- the lightness or darkness of a color
Brown Paper Bag Test– Slave owners held brown paper bags to the skin of a slave. Those as light or lighter than the bag would be allowed to work in the house.Those of a darker skin hue were sent to the fields. These were two very different life sentences, life circumstances and life expectancies. The residual expectations of beauty from the brown paper bag test still affect society today.
Colorism is a reflection of unjust expectations, within ones own race, of acceptable standards of worth and beauty based on lightness or darkness of skin tone.
Its like starving for acceptance and being given a beautiful inedible piece of cake.
• How does colorism affect our capacity to understand, love and accept our multi-ethnic families, villages and ourselves?
• Can we heal the misunderstandings of the beauty of value and the value of beauty?
For me, ethnicity awareness brought an awakening. The challenge of racism isn’t one I chose. It chose me.
On August 20, 1980, Joseph Paul Franklin, a racist serial killer was trying to start a race war across America. He murdered Ted Fields and David Martin, who were African American. I was hit with bullet fragments as we jogged from Liberty Park in Salt Lake City, Utah. I was 15 years old at the time. I grew up in Utah. But this wasn’t my first or last taste of racism.
When I fill out a census report I never feel like I choose the right description. White not Hispanic, isn’t true for me. Hispanic doesn’t feel right either. I am multi-ethnic. I come from a long line of open-minded lovers. Many were lost in their need to be as worthy as the white people in their world. Some of my beautiful Mexican ancestors bleached their skin. My mother remembers hearing her Mexican grandmother tell her, ” We may be dark but we are just as good as the Okies.” She believed there was a rating system of worth and importance. She told her “we are better than white trash.”
If she really believed this, how did she feel about herself and her grandchildren who carried the less “favorable” traits of dark hues and ethnic physical characteristics or the children whose skin was lighter?
My ethnicity is tied to the culture of my sphere of influence; my friends and my family as well as their friends and families. Our lives touch each other to shape our experiences. It is a ripple effect.
At times I’ve been told I look like an exotic white woman but my ethnicity is more connected to the African American and the Hispanic culture. My father had blonde hair and grey eyes, my mother is first generation Mexican American, with dark hair and eyes.
Growing up in Utah, my family was often ostracized and called “spic”, “wetback”, half breed” by our white Mormon neighbors whose parents didn’t allow them to play with us. To them we had no worth, no redeeming value.
“Tell Me Who You’re With & I’ll Tell You What Your Worth”.
Being a fair skinned, bright, shy, obedient, quiet and introverted child, I seemed invisible as I observed the grown ups around me. I quietly fell through the cracks and listened. I heard their unguarded conversations (as children often do) and learned about the toxic give and take of racism.
Those conversations treated me to the double-edged sword of white privilege at a distance. I still marvel at the poisonous mind-sets or sayings that imprison those who just want to fit in, to be valued and belong, to be seen as a person.
I believe in the law of three fold. You get what you give, times three. That’s why I don’t want to fight prejudice or declare war on racism or anything that offends or scares me. My intention is to heal racism with art and uncomfortable conversations. Healing begins within, exploring self imposed biases and prejudices. Everything touches everything.
My art is a hopeful prayer for the voiceless. It is an invitation into the void of uncomfortable conversations where the healing begins.
STATEMENT ABOUT MY ARTIST MENTOR EXPERIENCE
I think the women at Art Access are really fairy godmother’s who grant wishes for art waiting to be born.
I’ll always be grateful Art Access granted my wish and gave me the opportunity to work with such a talented and giving artist, Liberty Blake. She’s is teaching me the fundamental, structural and artistic process of collage art. Her generosity of time and wisdom has been priceless.
The evolution of this exhibit grew from exquisite conversations of vulnerability with Liberty. Her professional and personal advice allowed me to give a voice to the family secrets of colorism.
I look forward to working with Liberty in the future. This has been a challenging beautiful experience I will carry forward in my artistic career.
© Terry Jackson-Mitchell and http://www.idwellindreams.wordpress.com, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Terry Jackson -Mitchell and http://www.idwellindreams.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
Spring semester 2013, I was asked to create paintings without using any black or white to mix the colors for paint.
I couldn’t help but think, “What would my life be like without black or white’s influence?” I often feel that I walk between the space of race.
I thought of all the races that are part of my DNA. I come from a long line of open-minded lovers, maybe some weren’t given a choice. Many ancestors were on opposite sides of race wars; French, Mexican, German, African American, Native American, Middle Eastern, English, Irish, Scottish, slaves & slave owners.
I thought of the imprint of pain & misunderstanding because of the black & white mentality that cripples my heart when I feel like I don’t fit in.
I wondered if I could heal my ancestor’s pain within me.
