. So your boxless and divided. All bad for furthering progress.

      • Thanks for commenting Michelle. Do you think that most multicultural people like you agree that they would just want to be considered Black and a lighter shade of brown? I’m just wondering because I have heard multicultural people say that calling them Black is like asking them to deny so much of their heritage.

      • i don’t consider mixraced people to be black. If that is so, then what about the whiteside? are you abandoning that side too. You are divided whether you like it or not. If both your parent’s were black then I could understand, but it isn’t the case. Also what ever your opinions are mixraced people are always put on the pedestal as the prettier blacks, when in actual fact your not black. Our hair might be similar but it is not the same. Yes you can have black people who are your colour and in some cases lighter than yourselves, but however you want to look at it, your still half white and half black and you cannot change that. It is the whiteman that says your black and when the chips are down you all seperate yourselves from black people and you’ll always be aware that you can take a blackman from a blackwoman because you know that blackman prefers your mix to his negro black woman’s race. Don’t try to pretend otherwise it won’t work.

    • Tina permalink

      I really think we are just going in circles as a group of women. Our ancestors would wonder why we have aloud ourselves to be so weak and empty. We’re fighting over trivial stuff like skin tone when all black women are treated in the same way by society overall. My thing is, often our ills are really in our own heads. We are reflecting and blaming on others how we really fell about ourselves, because as long as there is someone to blame, we can get out of the work that it takes to build ourselves as a community of women. There’s no getting out of the hard ass work that we are going to have to do as a group to restore our sense of self and create a new identify that we and those behind us can feel proud of. We stopped doing this. My thing is, when are we going to start worrying about real issues such as why so many of us can’t escape poverty, why we are not noticeable community developments, why are families are so fractured, why do our children do poorly in school and in life, why are so many of us suffering from depression, self-esteem issues; and why we deny the intense need for professional psychotherapy? Forget the hairdresser, lets go to people who know how to give us the tools to get out of self-destructive behaviors and that will help us cope with obstacles in ways that help us win in life not lose.

      I think a lot of these trivial matters are hyped up over and over again, because we are not focused on what really matters. We are letting our lives pass us and valuable work we could be doing in society for whether some dudes think we’re cute or not. I mean really ladies. Can we get a reality check. If you’re feeling of less worth, it’s a sign that you need to invest in yourself. Discover your strengths, give back in a way that helps others, when you invest in yourself, it’s very very hard for anyone to tell you or rob you of your worth. When you invest in yourself it provides tangible experience that ONLY you possess and that only you know the depth that it goes to. It can be quite powerful.

      • Akira permalink

        I agree with you.

        It is funny how there are classifications such as “light-skinned” and “dark-skinned” black women. i wonder where such constructs come from. I am learning though, to not hinge my life on such social constructs. I recently took a philosophy and sociology class where this topic was discussed and my thoughts shifted from “am i less attractive because i am a dark skinned woman” to “will i be successful in my endeavors as a young, African American, architect ( because an African American woman holding a BFA in Architecture is a rare sighting) ?” how can i make my life more successful? what can i do to make things easier for my aging mother, and my retired grandmother? what will i have to give my children (if and when i should have any) in life? i came from a house full of beautiful, strong minded, women who suffered, struggled, loved and lost to hold grains of sand in their hands, hoping to one day pass them along to me and my cousin. why did they struggle? where was their help? skin tone, something not chosen but can be easily altered and subject to the lashes of society, seem so trivial in my world now. WOMEN, read Simone de Beauvoir’s “The Second Sex” (https://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/ethics/de-beauvoir/2nd-sex/introduction.htm)
        and stop worring about trivial nonsense and worry about your futures as less then equals.

      • Akira permalink

        Summary of Beauvoir’s “The Second Sex”

        Beauvoir questions ‘what makes a woman a woman?’ She states that a woman’s ability to produce children does not make her a woman because there are women that cannot produce children that are still considered women. she also states that femininity is not a factor that contributes to the construct of a woman in the fact that there are men who act “feminine” and vice versa. she even argues about how and who gets to decided what constitutes as feminine.

