What's Happening In Your World

CNN Does Show on Colorism, but Are They Guilty of Colorism Themselves?

by Dr. Boyce Watkins

Recently, I found myself taking the time to watch CNN’s “Who’s Black in America?” hosted by Soledad O’Brien.  I watched the show curiously, gaining deeper insights into the struggles of both light and dark-skinned African Americans who live in a world where not being “black enough” can be just as bad as being “too black.”

Soledad, as usual, did a wonderful job of hosting the show.  I’ve never questioned Soledad’s blackness, since a) it’s not my right to do so, and b)there are numerous ways for a person to express their blackness.  But with all the respect I have for Soledad, I had to remember that she operates in a world that is not so idealistic in the way it perceives black and brown people.

So, I asked myself out loud, “I wonder if Soledad would have her job if she had dark skin?”  I can’t answer this question myself, but when I look across the network, I’m hard pressed to find CNN anchors who look like Wesley Snipes.  I asked my friends, I asked the people who follow me on Facebook and searched the depths of my brain, unable to find any anchors who have dark skin.  In fact, I dare to argue that if President Obama was a dark-skinned black man, he would not have been elected.

When I think about Tony Harris, TJ Holmes, Don Lemon, Fredricka Whitfield and the other black faces I’ve seen on the network that has yet to let an African American permanently host any prime time show, I could only come up with black people with the kind of complexion that makes white people feel most comfortable.  It is historically documented that lighter skin is preferred by both blacks and whites, so it’s not surprising that the network would have this sort of bias.

I’m hardly one to say that I don’t benefit from any colorism on network television, since I’ve been on CNN more times than I can count.  But I dare to openly question the persuasiveness of an investigation into colorism by a network that doesn’t seem to have been able to overcome it’s own racial preferences.  Maybe CNN needs to do the next documentary analysis on itself.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is a professor at Syracuse University and author of the book, “Black American Money.” To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.

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33 comments

  1. All to true……sadly not new though.For as much as things change, they stay the same. If you're light you're alright, if you're brown you can stick around, if you're black stay back…same song all around the world….

  2. CNN is such a hypocrite..May I ask where are the darkskin anchors on CNN ?? Practice what u preach !!

  3. You got it right Dr. Boyce Watkins. You shouldn’t be so hesitant though about acknowleging the “blackness” of anyone. We fought and died for the rights to be an anchor and many of jobs in America, only to see them give the jobs to light skinned immigrant Blacks–Soledad O’Brien (Cuban).

  4. Yep! As I read about the matter on the site about Black anchors. All of them are high-yellowed Black folk. I never thought about this way but it is true
    when you come and think about it and take notice the CNN anchors.

    • Yep, either that or dark-brown. No more Will Smith complexions. Talking about dividing blacks down the middle. This seems to be becoming a media trend altogether. Keep a third eye.

  5. What’s just as guilty about CNN not having dark-skinned blacks is their slick way of dividing us against each other even more using this sneaky deceitful topic of so-called colorism…which seems to be working.

    This tool is so powerful that it will even have some light-skinned blacks speaking of light-skinned favoritism, as though it’s supposed to make them feel extra honest or loyal to the black community. However the few light-skinned blacks I’ve seen say this are the ones that were already successful one way or the other. I remember this older co-worker who was talking about light-skin favoritism, and he was light-skinned himself. But he had a combed back gray afro like Frederick Douglas to make up for it I guess. Anyway, those white folks wounded up running him off that high paying job. It was the second time in 20 years. I’m not sure if he ever came back this time. I wounder if he would still talk about light-skin favoritism today.

  6. Most definitely. CNN darkest items are the furniture on the set. I find myself watching MSNBC for the have the rainbow if you will, on their station. Just waiting for CNN to have an epiphany.

