How Insecurity Keeps You From Being Great – Pharrell Expands on Album Cover

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A few years ago I posted a piece on my personal blog that was in response to comments on a post I wrote here that rubbed some people the wrong way. At the time, many people thought that my attempt to pay a compliment was just a backhanded jab. They felt that I really didn’t mean anything I said and only wrote the post because I thought it was to impress women on this site. I actually wrote the post because the compliments never come for that specific group of women. To this day, I will never understand or agree with the way many of the readers reacted. It really bothered me and I didn’t write about relationships on SBM for over a year after that article was published.

The weekend after that post ran I was hanging out with one of my homies and told her about what happened. She said something that I haven’t ever forgotten to this day because it was so spot on and it was needed at that point in time. “Jay what you have to understand is that those girls do not have a problem with you, they have a problem with [themselves]. You can’t let that affect you, or weigh you down, there’s nothing that you can do to make them feel better about them.” I felt better. I mean I felt a lot better. I would keep writing on relationships and dating on other sites but I didn’t care for it anymore on SBM. I wish I could tell you that I matured or changed my view on relationships over the time I decided not to write on SBM but I didn’t. I lost faith in many that they would ever be able to take ownership of their own personal issues with themselves. Moreover, how they view themselves and why they would need someone else to affirm something in them.

A few weeks ago, Streetz penned a piece on Colorism in the Black Community after Pharrell’s infamous ‘Girl’ album cover appeared to not display any Black representation. I’m not going to rehash much of what was already said, but I just wanted you all to know that Pharrell has since expanded on his comments. He inserts a different angle, something that not only affects how we view our race and skin color but a concept that tends to hold many of us back in life. It’s this idea that somehow we feel inadequate and are searching for validation/affirmation from the outside instead of the inside.

Check out some of what Pharrell had to say:

There were people who criticized you for not including more black women on the cover of G I R L. How did you feel about that? 

Do you want me to be honest with you? It’s insecurity. If you love who you are—and I’m not saying that there’s not a plight out there for people who have different skin colors, because Mexicans go through just as much discrimination, if not more discrimination, than black people do in this country. Right? That’s why I wrote “Marilyn Monroe,” man: That which makes you different is what makes you special. You don’t gotta be waif, white, and thin to be beautiful. You can be anything that you want to be, and what I chose to do is put my friends on the cover. The girl that was closest next to me is black, but they didn’t know that, so they jumped the gun. And it wasn’t all black women. There were a lot of black women that were really angry at some of those girls, but some of those girls are the ones that instantly get mad when they don’t see somebody that’s dark. And it’s like: “Yo, you don’t need nobody to represent you. You represent you. You represent the best version of who you could be. You go out there and change the world.” Because I’m black, and I wouldn’t trade my skin color for nothing.

I’m a black man. I’m happy to be black, and anybody that is not happy to be black will point around and ask for that kind of sympathy. But the thing is, let’s not ask nobody for no more sympathy. Let’s get together ourselves and support ourselves. It doesn’t make sense to me. That kind of divisiveness is not necessary at a time when we’re supposed to be unifying. That’s what happiness is all about, and if you look at my “Happy” video, I had everybody in there: fat, skinny, gay, straight, purple, polka-dot, plaid, gingham print, houndstooth, alien. I fuckin’ had dogs in there! I had children in there! I had kids in there! I’m the most indiscriminate person that there is! I believe in equality.

So which is it? Is President Obama black or not? Since you’re so mad: Is he black or not? Come on, man! We ain’t got time for that. We are black people. This is the new black. Oprah Winfrey: That’s the new black. She’s a black billionaire. President Obama: He is a black American president. Regardless of what you think about him, this is his second term. That’s the new black. LeBron James: the first black man ever shot on a Vogue cover, a black man. Me: a guy that’s written a song at 40! Nominated for an Oscar, four Grammy awards—at 40! That’s the new black! And by the way: a song that has transcended my lyrics, my own intention, and has become a movement and helped cancer patients. That’s the new black! Black ain’t a color: Black is a spirit, and it is ubiquitous. In fact, there’s more black out in space than there is stars. We have nothing to be insecure about.

Whether you’re talking about the color of your skin, gender, looks, occupation, and nationality or just your background in general, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that we find ways to affirm and validate ourselves from within. The only reason why people need to be affirmed by someone else is because they feel inadequate. The reason why we want an obvious African American woman on the cover of that CD is because we feel marginalized. I’m not debating whether we are or are not, I’m stating that it’s because we somehow focus on that marginalization instead of all the ways we love ourselves.

And like I said, it manifests itself in everything that we do. Women (and men) get upset at certain aspects of dating because they feel that we don’t view each other in the way we would hope we were viewed. In reality, it’s a call for affirmation because when we look in the mirror something about ourselves tells us that we either aren’t right for someone, don’t deserve the best, or are predisposed to be hurt. We lie to everyone around us and say that it doesn’t affect us but we can’t explain the way it pours out of us.

My recommendation is that you tell yourself often and regularly that you’re okay. I don’t think we do that enough. It makes us freak out the second a relationship doesn’t go our way. It makes us make gross generalization about others because one situation doesn’t go our way and then we demand that someone else affirm or validate us. You’ll find yourself asking for someone to tell you on Day 1 all they plan to do in that relationship from the first date until marriage. You’ll do that because you need the affirmation that the other person is not going to leave later on. But I would ask myself, why would I think that someone would leave me later on? Is it possible? Yes, anything is possible. However, I think I live in a way where I know that even if it has happened to me more times than not, that I am worthy of someone deciding to stick around.