        -Women do not have an identity. They are the “other”, second to the man and the construct of a woman is based only on what men are not.
        “‘The female is a female by virtue of a certain lack of qualities,’ said Aristotle; ‘we should regard the female nature as afflicted with a natural defectiveness.’ And St Thomas for his part pronounced woman to be an ‘imperfect man’, an ‘incidental’ being. ( Beauvoir)”
        -Women are not equal to men despite feminist movements.
        WHY?
        -women do not identity with each other.
        Ex: during slavery times, black people were able to unite against their oppressors and eventually gain some freedoms. This was accomplished because black people identified with each other and shared a common goal: freedom and equality. Women can not hope to gain TRUE equality because women do not identify with other women. a black woman does not classify herself as a woman, but as a black woman. A white woman does not classify herself as a woman but as a white woman. (almost every woman that has left a comment on this article has proved this point…..for we are not even all black women but, light skinned, brown and dark skinned black women….) there is no we, there is no us, therefore we have no voice against men. We are split.
        -Beauvoir says we have no solidarity as women (we do not recognize ourselves as just women) because we all seek to keep certain “Benefits/ privileges” gained from being within our certain groups and we feel that identifying ourselves with others not of our group will cause us to lose those benefits.
        EX: a black woman may choose to not socialize with a white woman because she fears criticism from her friends (I’ve seen this happen) and vice versa. Or a upper class woman may not socialize with a lower class woman for fear of scandal. Beauvoir even says we seek to keep our unequal status to men so that will do not have to be fully responsible for ourselves. We like having the door opened for us and our dinners paid for, financial security and help no matter how independent we are.
        -Therefore, women except the role of almost equal to keep those benefits.
        -Because women are not equal, they have no identity.

        I included that article as a way to say, why should life hinge on melanin levels when obviously we are still considered second class citizens?

  4. listen sisters the only language they understand is $$ (dollar signs). they will call you complainers, right up until their movie flops. boycott… do not spend your hard earned money on any movies, television shows, music etc that you don’t feel celebrate or show love to you as a darker skinned black woman. end of story.

  5. amy permalink

    I am a Nigerian Igbo woman and I was peeved about this casting. Igbos are native West Africans and therefore overwhelmingly dark-skinned. I am determined to raise as much hell about this casting as possible. Based on what I see in the media especially movies, this casting was based on hatred of dark-skinned black women. If you are a black woman, you don’t have to be Igbo or Nigerian to see why this should be vigorously challenged.

    • poetess permalink

      Hi, Amy

      I am a dark African American woman and therefore my ancestry is primarily West African. My original people could be Igbo for all I know and I join you in outrage. Nothing at all against Thandie Newton or light skinned women, but this casting is an abomination. There are far too many gorgeous West African and/or black women of the diaspora who could successfully fill this role.

  6. Gimbiya permalink

    So true! Well meaning piece,  black woman is so beautiful and should be portrayed so. Nigerian women are dark and voluptuous,yet beautiful all  same.

  7. Why does Kerry Washington need to “put on a few pounds”? There’s nothing wrong with her body composition.

    • I agree that there is nothing inherently wrong with Kerri Washington’s body composition. I’m not sure that she always looks voluptuous though. To me, sometimes she does and other times she looks really thin and petite. In the Last King of Scotland she was very thin. I guess it depends on what size she is at the moment. She may have to gain a few ( literally a small amount) to fit the voluptuous description. But I have never seen Anika Noni Rose or Genevieve Nnaji look rail thin. Thanks for pointing this out.

      • poetess permalink

        She is a skinny mini and therefore fits the Hollywood standard of an acceptable body type. She is no where near what I would call voluptuous. There is nothing wrong with being naturally thin as there is nothing the matter with being curvaceous. Most men prefer the latter while Hollywood seems to demand the former of its leading ladies.

  8. although, I see and respect the point of this article, it saddens me that as black women we feed into the divisive racial constructs that we have to contend with in this society. The fact that Thandie Newton is biracial is of no consequence- the fact that she her complexion is too light for the role is the point that should matter. Parts of this read as an attack on her for being born with features she obviously had no choice in- biracial or “dark-skinned” whatever that actually means- we are discussing a role and the careers of our own, black women. Though she does not fit the physical demands of the role, has any thought been given to the possibility that this sister really performed this role well? Furthermore, by using the classification of ugly on any of the aforementioned actresses is absurd, all of these sisters are gorgeous and it would be wonderful for any of them to assume these roles if they perform them to the level that the roles demand. This is a win win, a film about black women performed by talented black actresses (anytime a sister gets paid to do her craft in a role that is not demeaning is a win). Let us not get caught up in semantics as Thandie Newton is a caramel brown at worst, and black is black is black in this white society.

    • I am also a light-skinned Black woman of both distant and fairly recent mixed decent, and I think the casting of this movie was based in White Supremacy.

      If you have eyes to see and ears to hear, you must recognize that any time an AA, whether they are light skinned or not, accomplish anything positive (sports not included) it is attributed to their being mixed through a parent, grandparent or the horrors of slavery. When an AA does something bad, it’s that “bad Black n*gger blood” at work. That is why Western (White) nations refuse to forgive third world debt. If they did, those 100% Africans would do very well indeed, they would not be able to take credit for it, and then the supremacy of White genes would be brought into question.

      No one here is bashing Thandie Newton, we are discussing the long range consequences of allowing Hollyweird to continue Whitening any positive image of what it means to be Black, while darkening any negative image of Blackness. Quite literally this is what they do. This needs to be discussed HONESTLY by Black women of all hues, without the “poor me, I was mistreated by dark skinned Black girls growing up, boo hoo” non-sense. SO WAS I!

