Tuesday, September 4, 2018

The Making of a Division

The Anatomy of a Division

My granddaughter, who looks just like my grandmother

Many years ago, when I had to decide on a topic for my doctoral dissertation, I was told to look within my own life and experiences. “Study something close to you, then step back and let the findings speak your truth,” my adviser, Dr. Liz Mullins told me.

I chose to study Colorism, The Impact of Black on Black Discrimination: Prejudicial and Preferential Treatment Based on Skin Color Differences.

The topic came easy. My family’s color ranged from “white enough to pass,” to “midnight black.” (By the by, over 30 years ago when I wrote my dissertation, there were 144 different ways to describe a black person’s color.)

I uncovered all kinds of things that had never been analyzed and the dissertation has since been the subject of documentaries, scripted movies, books and even lawsuits. However, one of my major findings has gone untouched. Understanding in-group divisions enabled me to better understand divisions across groups. Moreover, (when you have an advanced degree, you have to throw in a moreover every now and again,) I was able to understand how the tactics of the so-called dominant group were used to divide and consequently conquer members of the so-called non-dominant.

In other words, black folks have been using white standards of beauty to determine who was or could be considered beautiful. Of course, this system of stratification was not created by blacks, and yet, somehow, it was adopted and maintained within my own family. My mother would say “At the end of the day, we all black,” but that has not stopped outsiders from saying things like, “Are you sure that's your granddaughter, she looks white?

So, let me bring this to today; to a broader point.

America is being divided. We are being told to take sides. But there are more than 144 sides we can take on over 144 different issues. The tactics of the 1% are being used to divide and conquer the 99-percenters. As soon as we agree that we all belong and are beautiful, someone outside of the group asks, “According to which standard?”

Is this divide of our own making? We know the answer, but those same outside forces tell us that this is not true.

Stay connected people. Look deeply at the source of your schism. Is it based on anything real or is it someone else’s construct?

Folks who don’t understand colorism find it very difficult to believe, and in the future, people will wonder how the United States became so very divided.

Stay connected, because, “At the end of the day, we all black—American---human.”

Bertice Berry, PhD.

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