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Jabarah Harley

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Jabarah Harley

College Writing 112H

Christine Crutchfield

18 November 2011

Light Skin vs. Dark Skin

 Most people over look the images of African Americans in the media. The media tends to portray lighter skinned African Americans more often than darker skinned African Americans. This has caused an issue of light skin vs. dark skin in the African American community. The way the media portrays lighter skinned African Americans has impacted darker skinned African Americans in a negative way. It has led darker skinned African Americans to feel inferior and some of them go as far as to bleach their skin because of it. The issue of light skin vs. dark skin can be fixed and it needs to start with changes in the media.

In the book, An Empirical Analysis of the Impact of Skin Color on African-American Education, Income and Occupation, author Ronald Hall mentions how the issue of light skinned vs. dark skinned blacks dates back to 1620, when the first cargo ship of Africans was brought to Jamestown, Virginia. This began a history of slavery in the British colonies and what became the United States. By the end of the slave trade in 1808, around 12,000,000 Africans had been taken from their homeland and forced to become slaves (6). Eventually, there became mixing of Black and White, especially between the masters and the females slaves. This became a new population of mulattos (half black/half white). In the book, The Color Complex: The Politics of Skin Color Among African Americans, author Kathy Russell mentions how a color caste system was established placing dark skinned persons at the bottom, mulattos in the middle, and whites at the top. Also, on slave plantations mulattoes were usually assigned indoor activities such as housekeeper, cook, and seamstress because mulattos were considered more intelligent and capable than dark skinned slaves. On the other hand, dark skinned slaves had to work in the hot sun because masters thought they would be able to tolerate the sun better (18). Many field workers envied and resented the house servants. Already we see tension between light skinned and dark skinned African Americans.  Even though the institution of slavery was ended with the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation, the effects of slavery are still seen today.

In the novel, The Fire Next Time, author James Baldwin discusses the self-perception that many African Americans have about themselves. He states: “Negroes in this country…are taught really to despise themselves from the moment their eyes open on the world. This world is white and they are black. White people hold the power, which means they are superior to blacks” (25). This relates to the 1939 doll experiment performed by psychologists Kenneth and Mamie Clark. In this experiment, they gave a group of black kids between ages three and seven a white and a black doll that were identical except for their skin color. The children were asked questions to determine racial perception and preference. They also had the children color in outlined drawings of a boy and a girl the same color as themselves. Many of the children with darker skin complexions colored the figures with white or yellow crayons. The Clarks concluded that segregation, discrimination, and prejudice caused black children to develop a sense of inferiority and self-hatred (Brown v. Board). Blacks were-and still are-born into a world where their race is an important factor in success. For years, the White race has made blacks feel inferior. Even in the media they do the same thing by portraying light skinned African Americans more often. The media is not helping darker skinned African Americas feel better about themselves.

The book The Color Complex also talks about the issue of images of blacks in the media. It discusses how lighter skinned blacks are displayed more in the media then darker skinned blacks. It states how black women who play romantic leads in films nearly always have light skin and long hair. Also, lighter skinned black women with classic European features usually predominate in beauty pageants, music videos, and the world of modeling (Russell, 135). If you think about it, most famous African American actors and musicians, especially women, have light skin.  This is because the media thinks that lighter skinned women with long synthetic hair are more attractive than darker skinned women with natural hair. Think about the singer Beyoncé, actress Halle Berry, and model Tyra Banks. Take Beyoncé,-she has light skin, and she is often seen with a long blond hair. The book also mentions darker skinned black figures that are well known and successful, such as the model Iman and Naomi Cambel. This book was written in 1992, and today when I think of darker skinned blacks that were famous, I still think of those two. This demonstrates how lighter skinned blacks still dominate the media. In his article,  Light Skinned with Good Hair: The Role of the Media and Christianity in the Maintenance of Self-Hatred in African Americans, author Akintunde Omowale explains how the racism in the media leads to African Americans to have low self-perceptions of themselves. According to Omowale, since the media thinks that natural hair and darker African American skin complexion is unattractive, the result is a psychological perception that African Americans are unattractive, and since light skin and straight hair are considered to be attractive attributes, the resulting attitude is that being white is attractive. This is sad, but it’s still true today.