      The difference is I GET IT. Those girls were angry at me because American White supremacy and AA colorism made me the prize, simply because I was closer to being white than they were. I understand. I ain’t mad at those girls. However, I am pissed off at Hollyweird for continuing to perpetuate the White Supremacy agenda against AA, and now Africans too.

  9. monique vargas permalink

    Black people do not like or appreciate dark skinned people but everyone else is supposed to? You teach people how to treat you. Also it seems now there is a backlash against light skinned women and in reality they are light skinned thru no fault of their own. We don’t like ourselves but then others are supposed to love us?

    Also could this casting be in part to budgeting, scheduling, or just plain availability? You always want to have the best person in the role, like the person that acts the best.

    • SOME “Black people do not like or appreciate dark skinned people”. You should speak for yourself.

      And if you’re not Black, Ms. Vargas, you should not pretend to have access to a Black point of view that you could not possibly have. Most Hispanics/Latinos/Latinas are of African decent and most go to great lengths to hide it and deny it. People who live in glass houses….

      • monique vargas permalink

        I am black, in fact I am Jamaican American and very proud of it. Vargas is my ex husbands last name.
        And you just made a sweeping generalization about Hispanics…..

        And I’ve had a black point of view for 40+years.

      • @Monique Vargas
        While I said “MOST Hispanics/Latinos/Latinas …” you said ” Black people…” but I am the one, in your mind, making sweeping generalizations? LOL. Like I said before, “… glass houses…”

      • monique vargas permalink

        Drop it. Lol.
        I said what I said, im happy with what I said. Period. The end. Lol

      • @monique vargas
        And I am happy with what I said, because what I said is actually true, and not at all hypocritical. :)

      • boomer babe permalink

        Its BLACK PEOPLE that dont appreciate its dark skinned members. Many non black men MARRY dark skinned women. We are also the ONLY ONES who use the terms RACE & MALE/FEMALE….why? they are sooo demeaning to others and ourselves..we need to stop..we could use the term ethnic,and man/lady cant we?

      • @Boomer Babe
        Actually, we are not the only ones who use the words “race, male or female”. You must not spend very much time around non-Black people. Everyone has used the word “race”, the term was created by White sociologists. And the “male/ female” thing has spread across ethnicities in the US like a disease. And while some Black people do not like other Black people, because they are darker skinned, I am not one of them. I don’t have but one relative (that I know of) who thinks this way and, as you can probably guess, he is dark skinned himself.

        On the other hand, my oldest living brother has only ever dated and married dark skinned women. He is not even attracted to women of my / his mother’s complexion, nor non-Black women.

        “Black people” are not a monolith. We are not a hive collective, we do not share the same brain, nor the same attitudes, insecurities or even religious beliefs. Only 25% of AAs qualify as poor; the rest are middle class to wealthy (this fact surprises poor AAs). We are all individuals. And yes, some very vocal men (that I sincerely wish were members of a different ethnic group) get a lot of ink for saying ignorant, hateful things about Black women. But their goal is to break the spirits of Black women, so that we will settle for whatever crap they decide to serve us. That much should be obvious.

        These hateful fools do not represent me — a Black woman, nor any of the Black people that I love and respect. The question is, do you have an issue with dark skinned people?

      • poetess permalink

        No, get off her. Let’s be real. As a culture, excluding some individuals, yours truly included cause I was raised in fierce black consciousness, dark skin is not thought of as beautiful or appreciated decades after the black power movement. This is the inconvenient truth of blackness both her in the US and abroad. So in truth, yes, we need to learn to love ourselves. That starts with challenging the light is right/black get back brigades and introducing children to positive black role models and black beauty in all shades.

  10. Hollywood is and always has been color struck. It is also a very greedy place and deeply sexist. Black male stars range from the sexy Don Cheadle to the sexy Terrance Howard. Both have been leading men. It is harder for women in general, but hardest for those who are not thin, light and of a certain age. That, however, can change because the color Hollywood likes the most is green not white. Vote with your dollars. The idea of the casting makes sense in that Ms. Newton has great range and is a bigger box office draw. It makes less sense in that she is physically wrong, though she has an African parent. Perhaps that will bring something to the character, though i doubt that was part of the producers thinking. In terms of Ms. Rose’s casting, she is also a name that will draw attention and a fine actress. It is a risk to play an “ugly” character only if that would typecast you. Not possible with the lovely and versatile Ms. Rose. It might be a juicy acting challenge. I’ll be interested in learning more about this film, but not sure I’ll be seeing it yet.

  11. Lyght_Travler permalink

    It makes me sad that we are still talking about light skinned vs. dark skinned. I am light skinned but grew up in inner city Chicago. My childhood memories are filled with being bullied for being light skinned. We are all black women. I still feel ‘judged’ for being light skinned…married a beautiful chocolate man because I loved him but also because I wanted my children to not have to ‘suffer’ the same abuses that I did as a child. Despite what others think of me when they ‘see’ me, I am a black woman from the inside out. I too am your sister.