  7. First of all,let us address BLACK. We do not want to be addressed as beig BLACK but African-American. What is an African-American in terms of color/race. That is not By using that term we are denying being BLACK. The term African-American makes many feel “different” not being BLACK. I challenge the masses and the powers-to-be who can be a forum to start calling our race by it color. You as a publisher, the Jessie Jacksons, the Al Sharptons and whomever. As an extremely attractive tall, slim, dark-skinned black woman, I have had my share of problems in my race because of the Brown Paper bag syndrome. Trust me, if the WHITE race did not acknowledge how attractive I am, I would never have gotten a compliment from my race. They have tried with comments like if you were not so black you could have been a model. We are not getting anywhere and I am sorry we will not. You look at the talk shows and black women are having children with other races because they do not want to “risk” having dark skinned children. How sad. Black America will never wake up and be proud to be called BlACK or NEGRO. Not African-American where they like to be identified (lie or not) by commenting that they are mixed with something. What was that documentary about? hmm

  8. I’m afraid most of you are drnking the koolaid and talking about colorism, whatever that really means, and not racism, which is still the primary root of our problem. Here’s a post I did on this very topic. Read it with a third eye:

    I don’t think colorism has a true definition, but more of a sneaky one. It’s not the same as racism, which is the dominant race oppressing the weaker race. When trying to involve racism with so-called colorism, it leaves the potential to divide the race who have the most color, who happens to be African-Americans. It’s like a two-edged sword, one side stabbing dark-skinned folks and one side stabbing light-skinned folks, meanwhile going right through all colors in between (yellow, red, brown).

    I think it’s human nature to want a little color. That’s probably why some white people who feel they are too white try too tan and some black people who feel they are too dark try to bleach. I think this term colorism is more of a “who you prefer to date” issue between light-skinned and dark-skinned blacks. I know for a fact that when people date someone too dark-skinned to the point people nick name them blue, they tend to crave for a little more caramel in their partner. And when they date someone too light were people could nick name them snowball, they still tend to crave for a little more caramel in their parter. But people should be satisfied with what they’ve got. But anyway, do any of this indicate we want to be more European? I don’t think so.

    What I find Black America more reluctant to discuss as opposed to this imaginary light-skinned favoratism, is this negative treatment light-skinned people have suffered at the hands of their own kind. I remember in the movie “BarberShop”, were a brother was asked why was he so nervous. And the brother replied, “I’m a light-skinned brother, what do you expect”. Although comical, there was a lot of truth in that, and nobody wanted to focus on that…maybe we shouldn’t. When Eric Dyson blunted out, “When are we going to deal with the backlash we get for graduating from these presigious white universities?”, I knew down inside he caught hell and got accused of getting through that school because of his light-skinned status. I know this because that’s what happended to me. It’s sickening. But he still screwed up when he said he had light-skinned privilege over his dark-skinned younger half-brother, who is in jail for first-degree murder. If he didn’t graduate and become who he is, he probably would have never said that. In fact, he’d probably say the opposite. lol

    But at times perhaps your light-skinned status does determine whether you get hired or favored in white corporate America. However not enough to make the other 99% of the light-skinned blacks who don’t, feel lucky about anything. On that note, I believe corporate America would find a less threat in a dark-skinned brother with dreadlocks, especailly the one with a white wife, than they’d find in a light-skinned brother who loves his people, the category most light-skinned blacks happen to fall in. Then they’re even more terrified of light-skinned brothers like Ellijah Muhammad, Malcolm X, Louis Farrakhan, Huey Newton, etc…

  9. I’m afraid most of you are drnking the koolaid and talking about colorism, whatever that really means, and not racism, which is still the primary root of our problem. Here’s a post I did on this very topic. Read it with a third eye:

    I don’t think colorism has a true definition, but more of a sneaky one. It’s not the same as racism, which is the dominant race oppressing the weaker race. When trying to involve racism with so-called colorism, it leaves the potential to divide the race who have the most color, who happens to be African-Americans. It’s like a two-edged sword, one side stabbing dark-skinned folks and one side stabbing light-skinned folks, meanwhile going right through all colors in between (yellow, red, brown).