Once you reach that level of clarity in your life things are going to change. Not just in dating/relationships but in general. It comes with a sense of confidence that cannot be matched and it comes with the ability to have the thick skin needed to not always have to seek external affirmation. I have self-esteem, the best and only esteem that is needed.

- Dr. J

Do you think that we are in a constant struggle with our self-esteem and need for affirmation? We can agree that the media doesn’t do the best job at representing all races, genders and nationalities. Does that desire to have representation come from a place of feeling inadequate or are we selfishly merely trying to balance the scale? Do you agree or disagree with Pharrell’s expanded comment? Why or why not?

 

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  • Suni

    Well, since you asked. :)

    Even beyond the media, western culture in general does a lackluster job of representing darker folks of color. When another person of color effectively does the same thing, you get Pharrell-gate.

    For what it's worth, I think admitting one of the women was indeed black yet obviously light skinned puts a slightly different twist on the issue.

    As a lighter toned woman myself, I LOVE seeing productions with my darker sisters. I guess it speaks to the part of me that wants to see our blackness put in a position of someone who actually matters. Despite my personal feelings though, simply having to step out into the world daily makes this go far beyond personal affirmation. As a light skinned woman, I can rightfully anticipate hearing songs in my "honor" on the radio, if I were to get arrested (God forbid, lol) I can rightfully anticipate potentially getting a lighter sentence, ect. Some are thinking I'm going way off the deep end, but don't think so. We live in a culture that dictates lighter = better, regardless of your/an artist's message, and because of this I personally think Pharrell is being a bit obtuse here. I do get what he's saying though. Simply put, It would be one thing if skin tone debacles were just something that hurt us on a personal level, but that's not the case.

    Also (sorry, almost done), not trying to attack you AT ALL, lol, but as I'm thinking on it I'm not sure if it's totally fair to say we shouldn't seek or demand affirmation, at least as a whole. It reminds me of that cartoon I keep seeing on Facebook of the black guy hoisting up the white guy to economic heights, re: whites benefiting from the wealth of slave labor, then getting angry at affirmative action and social programs. You can't have it both ways; what was torn down will need to be rebuilt, blacks were torn socially, economically, family-wise, ect. I'm comfortable as I am, but I understand if others don't feel the same way.

    Yeah, so I guess that's about it from me. :)

    • lainey

      I agree with literally everything you said. It’s easy to say, “fix your self esteem issues yourself, love yourself” but it’s much more difficult when the world that we all live in is constantly sending you the message that you’re not good enough.

      I think that at least in terms of beauty standards, black men don’t have it as hard as black females. Women (unfortunately) are expected to be beautiful, and as a black woman, it’s almost impossible to meet the Western (read: white) standard of beauty that we’re all supposed to live up to. Those who say: let things fix themselves, are, frankly, ignorant. We do NOT live in a post-racial society, as much as everyone would like to pretend. Affirmative Action and other similar programs are a way of achieving equilibrium that has been thrown off for hundreds of years by the after-effects of slavery, Jim Crow and other forms of racism. EVERYONE that is successful has had help, whether it be in the form of a diversity program, a rich relative, a teacher that took you under his or her wing, et cetera. Thurgood Marshall, Obama, and even Ben Bernake have made it clear that there is no such thing as “pulling yourself up by your own boostraps.” If being discriminated against at every turn means that I get a slight boost in admissions, i’d say that’s one way of just trying to even things out. Whites don’t have to worry about things like that, and there is an aggregate effect: the stress of living in a hostile society can shave years off your life. Just sayin’.

  • Gray

    I understand his perception and agree with it. REGARDLESS, of the reason why a person feels the way they feel it doesn’t change the fact that he/she has strong insecurities funneling their perception. I’m neither dark or light and I am female. I am able to understand the underlying issue without negating actual prejudice or injustice. We all know prejudicial behavior exists, but how we individually react and or allow it to manifest within says a whole lot about us individually. As a whole we will always see issues but we are ONLY in control of our own actions or lack there of. The best offense is not defense, IMO. It is too exemplify every trait you may think I don’t posess without actually giving two flying squirrels about your perception of me. In addition I don’t believe the actions of one black person is a direct reflection on all. Just my thoughts…

  • Gray

    I don’t need to empathize or validate a person’s insecurities just to make them feel better about themselves.

  • http://stanoffewwords.wordpress.com Tristan.

    I remember that lightskinned/darkskinned war, damn I been here a while

    Anyway, Pharrell kinda went on a tangent but I get what he's saying. As far as colorism in general, I think a lot of it comes from inadequacy, not so much from the media but from black men. When discussing the cover on another blog, a growing sentiment wasn't even about Pharrell as much as they were troubled black men weren't riding with them on this one. It lends itself to the narrative that they do so much for their kings only for us to swoon the western depiction of beauty. That's why some feel type of way when we lust after a Kim K, that's why your post back then rubbed them the wrong way, they loathe feeling shunned by their own.
    My recent post Today’s Word is… SUPERWOMAN

    • Dr. J

      The post back then wasn't even about anyone but one specific group of people. Wasn't about Kim K. or anyone else. It was all bad everything in the comments.