    Despite the divisive chatter about the casting of Thandie in this role, I am grateful that this beautiful story written by a beautiful African woman is coming to the big screen. I look forward to seeing it, no matter who plays what role. Let’s be kind to each other?

    • Akira permalink

      i do not wish to hurt you in any form or fashion. I’m strictly basing my opinions on my personal experiences and things I’ve witnessed and testimonials I’ve heard from close friends of 10 plus years. Your children are black, and because of that fact, they WILL suffer at some point. whether they are light or dark skinned. i suffered because i am dark skinned, my friend suffered because she’s light skinned, my other friend suffered because she is of island descent and her ancestors studied voodoo. my male friend suffered because as a black man, he is not dark ENOUGH nor is he good in sports. these ridicules towards all of us came from family, friends, our teachers, different “races”, society because at the end of the day, we are not of European decent. All we can hope to do is make something of our lives to pass on to our children so that through their suffering, they can have a house or maybe a car or the confidence to pursue something significant in their lives because they watched you and learned to make something of themselves just like their parents did. Excuse me for saying this, but isn’t that how the children of other ethnic groups became successful? is that not how they gained respectful stereotypes?

  12. Reblogged this on For Brown Girls.

  13. i read the book and LOVED IT, now i’m not even sure I want to support this movie. They should not have put thandie newton in that role period. she was not AT ALL how I pictured Olanna in the book nor was olanna described as a biracial/light-skinned woman. Thandie isn’t even Nigerian.

  14. Thanks so much for all of the insightful comments. I think that this issue of color is incredibly sensitive and emotional. How do we create a space for women of darker hues to speak their truth without causing any offense to women of lighter hues? Despite the fact that the post compliments Thandie Newton as an actress and person and the Igbo women’s petition quoted specifically states that the petition should not be construed as an attack on Thandie Newton or bi-racial people, some readers still felt as if the post was attacking her. I’m not sure how to get around that. Attacking Thandie Newton or bi-racial women was sooo not my intention. We are all God’s creatures and it is clear that the Creator likes variety so all types of beauty should be appreciated and celebrated.

    But it is unfortunate that sometimes when darker women point out that they are not being celebrated they are met with certain resistance.

    Some say don’t speak about this. Why are you still talking about this? Get over it. But it is hard to get over it because the problem still exists. Study after study reveals that little children point to the same image and say it is pretty when it is made lighter and it is ugly when it is made darker. We speak about the issue in hopes that it will change because we hope that children of all shades will be equally able to feel valuable and beautiful in this world.

    Others accuse darker women who are vocal about colorism of trying to attack lighter women and take away the perception that lighter skinned women can be beautiful. I hope that no one wants that. I hope that the ascendance of Don Cheadle, Morris Chestnut, Taye Diggs and other dark-skinned male actors as symbols of male beauty did not reduce the perceived male beauty of Terrance Howard, Michael Ealy, Shamor Moore or other light-skinned male actors who are also considered handsome. I hope that we are working to create a world where all beauty in any shade is appreciated.

    Others rightfully express that being light-skinned can have negative social consequences because they were teased and or abused as children due to their color. Well those stories should be told. I’m sickened every time I hear of such stories and I think that those stories deserve more shine. Blackfemaleculture rightfully points out that aggression by certain darker girls against certain lighter girls may be rooted in the fact that those particular darker girls feel as if they are less valued in society. In that case, sharing stories like this blogpost above and becoming activists with respect to darker beauty should help solve this problem by creating an environment in which all dark girls feel beautiful and will not feel tempted to engage in such anti-social behavior. Further, many of us experience privilege. It may be due to skin tone, education, class, profession, physical size, sexual orientation, perceived beauty or a myriad factors and I think that we should take responsibility and be sensitive to others who are not experiencing our type of privilege.

    Mam raises a great point that the real issue is that Thandie Newton does not look like the part. She could be a non-biracial light skinned Egyptian and the point would be the same. I mentioned that she was bi-racial only to give some insight as to why she would look different from the majority of non-biracial Igbos. I have travelled to certain parts of West Africa and asked random people their perceptions about race. Many of them would look at people that we in U.S. see as black due to our one drop rule thinking –as white people. Some West Africans would think Thandie Newton, Soledad O’Brien and Paula Patton are white and resemble Angelina Jolie, Demi Moore and Sandra Bullock more so than African-American celebrities who look very typically West African such as Alfre Woodard, Erica Alexander, Kimberly Elise or Yolanda Adams. In some parts of West Africa Erica Badu or Queen Latifah would be considered light-skinned or light-brown by their standards. For these reasons, Thandie Newton’s casting can be perceived as very odd!

    Thanks again for reading and sharing this post. It was mean’t to raise awareness and not offend. The dialogue is great and I pray that we are on our way to collective healing.

