Tuesday, June 30, 2015

How dark do you have to be to be considered a "black" person?

Just the other day the question about what 'Black' is came up during a discussion I had with a family member, while we were watching a YouTube video featuring an African-American YouTube personality who lives in South Korea. The girl, born to black parents, considers herself to be a black female (although her skin complexion is light and she is usually mistaken for having a different ethnic background than African-American). My family member expressed that the girl doesn't "look" Black -- given her skin-tone -- which brought me to wonder what she identifies as being 'Black'. Let's just say that we concluded we should agree to disagree.

During the discussion, I said I feel the term 'Black' is used to refer to people whose roots are in Africa (seeing as you have Caribbeans, African-Americans etc with roots in Africa, even though they don't call themselves/consider themselves African).  However, according to Google, "a Black person is someone who is perceived to be dark-skinned in comparison to the wider population."  

In this case (and in my opinion), regardless of the girl's skin tone, both of her parents are considered 'Black' and therefore, she should be also -- because she was born of them. In terms of colour, the girl's obviously very light-skinned, but in terms of the term used to describe an African-American, Caribbean or African person as being the same set of people originating from the same continent, she is black. Why the discussion escalated was because I chose to see the word black as a term used to describe a people with roots in Africa rather than an actual "colour" whereas my family member chose to do the opposite.

There are several lighter skinned people of African descent who choose to label themselves as black people, but the common perception/misconception, if you will, is that a black person must first and foremost be darker skinned. I still believe the discussion goes much deeper than just the argument about the shade of one's colour. To some you need only to have been born to parents who are perceived as black people to be deemed a black person -- regardless of whether your skin tone is several shades lighter than your parents', or if you were born Albino. To others it's about the shade and, therefore, if one doesn't have really dark skin they cannot be deemed black.

Africans are a large group of people spread across the entire world, and their features are not limited to only a few traits but several, which is why I feel that having just one idea of what a black person should look like (a.k.a typically black') would be a little wrong, perhaps? Lupita N'yongo, in my opinion, is extremely gorgeous, yes, but she does not represent the entire black female population in this world, she represents only a fragment of the diversity we find among black women.  Having said that, I do believe we should all be open to embracing diversity, rather than having a single idea about what a set of people are, regardless of what the media promotes. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, of course, and these are mine (with no intention to offend anyone).

Interested in viewing the video that brought up the discussion? Here it is: