Local News

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

Posted June 25, 2015 1:46 p.m. EDT
Updated June 25, 2015 7:10 p.m. EDT

— 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.