Racial discrimination is a problem well known to the American society. Its continual presence is a barrier that has
prevented the different races of this country from achieving harmony.
However, discrimination is not limited to those people of different backgrounds. Intraracial discrimination is, and
always has been, a part of the American culture but no where is it more prevalent than in the black community. Black
Americans have always had trouble finding their own identity. This is due to the fact that they were brought over as
slaves or indentured servants and incorporated into a dominant White society. A society that forced them to view
themselves negatively while viewing their white counterparts positively. The result; a racial division between black
people that is based on everything from skin color to physical features.
By far, the most divisive thing among
black people is skin color. This is because of the power and privileges that are given to those who are lighter in
complexion over those who are darker. In the days of slavery, light-skinned blacks were assigned to the house while
dark-skinned blacks had to work the fields. Today's society still continues to think, to some degree, the same way.
Those who are light-skinned have a better chance at succeeding in politics and business, achieving a higher education,
and gaining more prominent social status than do those who are dark-skinned. For example, take the following elected
or appointed black leaders: Robert Weaver, the first black United States cabinet member;
Edward Brooke, the first
black Senator since Reconstruction;
Marshall, the first black Supreme Court Justice;
Maynard Jackson, the first black
Mayor of Atlanta;
Andrew Young, the first
black United States delegate to the United Nations;
Patricia R. Harris, the first black woman cabinet
member; Douglas Wilder, the first
black Governor of Virginia; Colin Powell, the
first black chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The one thing that they all have in common is their light-skinned
appearance and, in a country whose political structure is dominated by white people (mostly men), they have achieved
considerable success. Although there are those dark-skinned blacks who have achieved the same level of success, such
as Shirley Chisolm, the
first black Congresswoman, and Harold Washington,
the first black Mayor, the perception lingers that skin color does determine how wide the doors of opportunity will open
for Black Americans.
Physical features are another factor that has divided the black race. The size of a black person's
nose and lips, and their hair texture have contributed greatly to whether that person would achieve success in life.
In the book THE COLOR COMPLEX: The politics of Skin Color Among African Americans it states that
"In an unusual research project conducted in 1968, anthropoligist Melville Herkovits measured the lightness of skin
and width of facial features in Blacks of two different socioeconomic groups.... The well-to-do men were found to have
generally lighter skin color, and their noses were an average of 3.8 millimeters narrower than those of men in the
poorer segment of the research group. Similarily, the average lip thickness in the well-to-do group was 1 millimeter
less than the thickness found in the other group."
Another key factor is the type and texture of hair a black
person has, especially if it is a woman. The politics of hair parallels the politics of skin color. Straight or
"good" hair has long been associated with the light-skinned middle-class woman while curly or "kinky/bad" hair with
black women who are less fortunate, economically speaking. One black male's description of what he thinks is a beautiful
black woman seems to be the consensus among many black men. In the book "Color Complex", he states that " 'If a Black
woman is light-skinned with good hair and features, then she's the [best]. Even if she has short hair, but good
features, she'll be all right. But a dark-skinned girl with short hair can forget it. And if she has a big nose,
then she should just be a nun. But if she has long hair and good features, then her skin color can be overlooked.
Long hair really helps out those black ugly girls' ". It seems that light-skinned blacks not only benefit from
their social contacts with other light-skinned blacks but also from looks that, in a predominately white society,
are more mainstream. This "look" among black society influences how much they earn, how they date, and how they want
to appear in public.