97Rock Buffalo Please Note – Colorism is Racism

 A radio show host for the Buffalo -based 97 Rock was fired, and two others suspended, after they took part in a racist on-air exchange. 

When I heard the recording of the insensitive words of the former 97Rock Buffalo DJ, they immediately led to memories of growing up as a very brown girl in the south. This was a time when beauty was portrayed and etched in our minds as White women with long blond hair and blue eyes. I had neither. The power of images and words are real. This standard was embraced by many including people of color. I am saddened that this thinking continues. 

What we have experienced by the 97Rock incident was damaging and hurtful racism. Those words offended every woman of color. I will always remember an older very lighter African American neighbor sharing with me that he was able to “pass” in America’s segregated military during World War II. This story demonstrated the deep history of valuing people based upon skin color. My dear neighbor made the decision to keep quiet because it elevated his status and guaranteed better treatment.

 As we prepare for the future this racist division based upon shades of color must end. However, this cannot happen without the right issues being defined and discussed.        Let us begin with the word colorism. According to a 2016 Time magazine article colorism was first used by author and activist Alice Walker in an essay that appeared in her 1983 book, In Search of our Mothers’ Gardens. Walker defined colorism as “prejudicial or preferential treatment of same-race people based solely on their color.”  Two more words that must be defined and researched are the words Mulatto and Systemic Racism. Mulatto, a term that reinforces America’s focus on White superiority is a defined by the Merriam Webster Dictionary as a person of mixed White and Black ancestry, especially a person with one White and one Black parent. Today this term is considered offensive because of its historic connection to slavery.  

 In a June 15, 2020 USA TODAY article, NAACP President Derrick Johnson defined systemic racism, also called structural racism or institutional racism, as “systems and structures that have procedures or processes that disadvantage African Americans.”     

The damage of racism and slavery became clear to me as I read a book years ago entitled My Kind of People. Wow! The book included a story of how one lady was raised by the family housekeeper because she was born too dark into a family that was passing as a Caucasian family. America we must do better! We can do better!The calls for conversations cannot be successful without all embracing the deep history of racism in America and in our own towns.

Signed a Dark & Lovely Brown Woman.

Jennifer J. Parker