The way the media portrays African Americans relates to the problem of skin bleaching in the black community. The book An Empirical Analysis of the Impact of Skin Color on African-American Education, Income and Occupation, also brings up the issue of skin bleaching. The author states “The effort on the part of African-Americans to assimilate and simultaneously bring about a reduction in psychological pain is made possible by their obsession with a ‘bleached ideal’ ” (Hall, 178). I first heard about this problem a few years ago on the Tyra Banks show. On the show, women of darker skinned complexions were ashamed of their skin color and applied skin bleaching cream to their face in order to become lighter. Some of them even put lightening cream on the faces of their kids. One woman was so desperate that she once put actual bleach on her skin. According to the article Skin Bleaching: Poison, Beauty, and the Politics of the Colour Line by Amina Mire, skin bleaching is “an attempt to gain respectability and social mobility within the white supremacist capitalist social and political order.”  I agree with this idea because the women on the Tyra show thought lighter skinned African Americans were more attractive, more likely to be successful, and overall had a better life. Today, people continue to bleach their skin. It’s sad that as I typed this topic into Google, the majority of the results had to do with ads for buying skin lightning products. Many of these creams contain the drug called hydroquinone. It inhibits the production of melanin, and has been researched to cause cancer in rodents, as well as being linked to a skin-disfiguring condition called ochronosis that results in darkening and thickening of the skin. The US FDA stated that products containing hydroquinone should be restricted to prescription use under medical supervision (Harmful Effects). In the media light skin has always been superior and more successful, so some people strive to be that way no matter what it takes. Skin bleaching is dangerous and needs to be put to an end. Skin bleaching also demonstrates the negative effects that the media is having on darker skinned African Americans.


The issue of light skinned vs. dark skinned blacks in the media can be resolved. In 2010, there was a study on advertising called Skin color shades in advertising to ethnic audiences: the case of African Americans. In the study, 299 African American males and females were given print advertisements of light skinned and dark skinned African American models. They had to rate their attitude towards the model’s attractiveness, toward the ad, and the attitude toward the brand. In the results, the males evaluated the ads and the brand more favorably when they featured light skinned models. However, although the males rated the light skinned females better, it wasn’t by much, so therefore the males still evaluated the ads that featured dark skinned females favorably. For the females the attitude toward the brand and ad were roughly the same. Also, they found dark skinned models to be more attractive (Watson). This demonstrates that even though lighter skinned blacks are portrayed more in the media, it doesn’t mean that everyone finds them to be more attractive, which is something the media needs to understand. I think that the media should feature darker skinned blacks in order to reverse the damage that it has cause by only featuring lighter skinned blacks. There are people trying to fix this issue. A movie called Dark Girls is going to be released sometime this winter. The movie aims to uncover and expose the true life of darker skinned African American women and the struggles they go through. The movie also wants darker skinned women to feel better about themselves, instead of having a low self-perception. This seems to be a good idea that could work. It relates to the late eighties when psychologist Michael Barnes replicated the original doll experiment done by Clark, and discovered that almost two-thirds of black preschool children preferred white dolls over black doll. However, he also discovered that self-hatred can be unlearned. Him and his researchers spent several hours with the children discussing the positive aspects of being Black and then retested them. This time around two thirds chose the black doll over the white (Russell, 64). This same situation can be applied to entertainment and the media. If darker skinned blacks are shown more, then darker skinned African Americas will start to higher their self-perception.

In order for the media to make a change, the supporters of this issue have to come together. They have to promote awareness of the issue by protesting studios, products, merchandise etc. The media has to understand that light skin vs. dark skin in the media is an issue and the negative effects it has on darker skinned African Americans. Imagine what the African American community would be like if this issue was resolved. Darker skinned African Americans, especially girls, would feel less inferior and feel beautiful in their own skin. They would have more hope for themselves and the future.

In conclusion, light skinned African Americans are shown more in the media than darker skinned African Americans. This has led to darker skinned African Americans to have low self-perception of themselves. Darker skinned African Americans have done dangerous things, such as skin bleaching, in order to become light skinned because they think that will give them a better life. This problem needs to be resolved, and it needs to begin with the media. Nowadays, the media shape, reflect, reinforce, and define the world in which we live in. Once the media starts making a change, people’s thoughts about darker skinned African Americans in the media will change.  The process would obviously be a slow one, but it will be worth it in the end.

Works Cited

Akintude, Omowale. Light Skinned with Good Hair: The Role of the Media and Christianity

        in the Maintenance of Self-Hatred in African Americans. Educational Resource center.

January 1997. October 27, 2011. PDF file.

Baldwin, James. The Fire Next Time. New York, The Dial Press, 1963. Print.

Brown vs. Board of Topeka Kansas. The Library of Congress. July 23, 2010. October 27,

2011.  Web.

Hall, Ronald E. An Empirical Analysis of the Impact of Skin Color on African-American

            Education, Income, and Occupation. Lewiston, N.Y: E. Mellen Press, 2005. Print

The Harmful Effects of Lightening Skin Creams. Word Press. September 26, 2006.  October 27,

2011. Web.

Mire, Amina. “Skin-Bleaching: Poison, Beauty, Power, and the Politics of the Colour Line.” Resources

for Feminist Research/Documentation sur la Recherche Feministe 28.3-4 (2001): 13-38. Sociological Abstracts. Web. 14 Nov. 2011.

