The Whitney Museum chooses silence in an effort to displace, downplay, and negate valid public outrage regarding their policies, ethics and leadership. By Jamara Wakefield May 17th marked the start of the 79th Whitney Biennial. The Biennial is a contemporary art exhibition, featuring typically young and lesser-known artists, at the Whitney Museum of American Art […]
Tinashe Doesn’t Understand How Colorism Works
Tinashe is misinterpreting what colorism actually means and how the power dynamics are in favor of light-skin Black women.
In an interview for The Guardian, Pop-R&B singer, Tinashe discusses her career and various issues that she is grappling with, including growing up biracial (her father is from Zimbabwe and her mother is Danish).
The 24-year-old artist is quoted saying this about colorism: “There’s colourism involved in the black community, which is very apparent,” she says carefully. “It’s about trying to find a balance where I’m a mixed woman, and sometimes I feel like I don’t fully fit into the black community; they don’t fully accept me, even though I see myself as a black woman. That disconnect is confusing sometimes.”
To be honest, if Tinashe hadn’t said she was biracial, my guess would have been that she was a light-skin Black woman – Blackness comes in a multitude of variations which are spread across the African diaspora – but Tinashe is misinterpreting what colorism actually means and how the power dynamics are in favor of light-skin Black women.
Related: STOP WEAPONZING BIRACIAL CHILDREN
For reference, colorism is a term which describes how white supremacy becomes a part of communities of color and manifests itself in different ways including anti-blackness amongst people of color, and light-skin privilege. Colorism is systemic and much like racism, it affects us culturally and socio-economically. Dark Black skin is still considered less desirable and it manifests itself in pretty despicable ways.
Let me be clear, light-skin folks have more privilege than dark-skin people. This is a fact, this is how white supremacy works and if Tinashe doesn’t feel accepted by “the Black community” maybe it’s because she thinks they have more privilege than her and she gaslights their experiences with colorism within the community.
Black women with lighter skin have more access to mainstream opportunities than women with darker skin tones – how long did it take for Hollywood to welcome someone like Lupita Nyong’o? There is much more space for racially ambiguous women like Tinashe than there is for someone like Sza, Michaela Coel or even Issa Rae. Their success is due mostly to sheer genius, immense amounts of work and good management.
The insecurity that Tinashe feels over not fitting in may be a projection of her own lack of self-acceptance, she is 24 years old and entitled to her own experiences, but Tinashe is using the wrong word to describe her experiences. Colorism quite literally does not explain why her career hasn’t taken off, but misogynoir could.
Biracial people do have complex and nuanced experiences with race and racism, but it does not give us the right to claim that we are being discriminated against by other Black folks. It is important to understand that our light-skin privilege means that we can also engage in oppressive and violent behavior against people with darker skin.
Perhaps Tinashe will talk to people who can illustrate why what she said was wrong and misguided. Light-skin biracial folks have a lot of unpacking to do and it isn’t easy work – it requires a constant policing of our own privilege, an understanding of anti-blackness and colorism.