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In the middle part of 2008, this author described what might be meant by "black student" in the years to come on a college campus. This is a part of a number of articles describing bi-racial white and Asian students as well as Blacks. The article was entitled "Black Students in White Skins" in the College Student Journal, Vol. 42, June/2008, Number 3, 479-480. There has been much discussion and research since the article was published.

This article will try to describe not just the appearance of Black students, but other folks who are described as "persons of color". Colleges may be extremely diiferent as described in the pages of this journal. Many colleges may be on-line, others are major universities. Last, junior and community colleges may be blossoming as well as small little liberal arts struggle to stay alive. This article is to describe both Blacks and others "students of color" among all the various schools.

Both professors and administrators (white) may want to know more about the student without directly talking to them. What is their life like? Do you notice that you get more comfortable among light colored Blacks? What may be some of the reasons? The color sure does not say it all, but it may give a glimpse into world of Black people, another world, in which "white" is predominant. The assumption is that most readers of this article are "white." For Black students that which is discussed is widely known, "colorism" is a term used exclusively by the measure of a brown paper bag. If you are darker than the bag, you are black and you must stay back from mainstream (white America.) If you are lighter than the paper bag color, you are most likely to be able to "stick around" white Americans.


The first essay described white folks who are black to most Americans. Scientific American (See reference above) estimated that nearly 22% of whites have black heritage. Ten years or so later, the percentage must be greater.

However, this is about "colorism" Bi-Racials have about 12.8 million people in the general white population or about 6.8% of the total population.

Light skin and Nordic or North European features with tan appearance might approximate Halle Berry or Jennifer Beal. Caucasians in quest of looking healthy tan put on tan colored chemicals or suffer in the sun to become an orange/tan. Additionally, Black folks with a tight curl of hair can cut it all off or replace their hair with a hair piece that compliments their skin. Brown eyes can become blue with contacts, apparel can be chosen to signal "whiteness." The point of all this is not "passing" but appearing very approachable to the larger white population. However, color can be disastrous to an individual such as the movie *Human Stain" where the protagonist hides his identity throughout his life. Or it could be troublesome such as McBride in "The Color of Water" his mother is white but claims to be light Black and his father is Black. So, what is he? Colorism is part of the pathos of the human tapestry of American history and throughout the world.

There is much more, but we review. Brown eyes can become blue with appropriate contacts. Further glasses that are tinted, but have cosmetic lens can cover the fact that the person has contacts. Retail stores do have cosmetic lenses. Preference may be toward gold rim Aviator glasses because it covers more of the eyes. The nose is also downsized by the glasses and they may make the lips a tad bit thinner. This is also possible to use a lipstick or gloss for both sexes so that a lighter brown or tan makes the lips thinner.

Bleach creme or lightening lotion may make the person much lighter. Most stores now have this product and further many regular cremes also have the ability to lighten the skin. The hair that is dark can also be intermixed with a lighter partial or related so that they mix gives an attractive compliment. Both hair stylists, hair colorist, and hair piece makers that specialize in this area can be extremely helpful.*

Mainly for males, shaving all the hair off and using extensive lightening creme can make African-Americans and Bi-racial more attractive to Caucasians.

Speech patterns are the last element to this position. One knows how foolish some Whites talk when they try to talk "Black." This author, years ago worked in a poverty program that was overwhelmingly African-American. Regardless of this author's genetic roots, he has a definite white appearance. Further, during the entire calendar year, this author uses a bronzer to cover a mild skin allergy. No attempt was made to look Black, act Black or talk Black. Looking back some 50 years, an attempt was made with patrons to talk "White" and dress "White" This was meant to be a short attempt to gain a job in a poverty program. If the person became employed, there was encouragement for them to gradually return to being themselves. This was done to lower the race barrier.

The author found a great deal of support for this effort. This was meant to be a short-term effort to getting a good job. Acting "white" back then was thought to be foolish among people of color. All of this was similar to "passing stations" when slaves moved into freedom. They did everything to help the slaves who escaped into northern areas where they could be "white" and not be arrested by a slave hunter.

Making Choices

The above discussion has another side. Many serious students dealing with the issue of being attractive to Whites indicate that folks are "selling out" relative to their Blackness. A person of color should not make their life a prison of expectations hoping to please the "man." All the above should be considered disreputable. Black is superior unto itself. Black pride does not mean trying to look "whiter." So many heroes of the African-American culture did not rinse their appearance away from their roots. The color issues traces in part back to Marcus Garvey, Booker T. Washington, and W.E.B. Dubois. +

The first position is one to help some personalities and the second is to support the other authentic position. There are also gradations between the two. The first again is white accommodation and the second is a sign of black pride. At the moment, lighter Blacks appear to be more likely to survive among mainstream white folks (Snell, 2008, Robinson, 2010) Eugene Robinson (see above) in his Disintegration: The Splintering of Black America (2010) describes at least 4 categories of Black Americans. The first is mainstream majority Americans. They are likely to live a double life. At work, they are with numerous folks of all colors, but predominantly whites. They may live in the Black suburbs, and yet work in an historically white institution. They also live outside the ghetto, but still not far from it. This is to indicate that they are still part of the community. Second, is the abandoned "structural poor." This is the typical stereotype that unfortunately endures.

The third is the "Transcendent elite." They are so powerful, famous, and rich that their color becomes incidental or secondary. The last are two groups, Bi-racials and African immigrants. All four have different subcultures, but at one time they were one. This was the period of slavery and the Jim Crow eras.