    I think it’s human nature to want a little color. That’s probably why some white people who feel they are too white try too tan and some black people who feel they are too dark try to bleach. I think this term colorism is more of a “who you prefer to date” issue between light-skinned and dark-skinned blacks. I know for a fact that when people date someone too dark-skinned to the point people nick name them blue, they tend to crave for a little more caramel in their partner. And when they date someone too light were people could nick name them snowball, they still tend to crave for a little more caramel in their parter. But people should be satisfied with what they’ve got. But anyway, do any of this indicate we want to be more European? I don’t think so.

    What I find Black America more reluctant to discuss as opposed to this imaginary light-skinned favoratism, is this negative treatment light-skinned people have suffered at the hands of their own kind. I remember in the movie “BarberShop”, were a brother was asked why was he so nervous. And the brother replied, “I’m a light-skinned brother, what do you expect”. Although comical, there was a lot of truth in that, and nobody wanted to focus on that…maybe we shouldn’t. When Eric Dyson blunted out, “When are we going to deal with the backlash we get for graduating from these presigious white universities?”, I knew down inside he caught hell and got accused of getting through that school because of his light-skinned status. I know this because that’s what happended to me. It’s sickening. But he still screwed up when he said he had light-skinned privilege over his dark-skinned younger half-brother, who is in jail for first-degree murder. If he didn’t graduate and become who he is, he probably would have never said that. In fact, he’d probably say the opposite. lol

    But at times perhaps your light-skinned status does determine whether you get hired or favored in white corporate America. However not enough to make the other 99% of the light-skinned blacks who don’t, feel lucky about anything. On that note, I believe corporate America would find a less threat in a dark-skinned brother with dreadlocks, especailly the one with a white wife, than they’d find in a light-skinned brother who loves his people, the category most light-skinned blacks happen to fall in. Then they’re even more terrified of light-skinned brothers like Ellijah Muhammad, Malcolm X, Louis Farrakhan, Huey Newton, etc…

  10. Watch out you disadvantaged groups such Blacks, White women, Black women and other racial minorities. Be careful who they have as judges and defense lawyers. Some federal white male judges are becoming racists. They are angry President Obama was re-elected. These racist judges are avenging themselves by denying formerly disadvantaged groups justice. They are turning their courts into Kangaroo courts. They think Blacks, White women, Black women and other racial minorities are responsible that President Obama was re-elected. We used to hear such racism in federal courts in other states like Texas. I never expected that to happen in my backyard federal court. One judge in my federal court district conducted a Kangaroo hearing – denying a Black man rights in court. I am asking all these groups to be careful who you have as defense lawyers and judges.

    • I’m not going to exclude some blacks on this one. I’m a black man, and I had a black female administrative judge rule against me in September, and I had overwhelming evidence plus a lawyer. My evidence was so strong that the court clerk, who was a black woman, almost busted out in tears.

      However I did have a white lawyer, who didn’t present my case very strong. Plus this black female judge may have being pressured by some racist above her. Having a black president meant nothing for me in this situation. When he got re-elected, I wasn’t all that happy, but it was better than Romney. Maybe this re-election meant that this system needed another knock up side the head.

  11. Its a sad, sickness that we need to address as a race. Black inferiority-especially to the black man is killing us at a rate of speed that we are not even aware. At present, more white women are giving birth to black children because our males hate themselves and their mothers so much that they would much rather eat the scraps from the white man’s table than to be king at their own. Soon, it wiil be noted that white women make better mothers to black children than black women do. It doesn’t matter whether you are light or dark-in this hea AmeriKKKA we are all seen as Niggas! We do not understand that our preferences aren’t theirs.
    A footnote about Don Lemmons: Is a gay man (who is an advocate of the word Nigga.) In this life that we live, Gay is far more accepted than being black! We need to wake up and see how far we are at the end of the line and who keeps being allowed to step ahead of us. At my workplace, Africans are less likely to identify with black people-they typically, are ayz kissers to Mexicans and whites (of course) even they do not want to be affiliated with a group who has no pride amongst themselves. We honestly, need to get it together…

  12. White supremacy and racism have been ingrained in this society since its inception. All media outlets are affected by it. We just have to keep doing exactly what you are doing, pointing it out.