Russell, Kathy, Midge Wilson, and Ronald E. Hall. The Color Complex: The Politics of Skin Color

            Among African Americans. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1992. Print.

Tyra Banks Show: Black Women Caught Bleacher Her and Her Children’s skin. YouTube.

 Posted 2011.

Watson, Stevie, Corliss G. Thornton, and Brian T. Engelland. “Skin Color Shades In Advertising To

Ethnic Audiences: The Case Of African Americans.” Journal Of Marketing Communications

16.4 (2010): 185-201. Communication & Mass Media Complete. Web. 14 Nov. 2011.


Stop Killing Our Planet! by Alex Edwards

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Stop Killing Our Planet! by Alex Edwards

          Global Warming is an issue most teenagers talk about but don’t really consider in their everyday adventures. An issue that gets more detrimental as the clock ticks but we’re more concerned on what outfit we should wear today. Is this global problem really something that you and I should stop our daily activities and consider or is just something we can overlook that will eventually take care of itself?

          Merriam-Webster defines global warming as an increase in the earth’s atmospheric and oceanic temperatures widely predicted to occur due to an increase in the greenhouse effect resulting especially from pollution. During the past century, the Earth’s atmosphere has already warmed by 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Now less than 2 degrees doesn’t seem like much of an increase but the temperature only increased about .5 degrees Fahrenheit just a century before – That’s a triple increase in just 100 years. The interesting statistic that scientist currently predict is that by the end of this century the earth’s surface will be between 35.6 and 42.8 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than it is today! (National Wildfire Federation) But, how does this affect me? Why should I care?

            Some see the fight against global warming as needless. The 2006 documentary film, An Inconvenient Truth, narrated by Al Gore educated Americans and foreign nations about the drastic effects of global warming and its future harmful effects on the world. Yet some critics were skeptical. Some saw the film as “misleading”, “exaggerated”, “one-sided”, and blatantly “wrong.” Mario Lewis Jr., stated Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth never “acknowledges the environmental and health benefits of climatic warmth and ongoing rise in the air’s carbon dioxide content.” Has Mr. Lewis forgotten that humans breathe in oxygen and not carbon dioxide? With increased CO2 levels in the air, that creates decreased O2 levels and makes every breath just that much more important. Mr. Lewis also said that Gore exaggerates when he mentions that polar bears “have been drowning in significant numbers” when in actuality it has only been “four bears that have drown in one month of one year, following an abrupt storm” (Lewis). Four polar bears may have drowned in that year but number will skyrocket in the next few years. According to an article by the journal of applied ecology, “The three main threats to polar bear populations over the next 50 years were viewed as climate change, hunting and pollution… the year 2050 less than half of the arctic ice covering the arctic sea will be melted and the polar bear population will decrease by at least 30%, possibly 70% all due to climatic change” (Watkinson). At least a 30 – 70 percent decrease in the polar bear population? I don’t think Al Gore was exaggerating one bit. (Gore’s documentary was taken to court with accusations of having falsified information. The judge ruled that “Al Gore’s presentation of the causes and likely effects of climate change in the film was broadly accurate.”)

             The burning of fossil fuels, such as petroleum and coal, whether by factories or the car in our garages, leads to increased pollution in the environment. This air pollution, called smog creates a layer of greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere. These gases included nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, acid and dust particles. This layer of gases creates a blanket over the Earth’s atmosphere, which warms up the planet by stopping the heat from the sun to escape. Think of it like a car. If you go outside on a hot day in a car with the windows rolled up, the air will soon become stifling and the seats will quickly become hot. That’s what greenhouse gases do to the earth and we are the primary factor. On December 12, 2003, the World Health Organization (WHO) said global warming was responsible for the deaths of 150,000 people in 2000 (Reuters). They fear that this total could double within the next thirty years. Now this is an outstanding figure here. More than a tenth of a million of people, killed in one year, due to a problem where the blame finger is pointed at us. And some say there is “no such thing as global warming.” Global warming kills people in indirect ways, ways that are overlooked by a typical teen. For example, over 3000 deaths were due to people who had diarrhea due to increased heat which caused food to become contaminated faster. Global warming caused increased rainfall in third world countries which increased the habitats of mosquitos, which carry malaria (Malaria causes one million deaths per year). If we don’t look for ways to stop or slow down global warming, then 150,000 deaths will inevitably reach millions.