  • ThoughtCriminal

    Everyone needs affirmation. You get it from your parent, teachers, community, etc. You can't really live without it when popular culture calls you a thug or hoodrat for just about anything. A lot of black people are insecure. No one asks why because they really don't want to hear the answer. That's why Pharrell just started name dropping instead of actually starting a well needed conversation. Lebron being on Vogue is a start, but it's not ending colorism. Oprah being a billionaire didn't end racism. He's avoiding the issue.
    It would be foolish of us not to try and balance the scales. Can't sit there using tilted scales and wonder why you keep getting cheated. We can think about the greatness of black people all we want but the problem is that we don't control popular culture even though some of us have the power to at least influence things for the better.

    • Dr. J

      Things were much better when people didn't want to be in pop culture as much as they do now. If you think back to the Harlem Renaissance, that is a perfect example of Black people electing not to be a part of white pop culture and doing just fine.

      • uNk

        Exactly!! The problem didnt start until black folks started trying to fit in, instead of standing out and creating our own fame and popular culture (well technically we did but we tryna blur lines currently and dont need to)….but hey gotta make that money like the white folks i guess

      • ThoughtCriminal

        Sorry I'm late. It was a stage in a cultural transformation. You have to remember that although blacks at that time had successfully created their own culture, they still had to take this culture and share control. And the control wasn't equal. We have to look at the reality of the situation then and now. No matter what happens, people want to make money. That's fine. Problem is can they do that without compromising the dignity of black people? Without living to some insane standard? Without pandering to white people? Black musicians had to play in white clubs. And walk through the back entrance. And occasionally watch as the art they worked so hard to create be taken and given no credit for it.
        You can't elect not be apart of the culture. We all share it. Better share it if you wanna make money. But what we can do is to try to push positive and diverse images of blacks in the culture. Not please white people, but to give our kids something to look up to and to know that they aren't ugly because of their skin. They need that boost.

    • Bee

      Do we need to control popular culture? If we did would we make it all about us and serve the whites a piece of their own cake? If/When we do, what point would we prove, and how would proving that point help us as people?
      We have an option to stop playing the victim. So I still don't get the hate on Tyler Perry. Why do you African Americans not like him?
      We hate on each other and then, hate the world for hating us.
      So if a black man or woman is not included on an album cover, or a twitter most influential list, do we have to interpret it to mean that the brain behind is racist or what not? I think is the self pity that comes from an history of being trodden upon, but it doesn't have to be that way forever.
      I'm a Nigerian who has had to travel across Africa. I have experienced first hand, the insecurity and subsequent discrimination of other Africans against Nigerians. People are quick to think Nigerians are dishonest and out to outwit and defraud them. We Nigerians had a hand in this perception. As a Nigerian living out of my country, I've had to deal with this too. However, I realized the only way I could win is not to fight. I became twice as good, twice as careful and twice as honest to at least show that there are exceptions to the rule. The result? Natives of my host country who became my friends end up arguing that I'm not actually Nigerian. Nothing I say will convince them otherwise.

      • ThoughtCriminal

        We don't need to control all of it. Just share in the control with everyone else. Playing the victim is not what I'm saying we should do. But you can't fix anything until you understand the problem and see what happened.
        Tyler Perry. I personally dislike his movies because all they do is reinforce stereotypes and he is one of the extreme few who actually don't have to do that.

        As for the third point, I said the album cover is representative of the larger culture. Pharrell or whoever made the decision isn't racist but the larger culture is. And there lies our problem.

        My mother is Nigerian. I identify with her part of the family more than my father's. Not because I chose to but because my father's side is the " call every ten years to make sure you're alive" type of people. I've dealt with the whole dishonest and greedy stereotype but not on the level you have. Someone even told me my family was probably 419. But I truly believe that living at a standard that no one else lives up to is the wrong way to go.

        I don't want someone to say "Oh he's not Nigerian" because I'm honest. It reminds me of when someone says "You're not really black" because I try to speak proper english. By agreeing with what they are saying you're only reinforcing the stereotypes. To your friends you're not Nigerian because you're honest. But anyone who doesn't know you, you're just another thief. You gonna work double time every time to earn the same amount of respect given to someone else for free? I'm not going out of my way to appease someone who didn't have the decency to respect me or people who look like me.

  • Smilez_920

    I can’t rock with Pharell’s response. I didn’t personally have an issue with his cover. But this response makes him look ignorant. When black women don’t like something or feel they’re being disrespected the first thing men say is “you’re insecure”. I think he could have handled the response in a better way.

    I knew the woman on the front of the cover was black, and I personally don’t think he meant to exclude dark skin women, but let’s not act like brothers don’t put “exotic beauties” on pedestals especially when they’re very light.

    And no I’m not saying dark skin women have to be on everything, and all black men have to date dark skin women, but let’s not fake the funk about the situation. It’s easy to love yourself when people see your beauty as valuable.

    • Dr. J

      He didn't say "you're insecure" he said "it's insecurity." That's very different.

