Hi Meltingpot Readers,
I think I’ve mentioned here already that my latest research topic is colorism. I’m looking at how color bias, more so than racism, is prevalent in almost every culture on the planet. When I was doing the research for my book, Hair Story, the concept of the color complex was always rearing its ugly head, so now I’m ready to focus on it. But I’m not just working on the pigmentocracy of Black America, I’m looking at colorism in Asian, Latino and White communities in the United States as well.
Eventually I hope to turn this all into a book, but I’m still in the early research phases. And as such, I’m reading. A lot. Generally when I’m working on non-fiction, I only allow myself to read non-fiction. It keeps me focused. But it just so happens, before I even knew for sure that I was going to write about colorism, I picked up Isabel Allende’s latest novel, Island Beneath the Sea.
The book is epic in scope and details the last days of French control of Haiti and the subsequent wave of French immigrants who settled first in Cuba and then in New Orleans. The story is told through the eyes of a ‘mulatto’ slave named Tete. Over the course of the story, even though colorism isn’t the focus of the book, it is the color of the skin that decides the fate of so many of the characters. Tete’s daughter, the product of a rape from her master, is so light she can pass for Spanish and is allowed to be educated by the Spanish nuns. Tete’s African lover is too dark to escape Haiti with Tete and chooses to stay and fight with Toussaint L’Ouverture. In both Haiti and New Orleans, the color codes are legal and enforceable. And obviously, the lighter one is, the more freedom one enjoys.
With this story swirling in my mind, I look at current events like the whole controversy over Zoe Saldana playing Nina Simone in a new movie, with fresh eyes.
So, I’m allowing myself to be inspired and informed by fiction. I am using it as a portal into some of the issues around color that perhaps aren’t explored as much in non-fiction venues. I picked up a new novel today at the library that was written by a Chinese-American author. Coincidentally, the page I flipped open to had a page dedicated to the horrors of Japanese bleaching cream. Yes, I snatched it up.
So, dear readers, if you can recommend any novels, or movies, for that matter, that deal with color bias in the United States, please let me know. I’m so listening.