Saturday, April 17, 2021


Article Index

VII. Conclusion

In the classic jazz song What Did I Do To Be So Black and Blue, composed by Fats Waller in 1929 and interpreted by Louis Armstrong, a lonely, dark-skinned woman laments her inability to attract male attention:

Cold empty bed . . . springs hurt my head

Feels like ole ned . . . wished I was dead

What did I do . . . to be so black and blue

Even the mouse . . . ran from my house

They laugh at you . . . and all that you do

What did I do . . . to be so black and blue

I'm white . . . inside . . . but, that don't help my case

That's life . . . can't hide . . . what is in my face

How would it end . . . ain't got a friend

My only sin . . . is in my skin

What did I do . . . to be so black and blue.

*110 Colorism is a vestige of the colonial era when European countries invaded Africa, Asia, and the Americas and imposed their standards on the indigenous populations along with the Africans they imported and enslaved. Perhaps unconsciously, Michael Jackson and Sammy Sosa wanted to make themselves more physically attractive, which to them meant having a light complexion, European features, and straightened hair.

Colorism is well documented in academic research but largely ignored by policymakers. It is as alive today as it was a century ago. Dark-skinned African-Americans and other minorities do not have the same opportunities for advancement as those with light complexions. This form of discrimination is as injurious as invidious racism. Colorism is a combination of overt and unconscious discrimination that places a high value on light complexions and European features while devaluing dark skin and African phenotypes. As America becomes a more multi-racial society, old-fashioned racism is declining, but colorism and unconscious bias persist. If this trend does not change, it will mean that the darkest-complexioned, most African-looking people will continue to receive the worst treatment.