    -Loveessence

    • Don’t fall for it. It’s just another ploy to silence BW by using manipulation and guilt. I am a light skinned BW and when I heard some one dropper, from a foreign country no less, was playing the late, great, fully African Harriet Tubman in a movie with a plot that makes vampires racist and the White people who owned slaves innocent, I was beyond pissed! Any BW regardless of her hue who truly cares about and supports BW is not going to have a problem with this post, nor its intentions.
      DO NOT FALL FOR IT!

      I hate to say it, but I have met a few mixed and light skinned “Black” folks who are just as White Supremacist as their parents and/or grandparents, both Black and non-Black. Thankfully, it’s only been a few. I hate that they make the rest of us look like anti-Black a-holes. That’s the real reason many dark skinned Black folks do not like or trust light skinned Black folks until they get to know us.

  15. BlackFemaleCulture Your post is right on Point! Hollywierd, definitely has an agenda!!! I am a Light Skinned Female, also! And I so agree with you. Hollywierd, is definitely has an Agenda. I barely even see Brown skinned African American Actresses on TV. This is definitely due to White Supremacy. And Kola Boof, is correct when she states that great effort is being made to bring about the Eraseure of Black Women. Anytime, an Attractive African American Actress is introduced to the world, Special Interest groups, predominately associated with the Multiracial Movement, make it a point to find out what that person’s racial make up consists of. These groups go out of their way, to point out, that Attractive Black Actresses aren’t really Black, but, rather Biracial/Multiracial. Actressess like Jada Pinkett-Smith and Vanessa L. Williams, have always Publically Identified as African American, but, these certain groups/organizations go out of their way to point out that Vanessa and Jada are Mixed Race/Multiracial. I wish that people, would understand, that this is no Accident. African Americans are already MULTIRACIAL! This is White Supremacy at hand. These Special Interest Groups are being Manipulated, I believe that all of this is occuring as some type of SET UP; to keep the African American Community Divided. Because America is Certainly NOT POST RACIAL!!!!

  16. I am so sick of people trying to push this off topic and call this article “divisive”. It’s the truth and you know it. You don’t have to be dark skinned or have a certain type of hair to defend this. You have to have a certain mentality. I see so many light skinned and biracial women claim color shouldnt matter and that things like this should be a non issue. But guess what? When dark skinned women are non existent in the media and not given a chance to be seen as beautiful, all of a sudden they are quiet and the harmony they were preaching is out the window. I’m talking about some, not all. I’m considered light skinned by people even though I consider myself in the middle because I have a caramel complexion. I don’t feel the need to be a chocolate sister or a dark woman to defend them. This is my mother’s image, sisters, cousins and aunts. This is my Ancestors image. Of course I’m going to defend it. How can you be a light skinned person that is black and be ok with it just because it is not affecting you directly. What a fool. Some of us are perfectly fine with our history being showed white washed, a biracial woman as Harriet Tubman? A biracial as an Igbo woman? You mean to tell me dark women just happen to be never available? How is no one seeing this pattern. I believe people do see it but are trying to protect their so called “benefits”. 

    I have no problem with biracial people and will be a future parent to a biracial child. I believe biracial people have a right to their own identity. I love and respect them like I do everyone else. Just because I love them and respect them doesn’t mean I have to let my ancestors image be hijacked. If You think for one second white people, Asians and Hispanics would let people represent historical figures the complete opposite of their image, you’d be sadly mistaken. It’s only done with us because we have fallen for the idea that all women dark  and with west African features should be pushed into the corner “like she doesn’t exist. I’m not going to be quiet until that changes.

    • Preach!

      And you notice all these “Black people don’t appreciate dark skinned Black people, so why should we care if White people don’t either” comments? TROLLS. They’re trying to discourage the topic as well. Not working! Try again.

      My husband is White and our future children may look completely White because of my background and coloring, but it does not change my belief that casting 1/2 and 1/4 “Black” women to play Black women of pure African descent is designed to promote White supremacy.

      I actually know people in the industry — I have relatives who are professional actors, and I have friends who work in different areas of entertainment promotions. They say that movie studios are very “sensitive” to the feelings of White women. And apparently, White women do not react well in test screenings of movies and television shows when Black women are shown in a positive light. I have a female cousin who was fired from a TV show before it was picked up by a network, because her character was perceived as not “Black” enough (i.e. ghetto). You’ve probably heard of this show. It’s on ABC and has only one Black actor — male, of course, and his image is very positive and upbeat, and he’s married to a White woman on that show, which no one had a problem with.

      So, most of this non-sense is to keep the female White supremacists happy. That is the reason you see Black men of all hues in the movies and on television, but not Black women. Male White supremacists do not feel threatened by positive images of BM, the same is not true for their female counterparts. Racist WW are only comfortable with acknowledging the beauty and desirability of a BW if they can claim that “she looks like a White woman with a tan”.

