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St. Aug's professor explores 'colorism' in documentary project

Posted June 25, 2015

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— Natalie Bullock Brown isn’t afraid to talk about her insecurities.

“Personally, I have struggled with wondering whether I meet the standard, if I am pretty enough? If my looks are acceptable? If my looks are appealing, really,” she said.

What Brown is really asking is whether she’s too black to be beautiful.

Brown, an assistant professor at St. Augustine’s University in Raleigh, believes that her questions of self-worth were born out of her cultural experiences as a black woman.

“Beauty is one of those pink elephants, especially when you look at it within the context of race,” she said.

Brown is talking about colorism – the idea that black people with a lighter complexion are more attractive than those with a darker complexion. It’s a persistent notion that dates back to slavery.

“Even though they were black, they were thought to be a little better and treated as such than their darker brothers and sisters, who were considered to be the field negroes,” Brown said. “They were given the hardest most difficult work.”

She plans to address the issue in a documentary she’s creating entitled, "Baartman, Beyonce and Me.”

“Colorism, hair, body type, and all of these types of things that I think we grapple with on a day-to-day basis,” Brown said. “Are we thick enough? Are we too skinny? Are we light enough? Are we light enough... too dark?”

While this conversation starts with black women, Brown hopes it spreads to all ethnicities.

“The point of delving into all of this is not to walk around with a chip on our shoulders and blame everybody else for our problems or our heartache,” she said. “It’s to come to grips with it, to contend with it, to address it, so we can move beyond.”

Brown created a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for her documentary project. She met her $15,000 goal in less than a month.

7 Comments

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  • Alex Branoff Jun 26, 2015
    user avatar

    The research has already been done. "The Blacker the Berry, Gender, Skin-Tone, Self-Esteem, and Self Efficacy" Maxine Thompson, NCSU and Verna Keith, Arizona State.

  • Timothy Watson Jun 26, 2015
    user avatar

    Being a Black man, I have heard my African American sisters ask that question, "Do you like dark skin women or light skin women? Some really do have a issue with that and it was past down from slavery time. For 200 plus years, we dealt with trying to get in the house to work, dress up, eat the better food and sleep in the better bed, which is where the light skinned people work and sometimes lived during slavery. We were programmed to think being light skin had benefits. How many generations of people is that?? Just like the lower caste of India, the same-type thinking was planted in our great, great, great grandparents who were slaves. Where did my ancestors get this kind of thinking? I`ll let those who have posted about wasting money, blaming others, etc. answer that question. It is important for this to be discussed in this type of forum so we can move forward. Great Job Natalie !!! We will continue to pray with you as God guides you !!!

  • Tammy Rush Jun 26, 2015
    user avatar

    You guys should really read and comprehend the article before commenting. The documentary is about lighter skin vs. darker skin among black women. I don't understand why you're all reacting with such hostility.

  • John Jones Jun 26, 2015
    user avatar

    Obviously blacks feel inferior to other races. A black female co worker mentioned to me that's why a high number of athletes and successful black men have white wives of girl friends. It's a trophy for them to brag over their friends. HHMMM

  • Johnny Byrd Jun 26, 2015
    user avatar

    “The point of delving into all of this is not to walk around with a chip on our shoulders and blame everybody else for our problems or our heartache,” she said. “It’s to come to grips with it, to contend with it, to address it, so we can move beyond.”

    Sounds just like all the other discrimination rhetoric that has been played over and over. One more, we need to do something about it excuse for why someone is failing and it's not their fault.
    And it all stems from those evil, cruel Southerners past and present who's very history of existence must be wiped from the face of the earth.

  • Tammy Rush Jun 26, 2015
    user avatar

    View quoted thread



    Dude, relax.
    "Brown created a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for her documentary project. She met her $15,000 goal in less than a month."

  • Dean Morron Jun 26, 2015
    user avatar

    What an outright waste of money !!! Who really cares ? Please tell me there is NO funding from State or Federal funds and Ms. Brown will be doing this on her own time and not time paid for by St. Augustine College.