            Let’s look at this issue from our perspective. Although teenagers are frequently exposed to issues related to global warming, their conceptions regarding the scope and nature of this problematic phenomenon are often lacunae with scientific understandings. A study done by the Journal of Baltic Science Education, questioned a group of students, between the ages of seventeen and eighteen and taking Environmental Science, about general Global Warming and Ozone Depletion issues. The results showed that fifty-two percent of the respondents were unaware of the depletion of our ozone. In addition, fifty-one percent of the students were unaware that the ground ozone level is harming our environment; sixty-two percent did not know that it was toxic (Grima, Walter and Paul). So why do these numbers and statistics matter? People our age look towards the older and wiser to do something about things like global warming. Don’t get me wrong, I’m also a part of the passive statistic. Why should I have to do something, if there’s someone with more experience and knowledge on the subject? Why not just let them take care of it? I think Michael Pollan in his essay, “Why Bother,” said it best: “Virtually all of our needs and desires we delegate to specialists of one kind or another like the care for the environment to the environmentalists” (Pollan, 213). The problem with this passive nature is that in thirty to forty years from now, this won’t be the environmentalists’ world; it will be our world. It will be us that will suffer the consequences of our current actions; not our professors, our parents, nor our coaches but us.

             So the question is what should we do? How do we save the Earth? The U.S. acquires 38% of its energy from petroleum but petroleum creates a large amount of air pollution and increases greenhouse gas emissions. If the government continues to increase our electricity production via renewable energy such as wind and hydropower and reduce the burning of fossil fuels such as petroleum and coal, then we will be moving in the right direction. But what can the common folk, like you and I, do? Well for starters, you can turn off all the lights that you’re not currently using, carpool when all your friends want to go to mall instead of each of you showing off your driving skills, or even just planting a tree in your backyard. All of these things and more can help reduce our carbon emissions, which will reduce greenhouse gases emissions and ultimately “cool down” the Earth. Seems simple doesn’t it but it doesn’t take one or two people to recognize the larger issue at hand; we need a global response. In thirty years, the earth will be warmer, more ice will melt, more animal habitats will be lost, sea levels will rise and our land will be drench and houses will be become boats. Al Gore successfully put the world on edge with An Inconvenient Truth and made us aware of climate change. However, only five years after its release, Gore’s documentary seems more like an afterthought then an increased fight to save our planet. I think people need to be reeducated and reinforced with modern statistics; I’ll call it “An Inconvenient Truth: Rebirth.” Like Obama said during his 2008 campaign run, “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time,” and that time is now.

Work Cited

Cook, John. “Is Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth accurate?” Skeptical Science. Print. 4 Nov. 2011.

Environment 911.”The Melting of the Polar Ice Caps and Global Warming.” Environment 911 Organization. Web. 3 Nov. 2011

“Global Warming.” Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster, Incorporated, 2011. Web. 2 Nov. 2011

Grima, Joanne, Walter Leal Filho, and Paul Pace. “Perceived Frameworks of Young People on Global Warming and Ozone Depletion.” Journal of Baltic Science Education 9.1 (2010): 35-49. Academic Search Premier. Web. 13 Nov. 2011.

Lewis, Marlo. (2007) “A Skeptic’s Guide to an Inconvenient Truth.” Competitive Enterprise Institute. Print. 4 Nov. 2011

“Malaria.” E-Med-TV. Clinaero, Incorporated, 2006-2011. Web. 4 Nov. 2011.

Osborn, Liz. “History of Changes in the Earth’s Temperature.” Current Results Nexus. Current Results. Print. 4 Nov. 2011.

Novi Meadows Elementary. (2002) “Protecting the Home We Live In: Environmental Issues.” Think Quest. Web. 4 Nov. 2011

Pollan, Michael. “Why Bother?” Other Words: A Writer’s Reader. Ed. David Fleming. Dubuque, IA: Kendall Hunt, 2009. 211-216. Print.

National Wildfire Federation. “What is Global Warming?” National Wildfire Federation. Web. 4 Nov. 2011

Reuters. “Global Warming Killing Thousands.” 11 Dec. 2003. Wired. Web. 4 Nov. 2011.

Riebeek, Holli. “Global Warming.” Earth Observatory 3 Jun. 2010. NASA. Web. 4 Nov. 2011.

Watkinson, Andrew R. “Using Expert Knowledge to Assess Uncertainties in Future Polar Bear Populations under Climate Change.” Journal of Applied Ecology 45.6 (2008): 1649-1659. Academic Search Premier. Print. 4 Nov. 2011.