      • Thank you for comment blackfemaleculture. Your insider information on the test screenings is very telling and would help to explain why women who are very visibly of African descent are repeatedly chosen to play roles for movies like The Help (Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer) but not chosen to play characters that are perceived as beautiful, desirable and successful and why women who are more ambiguous in race are sometimes used to be the love interest in Mission Impossible III (Thandie Newton) or Swordfish (Halle Berry). Someone like Halle Berry admits that she has to fight for roles such as the crackhead in Jungle Fever or the struggling single mom in Monster’s Ball – because directors think that she is too “pretty” for such roles. Please note that Angela Basset who is stunning was offered the lead role in Monster’s Ball first. Somehow Angela Basset was not perceived as too beautiful despite her flawless skin and amazing cheekbones.

        But I would like to acknowledge the works that deviate from this such as The Bodyguard, Lady Sings the Blues, Robin Givens in Chicago or Heather Headley in Aida. I think that change is very possible and prayfully we are on our way to a future of equal opportunity for all shades of humanity in the media and in real life.

      • @Loveessence
        It’s not just their skin tone and features. They prefer FAT Black actresses. No White woman wants to be fat. In fact, no woman — whose sane — wants to be fat. No matter how pretty you are, if you are fat you are considered asexual by the media, and many times in real life. And that is the point. If Viola Davis and others dropped the weight and got in shape they would probably never work again. Except, maybe, for Tyler Perry.

      • @blackfemaleculture I think I know what show you are talking about. I believed I watched the first couple episodes of the show. Is the black guy Damon Wayans son? I’m not surprised that ww respond to shows that show good BW images negatively. Even at my work, I realize some of them like being around “ghetto” black women (who they think makes them look way better) than pretty mild mannered black women; so I can just imagine what they want to see on tv. The double standard with black males is that they love to show men of other races gushing over them on television but having white men do that for us on tv, they hate that.

      • @caramelcherieamour
        Yes. That’s the show. It probably didn’t help my cousin any that she’s tall, thin, naturally busty and very beautiful. She’s been doing catalog modeling for years but wants to be a working actress.

        You are right about White women wanting to believe that everyone wants them, regardless of ethnicity. They tend to get crazy when that is proven incorrect. Personal experience.

  17. I don’t have a problem with the post at all…I have a problem with a narrow translation of casting. If we stick by strict rules of casting, then black folks can’t be cast in “In a street car called desire”….

    I’m didn’t mean to offend and I’m not saying it’s okay to limit the roles that anyone can play. Of course, I’m not okay with the lack of visibility on the big screen of my darker sisters (my mother’s skin tone for example). All I meant to communicate was that there are many stories that need to be told…this is not the only one. What about the way portray ourselves on reality tv- light, dark or otherwise? It’s more than a skin color issue. We’ve all suffered from slavery. What do we do about it? How do we change the way others perceive us and more importantly, the way we perceive each other? I was only commenting that this is just as important as boycotting films that we feel are unfairly cast.

  18. I am so sick of this light skinned dark skinned dialogue. Give it a bleeping rest already.
    Signed by a light skinned black woman with green eyes who is not BIRACIAL.

    • What post are you reading? This is not a light skin versus dark skinned “dialogue” for anyone who actually READ the post and comments.

  19. One of the interesting comments in this post is about the way Hispanics and ‘other’ minorities are portrayed in the media and how they have the power to influence that. In fact, when do you see dark skinned Latino women? Jennifer Lopez is Puerto Rican but there are many darker skinned Latinos. We don’t see them in the media either. The color issue is prevalent in their communities as well. Darker Mexicans are treated differently in their own race than their fairer brothers.

    Racism has not left any stone unturned. We are all under attack of the barbie image of beauty. It seems that the media is in love with Beyonce because she fits this image…It’s a fact that we live with and rarely question. I love this post and this dialogue. It’s important. It’s important because as Black women we have the power to address this within our own homes.

    The media is definitely a part of the problem. As Black women we have the power within our own homes and communities to teach our sons and daughters to love themselves no matter what their skin tone is and to love and appreciate all people (especially black folks) no matter their skin tone. The media is powerful indeed but so is music, so is parenting, so is literature and community.

    Challenging the media portrayals of black men and women…goes beyond the ‘physical image’ but the image of who we are in our entirety. We are more than our skin color. I raised my two adult sons to look beyond color within their community and to look at the way we (black folks) act and treat ourselves and each other. I thought that was what this blog was about LOVE. To me that’s the answer: that we learn to love who we are and to teach others how to love us. I love Thandie, I love Viola, I love all the sisters who portray sisters in the media…especially when they portray us in a positive light.