What this is meant to mean that "colorism" can be literal, but it applies to numerous groups not only here but many parts of the world." Neo-colorism" is also a figurative or metaphorical word which takes into account the increase in power, wealth, and prestige of blackness can translate into "lightness" or "whiteness." It also means that white folks in sometimes and places disregard the person's appearance because they are so important. This not only applies to Blacks, but other "persons of color."

One third of the country will be Hispanic some 30 years or so from now. David Brooks a moderate conservative and commentator for New York Times (June 27, 2013) and PBS indicates that number could come even faster depending on immigration policy. As of July 2nd, The Fresno Bee indicated that there are now more Hispanics than Non-Hispanics (Black, Asian, White, and others) in California. Further, all of us are "mutts." That means many groups. Let's imagine that I show you a picture of a mythical family taken 100 years ago. They all appear white. Take it today and they are all white. No? Well, beneath the surface are Africans, Hispanics and others. On Chris Matthews Hardball (7/2. 2013) 50,000 new Hispanics are born each month. So" white" may mean something different in the future.

When kids marry, they marry for love which transcend color and ethnicity. We are in for an incredible change. Nearly every portion of our culture will be impacted by color. We are no longer chunks of huge groups, but smaller little springs of water each feeding into the bigger pond.

Location, location, location. For many cities are made up of small multiple nuclei of villages. If the villages reflect our ethnicity and race, there should be many. It may get down to this, we all look different so when it comes to race we talk in color. Neo-Colorism is often used in countries of many races and ethnicities. As noted before, a brown paper bag often is the measuring point. If your lighter than the color of paper bag, you are white, tan, or light brown. Darker, and you are dark brown, black or blue black.

However, the continuum of color goes from blue black to albinism. If some Blacks try to lighten up or for that matter Asians, Albinism may be concealed with white hair that is sprayed in temporary blonde. The skin is covered with spray tan or mocha brown and spread over the visible parts of the body. Eyes are covered with blue contacts than with large Aviator glasses to cover the slight pink cover of the real eyes.

Of all the non-sense, white folks do not want to be light white, but perhaps tan beige white. It requires suffering in a tanning bed or on the beach. What one knows is that finding successful jobs is correlated with tan regardless of race.

There is also a golden triangle of facial features with nominal metrics. It is hard to say but the measures usually ended in the range of western Europeans. As both population, diversity grow, all the above could be encountered in the 21st century classroom. Cosmetic surgery was not discussed because the author lacks the qualifications to describe procedures to create a tan color with white European features. Further, the ideal may be strikingly different from that in the future.

Lighter folks get lighter sentences in court. Other rewards fall in a long the same line of reasoning regarding complexion. Light and white may come to mean 1) complexion; 2) social class; and, 3) acceptance. How can a black man or a dark Hispanic (using new terminology) become lighter? They may not have the complexion by nature, but through cosmetics (bleach creme, light colored hair piece, blue tinted contacts and related, they "lighten up." Further, straight Caucasians may use a bronzer to cover skin irritations. It will not be wrong to use a bronzer if you are male. Females have a vast array of cosmetics to choose.

Social class. The darker person may make so much money or so much fame, that color no longer becomes an issue. They are white.

Acceptance means that the community recognizes you and have minimized in their mind your color.

Colorism is not a joyous term. It comes with racist discrimination, but it is a fact of society. In describing a person, one may say something about their sex and then their color. So, color is not just about color, but social achievement and societal acceptance.

Thus, that is how black and brown can become white or light. One is literal color. The other is the metaphorical color of money (Graham, 1999).


This is the thrust of the article. Do Blacks, Bi-Racials, and other Persons of Color have more to gain being accommodative to the White mainstream, or take pride in the various individual ethnicities, or both? It would appear that "lightness" still remains viable. It may be reduced, but to this author color is a human stain and preferences go to the color of white covered by sun oriented tan, but mainly by chemicals that are less cancerous.

* Special thanks and help from the local HRC shop in the author's city residence.

([dagger]) Three Visions for African Americans In the early years of the 20th century, Booker T. Washington, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Marcus Garvey developed competing visions for the future of African Americans.

Civil War Reconstruction failed to assure the full rights of citizens to the freed slaves. By the 1890s, Ku Klux Klan terrorism, lynchings, racial-segregation laws, and voting restrictions made a mockery of the rights guaranteed by the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments, which were passed after the Civil War.

The problem for African Americans in the early years of the 20th century was how to respond to a white society that for the most part did not want to treat black people as equals. Three black visionaries offered different solutions to the problem.

Booker T. Washington argued for African Americans to first improve themselves through education, industrial training, and business ownership. Equal rights would naturally come later, he believed. W. E. B. Du Bois agreed that self-improvement was a good idea, but that it should not happen at the expense of giving up immediate full citizenship rights. Another visionary, Marcus Garvey, believed black Americans would never be accepted as equals in the United States. He pushed for them to develop their own separate communities or even emigrate back to Africa.

Constitutional Rights Foundation (2017) Three Visions for African Americans, Los Angeles, California

References Cited

Brooks, David (2013) "A Nation of Mutts," New York: New York Times, 7/23

Graham, Lawrence Otis (1999) Our Kind of People, Inside America's Black Elite, (New York: Perennial Books)

--, (2013) "Latino's to catch up with Whites in state's Population), 7/1

Mathews, Chris (2013) "Hardball" MSNBC, 7/2

McBride, J.(1995) The Color of Water, New York: Penguin Group, 301 pages Robinson, Eugene (2010) Disintegration: The Splintering of Black America, New York, 254 pages.

Snell, Joel (2008) "Black Students in White Skins" College Student Journal. June, 470-480
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Author:Snell, Joel
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Date:Dec 20, 2017

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