      I am trying to grasp what you're trying to say in the rest of your comment but… I think my response is… If you feel you aren't beautiful because "brothers" put "exotic beauties" on a pedestals then there's not much that can help you. I think Katt said it best. There's no way someone else can control your self-esteem. It's esteem of yourself.

      • SmileZ_920

        I just think we should acknowledge where the insecurity stems from and try to find positive ways to solve it, other than “just get over it”.

        • ook ok…

          Exactly…

      • High_Five_Ghost

        “…Katt said it best. There's no way someone else can control your self-esteem. It's esteem of yourself.”

        No one loves quoting this more than I. It’s funny. The problem is that it’s not true. As confident as I am in my ability, looks, intelligence, etc., I can’t fool myself into thinking that it’s self-sustaining. If I go a year of getting my ass kicked in all those facets, I’m sure I’d have self-esteem issues too.

        That said, you and Pharrell are right. If these women weren’t taking selfies and hiding in the house all day,…maybe I'd consider their arguement. But these chicks don't have self-esteem issues. They (and we as black people) just want something to be reactionary about. First SNL, then this.

        Its all BS.

        • Obvious

          Fake Nigga Outrage is real. Tariq Nasheed should pursue his Doctorate.

  • JayJ

    I think we're putting a little too much pressure on Pharrell's album cover. No matter how many darker-skinned people he puts on his next album cover, it's not going to "fix" race issues. It's not going to end the "in-house" color-war we African Americans wage against each other. Pharrell's not sweeping the issue under the rug; he's making a valid point. This "outrage" comes from an insecurity indoctrinated into the minds of blacks since slavery. Before that album was released he never voiced an "unfair" preference for lighter women, but when someone sees the cover, all of a sudden it's: "he does not support darker-skinned women"…what? You know what I SAW on that album cover? PEOPLE. Just. People. The fact that we can do a "serious and needed" discussion on the "motives" of an R&B singer's album cover and how it "obviously" links to colorism, then later on tonight(or in the car) "turn up" to the basic, exploitive, and utterly self-destructive "music" by the likes of "King Bey", Jay-Z, Drake, Weezy, Future, Juicy-J, and Nikki Minaj is the REAL issue: we are irrationally, and hilariously selective with our inner "Malcolm X". When it comes to entertainment, we only put on our "Black Power" hats when discussing things we were initially indifferent about. Proof? Question: how many of the commentators on this post YOU think honestly wanted to buy the album in the first place? Then ask yourself how many of those same commentators have a playlist that features a song by one of those self-destructive "artists" I mentioned previously?

    Pharrell isn't dodging the "real issue", we are.

    • JayJ

      Our inconsistency in our convictions and beliefs are doing far more damage to our culture in this age than an album cover ever could.

  • http://twitter.com/IAmRichJones @IAmRichJones

    This sparked more general thoughts for me.

    I've been struggling with this idea of "we need to be everywhere and in/on everything!" I see this a lot on twitter whenever something comes out and black women aren't included. It could even be a list on some site we wouldn't normally visit, but because there's not a chocolate delegate (or one dark enough), it becomes an uproar.

    Sorta related, there was a list of influential women on twitter that ran on INC or Fast Company. If I recall, it mainly had CEO's or folks with significant PR teams dedicated to getting them featured. There were women of color on the list, but not a black woman. I looked at the list and didn't see it as an intentional exclusion as much as I saw it as them not going out of their way to find black women to include. This is common and I also struggle with the idea of if they need to since there are so many people being marketed to them already. I sometimes wonder if we're making the same effort to get ourselves on these platforms as everyone else, or just getting upset when something comes out and we're not there.

    Anyway, it created a twitter firestorm and a hashtag (as usual) with black women highlighting all the influential and positive black women they knew. And while I appreciated it, I did wonder why do we need to be left out of something to trigger a celebration of our accomplishments and each other? This should be happening on an ongoing basis so that when stuff like this happens, it's not a huge deal because we're secure in our greatness and don't need validation from these other sources. But again, it seems we don't care about validation from these sources until there's not.
    My recent post 018: Grumpy Old Men

    • JayJ

      Outstanding. I completely agree with you. If more blacks were more consistent in the love and celebration of their heritage, rather than just reactionary, a few "light-brights" on an R&B album cover wouldn't ruffle their feathers.

    • Smilez_920

      Twitter is great with making mountains out of mole hills. To add to your point, this reminds me of the HBO “Girls” controversy. I don’t think we needed to be included in that show. It wouldn’t have been realistic.

      I glad you mentioned “intentional exclusion” I feel like a lot of these “situations” aren’t cases of intentional exclusion.

      • http://twitter.com/IAmRichJones @IAmRichJones

        Girls is an excellent example as well!!
        My recent post 018: Grumpy Old Men

      • Dr. J

        "I just think we should acknowledge where the insecurity stems from and try to find positive ways to solve it, other than “just get over it”."

        So up thread you said this… in relation to this comment you just made… it sounds odd. Girls is a show that creates a ton of insecurity in Black women and people. Especially those living in Brooklyn when the image of Brooklyn is turning to a bunch of hipster white kids living off mom/dad's money.

        • Smilez_920

          Girls is a show that creates a ton of insecurity in Black women and people. - not at all. Can’t agree with you on that.

          My issue isn’t with Pharrell’s cover, it’s with his response to the back lash.

