Fundraising for black women: Should there be a complexion cutoff?
When colorism and the paper bag test work as intended — but backwards
I love being a woman. I love being black. And I love being a dark-skinned black women. It’s a triple win for me. I have no qualms with any other race nor person loving who they are. You should. While Mainstream America has gone out of its way to try to make melanin-rich women feel less than pretty, that just didn’t travel down to me, especially when my great great aunt would grin at me and say, “Look at my Chocolate Cake.” Now who doesn’t love chocolate cake? From childhood to adulthood, I’ve always felt brown girls should be confident — without being arrogant.
Recommended Read: “That ‘scientific study’ that makes you hate your race”
So when I first saw a social media argument break out over a charitable organization for black women, my opinions were — complicated. The short version is a black woman wanted to help her friend escape a domestic abuse situation after a car wreck. The friend is stuck in one state and is trying to make her way to a safe home in another. The black woman knew of an organization (which self-identifies as a “Black grassroots organization that provides groceries, cash and other resources to hundreds of Black MaGes, Marginalized Genders”) that could potentially help this woman get money to travel to a safe space.
But judging from the discussion online, the organization opted out of helping the friend in need because she wasn’t “unambiguously black” — in other words, those Afrocentric features and complexion are not pronounced. The friend looked more Zendaya than Keke Palmer or Lupita Nyong’o.
I paused over this stance for a long time. On one hand, after working in newsrooms for so long and seeing how horrendously brown children (and adults) are treated during missing persons reports and other instances where they could badly use assistance, I get the persistence to prioritize. But on the other hand, biracial or light-skinned women have zero control over how much melanin they have. That was a decision between their parents. So pitting the two against each other is counterproductive, to say the least.
Still, should ambiguously black women be eliminated from charitable organizations and fundraisers for black women? While other participants weighed in, claiming the rejection of this very light-skinned woman (who still doesn’t look black to me but her friend says she is so I’m rocking with that) was “reverse racism” or “the paper bag test in reverse,” I couldn’t quite say which side I was on. It’s hard to not want to champion for brown-skinned black women when white reporters have told you (unapologetically) that reporting on black kids is “below the bar.” That sticks.