In November 2020, Port Of Harlem will celebrate 25 years of publication. As we count down to our birthday, we will republish some of our most popular articles from our print issues. Thanks for subscribing and inviting others to join you in supporting our inclusive, diverse, pan-African publication - - now completely online. We originally published this article in the Nov 2000- Apr 2001 print issue.
It is important to say: I am not neutral. The dynamics of white supremacy, which are addressed here, have affected my life. So, let me put my cards on the table: I am a “dark-skinned” woman with “light-skinned” children and grandchildren. The experiences of those I love have been radically different from my own and have informed and expanded my thinking.
I come to this subject with a perspective and an agenda. My conscious agenda is the long-term well-being of my people (indeed all people) and our healing from the ravages of slavery which still haunt our lives.
My reflections have also been molded by the scholarship on the role that race/color plays in U.S. society. Being human, my reasoning may be flawed and readers my find ways in which my experience has restricted my vision rather than augment it. I look forward to our shared wisdom. This said, I ask: Are you a secondary guardian of white skin privilege?
In western-influenced cultures—globalization makes that most cultures in the world—skin color is the great significator. It is the first thing people see and is used to define who one is and to what one can “rightfully” aspire. There are privileges and a lack thereof attached to different shades of skin, texture of hair, size of lip, and shape of nose neatly encoded into the social fabric of the nation.
Sadly, it is also woven into the social fabric of Black communities. More than Black folk care to admit, our socialization—through centuries of conditioning by European ideals and values—has taught us to live out myths devised to dehumanize us. The internalization of those standards renders us secondary guardians at the gates of white supremacy.