    • Thanks so much for this comment nothopeorcharity. This issue is so emotional that it is easy to get wrapped up in the pain of perhaps being seen as less beautiful or being seen as an outsider or being rejected because of one’s color. You are 100% right, Loveessence aims to be about love, while being vulnerably honest about the wounds that sometimes make us feel as if love is out reach. For me personally, Ama Yawson (co-founder of Loveessence) color, in my childhood, was an issue that made me feel like love was elusive. The Half of A Yelow Sun casting triggered the wound and so I decided to write about it. I tried to write about it lovingly, but I’m not perfect. :-)

      But at the end of the day, love is enough to heal all wounds both personally, and collectively. Once we are aware of a wound, it is up to us to surround ourselves with love to heal it. For me, that means practicing seeing and loving the beauty in all complexions, personal affirmations, admiring myself, admiring others, and much more. I pray that we are all on our way to collective healing. Thanks again to everyone for reading and sharing.

    • I am glad you brought up Hispanics and other minorities media portrayals. There are very talented and attractive actors from India who could NEVER get work as actors in their own country. The latest is Mindy Kaling (The Mindy Project) who is darker than the average AA. Bollywood will not show dark-skinned Indians because they do not want the rest of the world to associate being dark skinned with being Indian. So, the only Indians in the entertainment industry over there have mostly English descent and/or use skin bleach.

      Latin American countries, including Brazil — whose majority is of African descent, have NO positive media images of people of unmistakable African descent. They are the majority, they could easily change this, if they wanted to, but they don’t. I’ve heard that there were Brazilians who were angry with Adrianna Lima for admitting that she is part African, because she looks Whiter than most of the Brazilians who try to pass themselves off as 100% European and it called their own ancestry into question. SMH.

      Even in the USA Telemundo refuses to show any dark skinned Latinos, because — like the Indians and Brazilians — they want to be perceived as a European people. I have met dark skinned Latinos who say that AA worry too much about skin shade and ethnicity, and that it doesn’t matter in their culture. :roll: And I have met light skinned Latinos who claim that “there are no dark skinned Latinos, we are Europeans from Spain!” Apparently, they believe the Moors (100% African Muslims), who conquered and bred with the Spanish way back when, are a secret known only to them. LOL. That’s the reason the Spanish Jesus is Black, btw.

      This mindset is what happens when a group of people lack the courage and conviction to confront intra- and outer racism against their group. If we fail to confront Hollyweird about their White Supremacist agenda — for fear of being seen as “anti-light skinned women”, we will all end up just like the other self-hating ethnic groups. If we fail to boycott BM rappers and actors who make it clear that they despise our darker skinned sisters, we will be just as lost as the others. There is power in confronting the truth — about ourselves and others.

      You must realize that the only people who would benefit from sweeping this under the rug are the White Supremacists, who would love nothing more than to erase ALL OF US. Too many White people are well aware of our groups weaknesses, and this is one that they LOVE using against us most. You will begin to see articles in coming days and weeks, accusing dark skinned BW of being anti-light skinned BW. Know that it is part of the agenda to silence us all. Do not fall for it ladies! If we stand together, we can kick ass.

  20. Ashley permalink

    how do I sign the aforementioned petition?

  21. Hello Ashley,

    Unfortunately the petition has been closed. It did reach its goal of 500 signatures but the movie’s producers/directors etc. there was no change with respect to the casting of Olanna.

    http://www.change.org/petitions/the-casting-of-thandie-newton-in-half-of-a-yellow-sun-reconsider-casting-of-half-of-a-yellow-sun#share

  22. Now, we vote with our wallets. :)

  23. Speaking of Brazil and BLACK BEAUTY, I thought all of you would appreciate this short clip that my son cast and directed.
    I may be light skinned, but this is what he holds as his standard of beauty…

    http://www.nowness.com/day/2010/12/10/1204/kahlil-joseph-jung-at-heart

    • I love it! Your son is very talented. The model is gorgeous! She looks like a much taller version of the girls my oldest brother prefers.

    • The short clip is absolutely beautiful. What stunning cinematography! What an intriguing storyline! What a beautiful cast! You must be so proud of your son nothopeorcharity.

      It is really powerful to see a dark skinned man fantasizing about a dark-skinned woman because it means that there is no apology regarding one’s skin tone and no desire to change it. Obviously, in the real world there are so many factors to consider when finding a mate that skin tone should not be a primary consideration. We should love the person who can give us the love that we desire, regardless of skin tone. But the nevertheless, that image is still powerful.

      I would also like to say that I think that women of all hues would gain from more even representation of women of all shades in the media in positive and desirable roles. There is enough room for us to consider both Nicole Kidman and Ajak Deng stunning. When we celebrate diverse beauty we are all liberated!

  24. .
    There is actually no such thing as a so-called “Light-Skinned
    Black” person … but rather … such individuals and groups
    are actually people who are of a ‘Multi-Generational
    Multiracially-Mixed’ (MGM-Mixed) Lineage that some may
    have been pressured or encouraged to ignore or downplay.
    .