  13. Rozlyn Cross-Ratliff

    The brown paper bag test was cruel in my opinion… when a person under-goes open heart surgery. The surgeon must first break the ribb cage before he is able repair the heart.. Watching the CNN special last evening was heart breaking. The children looked sad depressed and stressed out.. I thought their viewpoint on dark skin was the worst case of self hatred I have ever seen for television.. Getting back to my point of repairing the heart? The teacher left the children without repair… Truly sad..

    • Rozlyn Cross-Ratliff

      The brown paper bag test was cruel in my opinion… when a person under-goes open heart surgery. The surgeon must first break the ribb cage before he is able repair the heart.. Watching the CNN special last evening was heart breaking. The
      children looked sad depressed and stressed out.. I thought their viewpoint on dark skin was the worst case of self hatred I have ever seen for television.. Getting back to my point of repairing the heart? The teacher left the children without repair… Truly sad..

  14. We are Afrikans, Hebrews, Black Izraelites, Nubians, Muurs (Moors), WaNubians, Kemetians, Indians, Gods, Goddesses, Rulers, Leaders, Kings, Queens, Mathematicians, Inventors, and Contributors to world OURstory!!! ALL OF THE ABOVE

    WE ARE BLACK AFRIKANS, the True children of the Black Messiah!!! PROOF: Psalm 82:6 reads: “I have said, Ye are gods; and ALL of you are CHILDREN of the Most High.”

    Some of us have been PROGRAMMED to think Black is evil and white is good. Everytime you see a Black man, he’s dressed in Black, and a majority of the time, he is the villain. When you see the color Black in a movie, or as an item; it is the evil or ugly ‘monster’.

    All the movies that involve caucasoid males, they are the ‘good guys’ and always wear white, i.e., white hat, white (blond) hair, whitehorse, white skin, white galfriend…you get the picture. The ‘bad guys’ wear or have Black hats, Black clothes, Black cars…you know the deal…the image of the Black men is always negative!!!

    Even the caucasoid’s language is racist toward Black people, i.e., blackmail, blackice, blackball, black/dark day, the only time the color BLACK is in a positive meaning is when cracker’s make money off of BLACK folks…they call it “IN THE BLACK”, meaning positive earnings or MAKING MONEY!!!

    During Kemetian times, the color Black was the image of God. It represented HOLINESS, PEACEFULNESS, and KINGSMENSHIP. The color ‘white’ represented the devil, evil and DEATH!!! Has anything changed with these devils? Y’all know the deal!!!

    The color Black ABSORBS or ACCEPTS ALL WAVELENGTHS OF LIGHT and ENERGY, and ALL energy comes from the Black Messiah/Sun God. PROOF: Psalm 84:11 reads: “For the lord God is a sun and shield…”

    The color ‘white’ REJECTS or REFLECTS energy; it reflects or REJECTS more light than a mirror!!! PROOF: the meaning of reject is; a person or thing dismissed, as failing to meet standards, or satisfy tastes: to dismiss, as inadequate, inappropriate, or not to one’s taste.

    Aren’t caucasoids FAILING and INADEQUATE? Don’t they need to be DISMISSED? I don’t know about y’all, but they don’t live up to my STANDARDS!!!

    The Black Messiah LOVED Blackness/Darkness because He knew the wicked deeds of the “light” [caucasoid romans, greeks and khazars] were deathly, demonized, and demorale.

    PROOF: John 3:19 reads: “And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the DARKNESS more than the “light”, for their actions were evil.”

    THE BLACK TRUTH HAS BEEN SPOKEN!!!

  15. Rozlyn Cross-Ratliff

    Please be advised my description for African Americans in this post are Hebrew… I had a problem with how The One Drop Blood Rule is being taught to our children.. CNN Found a African American (Hebrew) Teacher to describe our blood by mixing black paint with water… Here's where I strongly disagree.. According to the teacher, the (American Hebrew Slave Descentant's) blood was described to be Contaminated… While, the desciption of Gentile blood (European Nation) was taught to be pure… We are the chosen children of God, from the tribe of Judah… Our bloodline is pure in the eyes of God, it can be linked back to Adam and Eve… Our large Nation of 12 tribes comes in many different hues, which all are beuatiful.. Also, we were made in the image of The Most High God…

    • How did U feel about the "Brown Paper Bag" test on the munchkins?

    • Rozlyn Cross-Ratliff

      The brown paper bag test was cruel in my opinion… when a person under-goes open heart surgery. The surgeon must first break the ribb cage before he is able repair the heart.. Watching the CNN special last evening was heart breaking. The children looked sad depressed and stressed out.. I thought their viewpoint on dark skin was the worst case of self hatred I have ever seen for television.. Getting back to my point of repairing the heart? The teacher left the children without repair… Truly sad..

    • I was not apalled at the strategy it was done in sororites and by the Cotton Club years ago! It was also done by a white teacher in the 60's and recorded as a documentary and lauded by scholars and public alike! She even appeared on Oprah years later speaking about the experiment! ( she used blue & brown eyes) It was shown in college classrooms as a tool to enlighten just how insideous reacism is. So why when this young woman does it …it is held to scrutiny???? Why is it we abhor the truth about us, if it is not discussed it can not be resolved or healed from!!!!

  16. I am happy they are doing the show period. It's long overdue topic for discussion in our country. Kudos to CNN & Soledad for having the guts to do it. They clearly showed the advantages light skin plays in the workplace. Perhaps you need them to fall on their swords? I say, you first. You have a bully pulpit. Go ahead and throw Syracuse under the bus and demonstrate true leadership in the area since you have a problem with not calling out the source of the info. Please, give us a commentary on how YOU got to where you are based on colorism instead of the one phrase deeply embedded in this piece. I see no difference between what you did & what CNN by covering the stats in general. So, go ahead and step up to the plate sir.

  17. Rozlyn Cross-Ratliff

    Please note: I refer to all so-called African Americans as Hebrew…

  18. Rozlyn Cross-Ratliff

    I had a problem with how The One Drop Blood Rule is being taught to our children.. CNN Found a African American (Hebrew) Teacher to describe our blood by mixing black paint with water… Here's where I strongly disagree.. According to the teach the (American Hebrew Slave Descentant's) blood was described to be Contaminated… While, the desciption of Gentile blood (European Nation) was taught to be pure… We are the chosen children of God, from the tribe of Jadah… Our bloodline is pure in the eyes of God, it can be linked back to Adam and Eve…

    • Rozlyn Cross-Ratliff

      Correction: Tribe of Judah…

    • Rozlyn Cross-Ratliff

      Correction… I had a problem with how The One Drop Blood Rule is being taught to our children.. CNN Found a African American (Hebrew) Teacher to describe our blood by mixing black paint with water… Here's where I strongly disagree.. According to the teacher, the (American Hebrew Slave Descentant's) blood was described to be Contaminated… While, the desciption of Gentile blood (European Nation) was taught to be pure… We are the chosen children of God, from the tribe of Judah… Our bloodline is pure in the eyes of God, it can be linked back to Adam and Eve… Our large Nation of 12 tribes comes in many different hues, which all are beuatiful.. Also, we were made in the image of The Most High God…

    • Rozlyn Cross-Ratliff

      Here's another depressing video on our nationalaity… http://youtu.be/UW31Te1awVw

  19. Rozlyn Cross-Ratliff

    I had a problem with how the one drop blood rule is being taught to our children… Our blood, (African American) was described as contaminated, white the white race was defined as pure…. For this is the reason why many of our people suffer with self-hatred? WTH?

  20. Rozlyn Cross-Ratliff

    I had a problem with our blood (African American) be described as contaminated, while white blood was taught to be pure… WTH?

  21. Rozlyn Cross-Ratliff

    I will be nice and make a brief comment… If I shared my entire thought on this subject, it would open Pandora's box… I did not enjoy the show this evening.. Once again, the story of ORGINAL African American Slave descentants were not told…

  22. Dear friends of America, here in Brazil we have a few talking heads on Network. The ones we have are of dark skin complexion. However, when it comes to use athlets and celebrities televison prefers light skin ones.

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