I visualized them all, speaking of their lives & their journeys. I wanted to hear them all. I wanted to heal them all. I saw them making peace with each other in another realm where no black or white was allowed, just the pure colors of their essence. They were my inspiration for these paintings.
I see them all dancing within me.
I see them in the face my grandchildren.
Changing the world begins within…. outside of black & white.
I recently watched a couple of documentaries about Bob Marley. I am so glad I did.
For me reggae music has become an acquired taste. But I’m aligned with the energy and message of reggae.
I was in awe of Bob’s story. It’s ironic he died of skin cancer.
Bob was biracial. His mother Jamaican and mostly absent father was English. His fathers family denied him, even when he was at the height of his popularity. It is because of him that most people recognize his fathers last name.
A Jamaican woman he loved said he died of a white disease, skin cancer. Many healers believe if you don’t deal with your feelings they show up in your body as illnesses.
It made me think of the white oppression he experienced in his every day existence. I wish he could have been healed from that damage. He was such a powerhouse for love.
His songs and messages of ONE LOVE are eternal truths that still soothes those that reach towards equality and humanity.
I love it when a white man speaks the truth about race relations or white privilege!
Comedy can be an effective way to help people UNDERSTAND the truth.
This video is totally worth 3 minutes of your day:)
Martin Luther King once said “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
Hello my name is Terry. Most people don’t know my story. It isn’t one that I feel safe sharing. It isn’t a pretty story. I had hoped that I would not feel compelled to share it ever again. But today as I stand here with a heavy heart for Trayvon Martin and his loved ones, I will share a story about racism in Utah.
The last shreds of childhood innocence were stolen from me when I was 15 years old. In 1980 a racist serial killer came to Salt Lake City, Utah with the hopes of starting a race war. We were unaware as he stalked us that night. He shot and murdered my African American friends, Ted Fields and David Martin and shot me for race mixing.
Life was never the same after that day. The emotional and physical toll it took on the families of these incredible young men is immeasurable. That night, every ounce of innocence was drained from our lives. It’s been almost 32 years since that horrible crime. I still remember every single detail. It’s part of my history. It is part of Utah’s history. I think of Ted, Dave and their loved ones every single day, as I will for Trayvon and his loved ones.
I’ve come to understand that racism is like cancer. You can’t put a band aid on cancer and expect it to disappear. If you ignore it and don’t address it immediately it will spread and grow until it kills.
We are in need of rational truthful dialogue to eradicate and heal it once and for all.
I believe the cure for racism’s curse are the conversations we are uncomfortable having.
American’s must FACE the past of our ancestors and the present norm in society regarding race relations. There is no other way. It won’t be a pretty picture, oppression never was. We must seek the truth and avoid the tendency to fight to be right. It is time to listen and truly hear the truth.
If we are to heal the cancer of racism, we must KNOW the stories of the oppressed to understand the effect it has on its victims and our society.
Evil flourishes when good men do nothing.
Education can cure the fear or hate passed on to our children. Knowledge is powerful. It transforms us into who we are meant to be. It makes us whole.
As Brian Jones, a brilliant teacher and activist said, “Racism is product of believing that some people are not worthy of justice and those people are overwhelmingly young and black and male. That the best place for them is prison or an invisible cage of post felony life. George Zimmerman saw what society has taught him to see. He saw someone who was already a criminal. The criminal justice system seems to be afraid of these cases, of creating real justice for these men. Because to deal with them we would have to reveal the depths of racism in our system.”
Trayvon’s murder has become an invitation to join the discussion of equality, racism and justice in America.
We owe it to ourselves, our children, and our world to learn our true history. We must hear the stories of the oppressed and honor their journey and love them.
There should not be an “us and them” any more. Humanity is the color of water, not skin.
Isn’t it time for us to help humanity join the human race?
How can one person change this huge problem in our country? I can tell you what works for me.
When I lose hope and become overwhelmed with the complexities of healing from the racism in our world, I reflect on the NAACP Value statement. It is my compass.
* I believe all Americans have equal rights and equal value.
* I cherish the diverse cultures, beliefs, and values of America.
* I believe we can disagree without being disagreeable.
* I repudiate all acts of racism and hate, both in words and action.
* I have faith in the promise of America – a promise built on mutual respect,
common civility, and hope for a better tomorrow.
* I commit to building that better America by participating actively and
peacefully in the democratic process.
I think Dr King said it best in 1963
“Let us all hope the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away & the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear drenched communities. In some not too distant tomorrow, the radiant stars of love & brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.”
For me, these are the timeless truths that fosters hope in humanity and continue to heal my broken heart. I am directed to pay attention to the Light, that Light that brought us here and will escort us on the way home.