        • Message

          I don't even know any black women that watch Girls. Why would they be insecure about Girls and love a show like Sex and the City? Almost all of the black women I know watched and loved Sex and it City and it is almost the same premise as Girls, just better executed.
          Furthermore, you are correct most of the women who were upset were not upset with the album cover itself, in fact the album cover was released an entire week before the controversy started and black women had nothing to say. A week later when Dream Hampton (a light-skinned black woman) sent out a tweet saying she was disappointed in his cover and that is when the -black women to STFU and stop being so insecure- brigade started and apparently it still hasn't stopped.
          Instead of Pharrell (and Dr. Jay) asking black women why they feel this way, and how it could be changed they'd rather just tell us to STFU and stop being so insecure. The men that do this are typically the same men that would get angry when a white man tells them to stop complaining and get it together because slavery ended over 100 years ago.

    • Bree

      "why do we need to be left out of something to trigger a celebration of our accomplishments and each other?" That's a damn good question Slim.

  • http://www.lifeisablast.org paynewell

    In society, looks are important. If you do not believe so you are delusional. Very few people will date someone who has everything mentally and spiritually but is not attractive in their eyes or attractive by society's standards. With all the bombarding of daily images of what is sexy, people tend to want to alter their shapes and faces so that they can fit that image, or trend. People want to be loved, adored, and appreciated, especially if it is something they never received as a child. Which is why they post pictures of their bodies so that they can get praise, or have to sing all the time that they are a bad b*tch, which is encouraged by the masses who have acquired their view of beauty from what they are taught from media. So if they see a person who doesn't fit the beauty they are taught, they tend to subliminally or outwardly discriminate against that person(s).

    How do we combat this? Continue to teach our children that no matter what you are beautiful. The beauty of having dark skinned is not taught to our children. How many of us don't want to go into the sun or let or kids go out there because we don't want them to get too dark? We shouldn't be so far left or far right in our teaching, but we need to teach children confidence so that when they grow up and see things that shows beauty discrimination, their self esteem isn't shot. On the other hand, people shouldn't have to pandered to one beauty or the other. Just because someone is not included does not mean that they are automatically being discriminated against.
    My recent post People who do not reply or ignore texts aren’t that into you

    • High_Five_Ghost

      "The beauty of having dark skinned is not taught to our children."

      …real talk!

      "How many of us don't want to go into the sun or let or kids go out there because we don't want them to get too dark?"

      My dark ass neighbor shouted that to her daughter just yesterday… twice SMH

    • Dr. J

      I feel like my friends who are from African descent do not have complexion issues like some of the Black people in America. If you grow up in the right environment you probably were taught that dark skin can be beautiful. Black people are from the sun, why the hell would we try to avoid it?

      That's weird, but I see your point.

      • http://www.lifeisablast.org paynewell

        Well Africans are starting to get that dark skin complex as well. Whitening creams/bleaching are things that are pushed in Africa, more so in the states. However, you are right, Africans are more in tune with their complexion beauty, than America blacks. Honestly, all of our issues regarding self beauty stem from Slavery, which is a whole other conversation in itself. I know my grandmother loves me, but she's constantly on me about my natural hair being "nappy" or "man you need to stay out of the sun". That's something that has been born and bred inside of us. To stay away from our roots as much as possible. It's going to take years, decades, centuries to reverse that thinking. Just because people tell you it's not an issue, does not mean it isn't.

      • Bree

        I agree Dr. J. These complexion issues are definitely not quite as prevelant in Africa, they are there though.
        I think now people are definitely trying to teach their girls that no matter they're complexion they are beautiful. Growing up I had white barbies, and black barbies. The barbies to me were just dolls I played with. Not a reflection of who I was. Ironically my black Barbie was pretty dark-skinned. Either way, it didn't phase me, I just liked playing with my barbies. When I asked for a black one I didn't care what the complexion of it was, I just wanted to her to be black.
        At the heart of this recurring argument and anger is insecurity and self esteem issues in women. Granted women won't "get over it" in a day, a month or even a year. We do need to start with our daughters by teaching them that if they're black they're beautiful no matter they're complexion, and regardless of what anyone tells them. And teaching our sons to respect black women regardless of their complexion. We need to eradicate this division amongst our race and just acknowledge one another as black people, not light-skinned, dark-skinned, high yella, brown , good hair, bad hair , nappy hair etc etc etc. It has to end with us.

      • Gray

        The continent of Africa is vast. There are so many different countries with so many tribes, cultures, and Individual personal thoughts. With that said you don't know the self hate/colorism issues because you don't hear about it. However, not hearing about it doesn't mean it doesn't exist or even exists less. I have a South African friend who validates and adds on to my brother in laws South African experiences… While in the Navy, during Desert Storm, he made several travels to S Africa. On the ship they were warned about cultural issues such as, colorism. My fam is dark skinned so be could leave the ship, be accepted, and safely return. The lighter skinned people were warned against leaving, and those that did were grossley offended after leaving the ship and returned within an hour.

        I have a friend who traveled to Cameroon (sorry for possible misspelling it may be with a K) with a native. He too was warned, mistreated, and shunned wherever be went especially among tribes.

        Did you not see Hotel Rwanda? Tsuni & Hutu tribes which was nothing more than dark skinned blacks killing lighter skinned blacks. This is nothing new to the continent of Africa.

        • B

          I’m afraid a bulk of your comment needs a little fine tuning. It sounds a little ignorant. There are many racial and tribal issues in Africa, however colorurism is hardly a serious cause. South Africa is a case of hostility towards whites because of the country’s own history. You may need to read up on the history behind the Rwandan Genocide, I doubt it has anything to do with colour. That is a case of minority tribe ruling over a majority tribe.
          In Africa, regardless of where you are from, people hate on each other for many reasons, many of them having nothing to do with colour. Many are cases of distrust, prejudice or cliches, sometimes stemming from their historical relationship with one another. Sometimes, it’s also a complex- in which members of one ethnic group perceive themselves disadvantaged socially or intellectually, vis-a-vis another ethnic group.
          I rest my case.

        • Gray

          It's awesome to know through your personal travels and experiences you were treated differently.

          You perceive yourself to be intellectually advantaged… it's not worth the fight.

        • Bee

          I wouldn't put it exactly that way, but since you did I have to make it clear that there's no fight here. As an African even I have to deal with prejudices and biases, issues that were I in the U.S and it remotely involves whites, it would be deemed racial issues and colourism.

          The reality is harsh, I agree but it should not the defining factor.

        • Jennifer

          Colorism is actually very prevalent in Africa (especially the west), the difference is we are not a socially conscious people. Ignorance is the order of the day. Africans don't have time or at least we are not inclined to discuss an album cover when you know, we haven't had electricity in three days.

  • Bree

    Dr. J this is by far your best blog piece imo. I love this. Very thought provoking and definitely on point.
    Do you think that we are in a constant struggle with our self-esteem and need for affirmation? Absolutely. Most people are actually their own worst enemies, unfortunately they don't realize it.
    Does that desire to have representation come from a place of feeling inadequate or are we selfishly merely trying to balance the scale? Based on what I've heard from family members and people who grew up in the early 1900's and what I've read and learned from African American literature & my African American Culture college course; the root of this stems from how blacks were treated during slavery days. There were indeed house negros and field negros. House kneegros got to be a little more comfortable in the house and were typically fairer skinned. While field negros worked, toiled, sweated, and slaved in the fields and were darker skinned. Not to mention fairer skinned blacks were treated better and are still treated better than darker skinned blacks. I still remember my grandfather, who looked like Cab Calloway and was (high yella) telling me the story of how he was asked by white government officials if he wanted to re-classify himself as a white man since he could pass for white. He respectfully declined and told them, "no thank you, I'm black. Please don't let my skin color fool you. I was born to a black mother and father." He marched with Dr. MLK and conked his hair to make it nappier and made every effort to be acknowledged as a black man.

  • Bree

    With the treatment of black people during slavery days and the days of freedom fighting and fighting for equal rights it was painfully obvious that lighter skinned blacks were treated better by white america in general than lighter skinned blacks. They got away with more and got more opportunities and all of the things darker skinned blacks did not get. This inevitably drove a serious division between us as a race. We started to turn against one another and hate one another due to skin complexion. Same thing white people did to us, we did to each other. From what I've heard, this helped white people in their goal to divide and conquer blacks.

    • Bree

      meant to say lighter skinned blacks were treated better than darker skinned blacks.

  • Bree

    Do you agree or disagree with Pharrell’s expanded comment? Why or why not? I wholeheartedly agree with All of Pharrells comments. I also agree Dr. J with your friends comments: "what you have to understand is that those girls do not have a problem with you, they have a problem with [themselves]. You can’t let that affect you, or weigh you down, there’s nothing that you can do to make them feel better about them." This is very true. You can't control anyone's self worth. It comes from within. No matter what people tell you, you can overcome it if you have the inner strength to and you know your worth. If people don't allow other people to define their worth, then they won't. Like my grandmother told me many many moons ago. "Only God has all power & dominion over all of mankind. God is Omnipotent, not man. The only power a person has over you, is the power that you choose to relinquish to them. The thing about power though is just like you give it, you can always take it back."
    Ironically & Sadly these complexion issues are prevelant amongst all other races that stem from us. Indian, Asian, and Latino. People have told me Indians still have a "caste" system where lighter skinned Indians are treated better and typically have more wealth than darker skinned Indians. In the Dominican Republic, lighter skinned Dominicans are treated better than darker skinned Dominicans. Actually this holds true amongst the entire latin race. And just like black people, this complexion discrimination is happening amongst the entire race of people. Cambodians, and Philipino people are lower than Koreans, Chinese, and Japanese because typically Cambodians and Phillipino's are darker skinned.

  • Bree

    I pray that opening up communication regarding these issues and putting them on the table will garner some type of change towards progression. Even if it's a small change. Something is better than nothing. As Pharrell said, we truly do need to get past this and not allow this division. The only way we as a race and culture can truly win this war on racism and prejudiced is for ALL of us to come together as one race. All complexions, and nationalities. This division is tearing the black/African race apart. If it continues, they will win, and we will lose.

  • sincereluv4life

    Ima break down that album cover in 1 word:

    Money

    Pharell’s appeal is spreading to a broader (whiter) audience & I’m sure not just him, but the ppl who are the decision makers behind the album design prolly felt putting more than just a black man on the cover will inspire more ppl to spend money on the album.

  • Bree

    Exactly sincere. Pharell, or any other artist has the final say on what goes on with their music, videos, album covers, or any of that. The team of people who pay them have the final say and make the final decisions collectively. Unless they are on their own record label.
    At the end of the day the main color that matters most to Everybody is Green.

  • Gray

    Many can’t see the forest for the trees.

    Knowing the root of a problem, doesn’t erase the problem. Pharrell never stated he couldn’t empathize with being black… All black people don’t agree with all the complaints of some. Some of us have the ability to press on and not allow the ill words and actions of others to control our actions. Those people who can do this are secure with whom they are. Who is at fault for that?

    The word insecure resonates negatively with people. They think it means something is wrong with them. Folks have a hard time self reflecting, and even when they do, they seem to sugar coat it (mainly with excuses).

  • Conspiracy Brother

    Pharrell doesn't know anything.

    That picture was chosen by his employer to further the brainwashing of black men and black women all over the world to even assimilate their skin color, he was probably told to say whatever he said. They already have Vybz Kartel in jamaica doing their dirty work for them. MFers want everybody to look like Michael Jackson.

  • http://twitter.com/sabadaga @sabadaga

    Here we go again !! When black women want to complain about something, we get called insecure or any other names. But when black men are suffering or having a problem, we are expected to relate. SMH

    Darkskin women have been discriminated by Fashion, the media and now their own race. Don't you think we'll feel a certain way about it?

    Oh but wait, I am being insecure right now because I complain about being discriminated ! Let me get some self-esteem vaccination. SMH

    • Chrissy

      I dont usually comment on this site, but I will say I feel Black women should stop openly complaining about this issue. Most people including Black men dont care. That is why they say you are insecure to deflect the real issue.

      Many Black women are waking up though. I think there is going to be a real turn in the future on how Black women respond to issues Black men have.

  • Beauty in Truth

    Pharrel was raised around a diverse community and is married to a black (yes shes mixed) woman. If these men dont want to celebrate our beauty then so be it. We will just turn our cheek when they expect us to be there. I live in a region of the US where black literally will tell you that they dont prefer you. Halle Berry lookin, Gabby union, like the whole black thing doesnt work for them. I had this Alpha Phi Alpha try to tell me that white women are more “rare” and thus more sought out. Last time I checked white people are everwhere you turn, and its alot harder to find black people. Some of our men have such a lost identity that it really is sad. What can you do? If Halle Berry and Beyonce aint good enough then were gonna have to throw in the towel real soon. Then after theie Terrance Howard experiences they try to come back to us all broken and regretful, negro pleaaaaassse. Ha ha, but seriously.

    • http://twitter.com/sabadaga @sabadaga

      in which state do you live? I was in Northern California and black men love black women there despite all the things that I heard about BM in Cali!

    • uNk

      "This Alpha Phi Alpha"

      Lets please not generalize a whole organization for one individual.

      Also, no region I have been to has every man all in all preferred one particular race. Stop generalizing. You know what they say about always getting the same result with men you find an interest in.

  • Casweetface

    @sabadaga

    I too was born and raised in the bay but the type of black men you find there is completely different than those in Southern California. You can’t pay most black men in so cal to talk to black women. But honestly, I don’t care anymore and I don’t concern myself with this issue. It’s a no win discussion with so many opinions and no solutions. I will say that continuously making this about black women and never ever focusing on the lack of awareness some black men have is a mistake.

    • Message

      "I will say that continuously making this about black women and never ever focusing on the lack of awareness some black men have."
      Yes!!!
      Black women need to stop talking about this with black men because they have a real lack of awareness on how racism affects black women and they don't care to listen. They want us to understand how racism affects them but tell us to STFU when it is time to discuss how racism affects us.
      The funny things is the part of white establishment seems more open to hearing black women than black men are. BW complained about the lack of diversity in fashion and now more and more black models are being presented in magazines and fashion shows. On the other end black men were tellings us to stop looking for white validation and mainstream acceptance.

  • Soulflower

    Excellent post, interesting comments.

  • http://www.facebook.com/whatisforworse BonnieS

    “I lost faith in many that they would ever be able to take ownership of their own personal issues with themselves.”

    What gets me is how some black people try to tell other black people how to be black. I remember people saying Oprah hugged white people on her show more than she hugged black people on her show; and then there is the issue about affluent black men marrying women of other races.

    I believe the underlying issue is some of our people want to see justice even though they might not show justice themselves. If they did, they would take ownership of what it is that makes them accuse other blacks of bias. I believe if Pharrell had a dark-skinned sister on the cover, some people would have found something else to gripe about and would never own up to being jealous of his success or quite possibly being envious of the women on his cover.

    It was not fair to attack/imply/accuse Pharrell of not embracing his own race. He shouldn’t have had to explain his cover when it comes to artistic expression.

  • http://www.facebook.com/whatisforworse BonnieS

    “I lost faith in many that they would ever be able to take ownership of their own personal issues with themselves.”

    What gets me is how some black people try to tell other black people how to be black. I remember people saying Oprah hugged white people on her show more than she hugged black people on her show; and then there is the issue about affluent black men marrying women of other races.

    I believe the underlying issue is some of our people want to see justice even though they might not show justice themselves. If they did, they would take ownership of what it is that makes them accuse other blacks of bias. I believe if Pharrell had a dark-skinned sister on the cover, some people would have found something else to gripe about and would never own up to being jealous of his success or quite possibly being envious of the women on his cover.

    It was not fair to attack/imply/accuse Pharrell of not embracing his own race. He shouldn’t have had to explain his cover when it comes to artistic expression.

  • Truth in Beauty

    Wow @Chrissy @Adonis. I totally agree Ms. Chrissy. This Adonis is being completely immature saying our concerns are invalid and get over ourselves. Yes I will get “over” my blackness and roll my eyes when you complain about the man. Its like whitefeminists who complain about equality, but treat women of color in the workplace like crap! Black women are always standing up for yall negroes, but told by yall alot of yall, that we arent it. Degrees and bodies arent enough. I know im a wonderul lady, i give my bothers a fair chance. But real talk these days I gotta wonder if a brother is even into his own kinda chocolate. That is messed up. So yes when we speak on this yall need to listen. But yall arent checkin for Halle vivica or bey these days, you want elin, and kim k, and becky lol. Im suprised megan good married a black man. Black couples suprise me and

    that is sad! Its not a generalization, but a real trend. And i will never get it.

    • Jay

      "If men complained about the women who didn't want them, (we'd) laugh them out of the room. We don't take them seriously."

      Absolutely. Pharrell's PERSONAL preferences in women shouldn't have to "validate" or be in support of black women in the first place…

      And, speaking of "exploitative", all this talk about tisk-tisking Pharrell for doing a disservice to his race, why do the "artists" like Beyonce, Jigga, 2-chains, Future, Drake, and Wayne get a "pass"?

      Oh, it's because you actually like their music enough to buy an album. OK.

    • Chrissy

      What you say is true Truth in Beauty and many Black women even Black women in the United Kingdom have noticed what you have especially about elin, kim k, and becky.

      Like I said most people including Black men don't care about this problem. And they have proven they don't care numerous times. So I think Black women should stop complaining especially to Black men. Like I said there is going to be a change in the ways Black women respond to Black mens issues in the future.

  • Get IT!

    Maybe when Black women begin to take ownership of their femininity and start acting more like ladies and less like men, maybe, just maybe, black men wouldn’t mind claiming them and putting them on a pedestal. Black women are the only group of women who collectively think it is okay to be crass, rude, disrespectful and downright aggressive for no reason at all. Somehow men are supposed to look at you and your ill behaviors and ways of thinking and be happy with what they see. We are to “accept you for who you are”. Umm…no! I will not claim a group of women who think it is okay to be loud and rude in public. I will not claim a group of women who think it’s cute to be downright disrespectful and unlady like. I will not claim a group of women who wouldn’t even claim themselves! Ya’ll walk out the house with another woman’s hair attached to yours and expect to be admired for who “YOU” are?? You don’t even take ownership of what you are, so why should someone else put you on a pedestal??? Yea, ok. Like Dr.J said, you have to feel secure in yourselves, which is what a lot of black women lack. This is why they feel the need to be loud in public and complain about everything. All they are looking for is attention and validation. In my opinion, that’s not a good look…

    • Beauty In Truth

      I don’t usually respond to buffoonery on blogs, as it takes energy to educate those who are saturated in darkness, but YOU are disgusting. You are just as bad as any other racist group that tries to perpetuate this nonsense. Are you a black male? You cannot dismiss an entire group of people based on the ills of a few, in that case I should be just as bitter as YOU and hate all black males and live in fear that you are ALL rapists, drug dealers, or will call me out my name (I ain’t wanna’ talk to yo’ azz no way-WAHHH! sniffle, sniffle)when I don’t drop my underwear at the sight of you (never mind you being unqualified in the first place as standards are necessary and required dear, you shouldn’t open up to just any old thang, unless your have 0 standards) Many women wear weave. Of ALL races. But are you not aware that there are MANY beautiful black women with long beautiful natural hair who often wear weaves to protect it? Go to youtube and search “natural hair care”, hundreds of women on youtube alone-who are black and beautiful-

      Then this whole “other women don’t have attitudes.” You think that you know all these women so well! Other non-black women can have the most condescending, and &itchy attitudes because of their inner “perceived betterness” that stems from their Caucasian or other privilege. These women backstab at work, belittle, make the most ignorant comments, have a constant look of fear and jealousy on their faces (not all but many MANY), SUPPORT TRAYVON BEING MURDERED SENESELESSLY, hide their “ethinic” boyfriends from their families, act like anything ethnic is soooo different and unexplainable “OMG!, LIKE-how do you get your hair to curl like thahhhhhhtah?!” O_o BABY BYE! Lol. Okay you keep supporting being beat up by “others.” Because the good of us will NOT be there to support idiocracy.

      I know you are one of the brainswashed ones. And I don’t hate all black males because of YOUR lack of intelligent thought processes. (And there is LARGE LACK) We all have to wake up one day. I hope for your intellectual stimulation and growth. Otherwise you will continue to live a cold, bitter, LONELY, self hating life. Peace N’ Luv

      • Get IT!

        Thanks for the unneeded response. Again, like always, you have proven my point. Learn to keep your anger and attitude in check. No one has time for that.

    • Riyo.Chiasa

      Why is who Black men are dependent on what Black women do?

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