    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Generation-Mixed/message/4160

    .
    People of Mixed-Race lineage should NOT feel pressured to
    ‘identify’ according to any standards other than one’s own.
    .

    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Generation-Mixed/message/4157

    .
    The legal -application of the racist-‘One-Drop Rule’
    (ODR) was banned in the U.S. way back in 1967.
    .

    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Generation-Mixed/message/4162

    .

    http://www.facebook.com/groups/253286018082418/permalink/253341891410164

    .

    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Generation-Mixed/message/4187

    .

    http://www.facebook.com/groups/253286018082418/permalink/253341281410225

    .
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    .
    Listed below are related Links of ‘the facts’ of the histories
    of various Mixed-Race populations found within the U.S.:
    .
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    .
    There is no proof that a ‘color-based slave hierarchy’
    (or that ‘color-based social-networks’) ever existed
    as common entities — within the continental U.S.
    .

    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Generation-Mixed/message/4154

    .

    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Generation-Mixed/message/4153

    .
    It was the ‘Rule of Matriliny (ROM) — [a.k.a. ‘The Rule of Partus’
    (ROP)] — and NOT the racist-‘One-Drop Rule’ (ODR) — that was
    used to ‘create more enslaved people’ on the continental U.S.
    .
    This is because the chattel-slavery system that was
    once found on the antebellum-era, continental U.S.
    was NOT “color-based” (i.e. “racial”) — but rather
    — it was actually “mother-based” (i.e. ‘matrilineal’).
    .

    .
    There were many ways (and not solely the sexual assault
    and sexual exploitation of the women-of-color) in which
    ‘white’ lineage entered the familial bloodlines of
    enslaved-people found on the continental U.S.
    .

    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Generation-Mixed/message/4238

    .

    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Generation-Mixed/message/4239

    .

    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Generation-Mixed/message/4240

    .
    An ‘Ethnic’ category is NOT the
    same thing as a “Race” category:
    .b

    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Generation-Mixed/message/4236

    .

    .
    Other Topics:
    .

    .

    .

    http://www.facebook.com/notes/%C2%ADallpeople-gifts/the-facts-on-m%C2%ADixed-race/321878451159708

    .
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    .

  25. .
    There is actually no such thing as a so-called “Light-Skinned
    Black” person … but rather … such individuals and groups
    are actually people who are of a ‘Multi-Generational
    Multiracially-Mixed’ (MGM-Mixed) Lineage that some may
    have been pressured or encouraged to ignore or downplay.
    .

    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Generation-Mixed/message/4160

    .
    People of Mixed-Race lineage should NOT feel pressured to
    ‘identify’ according to any standards other than one’s own.
    .

    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Generation-Mixed/message/4157

    .
    The legal -application of the racist-‘One-Drop Rule’
    (ODR) was banned in the U.S. way back in 1967.
    .

    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Generation-Mixed/message/4162

    .

    http://www.facebook.com/groups/253286018082418/permalink/253341891410164

    .

    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Generation-Mixed/message/4187

    .

    http://www.facebook.com/groups/253286018082418/permalink/253341281410225

    .
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    .
    Listed below are related Links of ‘the facts’ of the histories
    of various Mixed-Race populations found within the U.S.:
    .
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    .
    There is no proof that a ‘color-based slave hierarchy’
    (or that ‘color-based social-networks’) ever existed
    as common entities — within the continental U.S.
    .

    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Generation-Mixed/message/4154

    .

    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Generation-Mixed/message/4153

    .
    It was the ‘Rule of Matriliny (ROM) — [a.k.a. ‘The Rule of Partus’
    (ROP)] — and NOT the racist-‘One-Drop Rule’ (ODR) — that was
    used to ‘create more enslaved people’ on the continental U.S.
    .
    This is because the chattel-slavery system that was
    once found on the antebellum-era, continental U.S.
    was NOT “color-based” (i.e. “racial”) — but rather
    — it was actually “mother-based” (i.e. ‘matrilineal’).
    .

    .
    There were many ways (and not solely the sexual assault
    and sexual exploitation of the women-of-color) in which
    ‘white’ lineage entered the familial bloodlines of
    enslaved-people found on the continental U.S.
    .

    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Generation-Mixed/message/4238

    .

    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Generation-Mixed/message/4239

    .

    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Generation-Mixed/message/4240

    .
    An ‘Ethnic’ category is NOT the
    same thing as a “Race” category:
    .

    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Generation-Mixed/message/4236

    .

    .
    Other Topics:
    .

    .

    .

    http://www.facebook.com/notes/%C2%ADallpeople-gifts/the-facts-on-m%C2%ADixed-race/321878451159708

    .
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    .

  26. felicia permalink

    I dont like it when Hollywood puts image of biracial as black women. I watched norbit and the mixed women was seen as pretty marrige material. While the black women was seen as ugly and fat and mean.

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