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Ebony’s 70th Anniversary Cover Spurs Accusations of Colorism

Avatar • Nov 24, 2015

This week Ebony Magazine released a powerful December cover in honor of their 70th anniversary featuring Zendaya Coleman, Harry Belafonte, and Jesse Williams. The trio is a part of Ebony’s Power 100 list that salutes the achievements of the black community. The list features black men and women from diverse backgrounds ranging from journalism to activism. Coleman, Belafonte, and Williams are all influential within the black community, calling out racism when necessary.

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Zendaya Coleman, whose aunts were Black Panthers, eloquently took a stand this year when her faux locs were stereotyped on a syndicated television show. Grey’s Anatomy actor Jesse Williams has always been very vocal about police brutality against blacks and racism in general. Black Hollywood veteran, Harry Belafonte, was and still is a social activist and an advocate for civil rights. With Coleman, Williams, and Belafonte on the cover, it almost feels like we are looking at the past, present, and future of social activism.

When the 70th anniversary cover was introduced, it created a firestorm on both Twitter and Instagram. Most are thrilled about the cover and can’t wait to get their own copy. They welcome the much needed dialogue regarding the present state of race relations in this country and they are more than happy to see three vocal activists represent for the black community. However, everyone isn’t content with who Ebony chose to represent black America. Coleman, Williams, and Belafonte are all multi-racial and light in complexion. This left some wondering why there weren’t any darker hued people on the cover.

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Then, there were those who couldn’t understand why it was such an issue for light skinned, multi-racial individuals to grace Ebony’s cover, if they have African roots. Somehow, President Obama even made it into the conversation.

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However, there were some who saw both sides…

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For reference these three women, Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi, are the creators of the Black Lives Matter movement.

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 14:  (L-R) CWB honorees Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi attend The New York Women's Foundation Celebrating Women Breakfast at Marriott Marquis Hotel on May 14, 2015 in New York City.  (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images for The New York Women's Foundation)

NEW YORK, NY — MAY 14: (L‑R) CWB honorees Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi attend The New York Women’s Foundation Celebrating Women Breakfast at Marriott Marquis Hotel on May 14, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images for The New York Women’s Foundation)

And DeRay McKesson and Shaun King have emerged as its most vocal proponents.

DeRay McKesson

DeRay McKesson

Shaun King

Shaun King

Ladies, what are your thoughts on Ebony’s 70th Anniversary Cover?

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CC
CC
4 years ago

LOL really? These are probably the same people telling Taye Diggs that he should tell his son he is black not biracial, but then turn around and complain that they put biracial people on the cover.…… wait … I thought they were black? Oh not black enough.…..I get it. Black people lets stop being so petty and support one another.

Kevin Bacon
Kevin Bacon
4 years ago
Reply to  CC

Real talk. 2016 is approaching soon and they need to get it together. We’re still a n*gger to a racist.

LBell
LBell
4 years ago
Reply to  CC

THANK YOU. So tired of this…it’s as though people are actively looking for something to be offended about. Right now we need all the power and support we can GET…and while I don’t know much about Zendaya, I have read Jesse Williams’ words and witnessed Harry Belafonte’s many decades of activism. Today’s Ebony isn’t the Ebony of my childhood (very few magazines are these days) but I’m glad they’re still making the effort. I’m just going to say it: I need simple-minded people to get on out of the way so progress can continue. Especially those who can’t remember the… Read more »

Michelle Sibanda
Michelle Sibanda
4 years ago

Then, there were those who couldn’t understand why it was such an issue for light skinned, multi-racial individuals to grace Ebony’s cover, if they have African roots.” Funny because from what I’ve read, heard and seen, a lot of black Americans refuse to be referred to as “African” American because they do not believe that they hark back to any form of African heritage/genetics. This opinion isn’t just among light skinned black Americans.

omfg
omfg
4 years ago

i think a lot of black americans (including myself) don’t refer to themselves as african-americans because we are not really africans. we are african-descended people, most of us anyway.

for me, it’s more important to give credit and recognition to my ancestors who made a way for me in this country.

i think you just don’t get “us”. and you should just admit you don’t understand the complexity of our identity. a lot of africans in particular do not.

Annamuffin
Annamuffin
4 years ago
Reply to  omfg

Exactly that’s why they should mind their own business…

Cosita
Cosita
4 years ago

I identify as black, not African American and I know plenty of others who feel the same way. We don’t all have the same reasons for why we feel the way we do. So just because someone does or doesn’t want to be called African American doesn’t automatically mean deny having African heritage.

tracienatural
tracienatural
4 years ago

Sis, you definitely have a point. Many black people in the West refuse to identify as African and begrudgingly admit to African heritage. But they are quite proud of their European/Native American heritage though. I’m not shading the other commenters who’ve replied to your comment, because I don’t know them, and I’m sure they’ll have other reasons for why they don’t identify, e.g. feel too removed from Africa; they identify with their current nationality only; think that the term “African” should be reserved for those directly from the continent; they’re Hebrew Israelites; they’re the true native americans, etc. This is… Read more »

Cosita
Cosita
4 years ago
Reply to  tracienatural

I choose to identify racially as black. Black is not a nationality. There is no country called Black. Just by us saying we are black I think we are acknowledging our descent. Also by identifying as African does not automatically mean someone is black because not all Africans now or throughout history are black. I saw plenty who weren’t when I traveled to north. Do you consider yourself the same race as Omar Kadafia who was also African? Most of those people in Libya are technically caucasian yet are just as African as anyone whose ancestors go back thousands of… Read more »

Annamuffin
Annamuffin
4 years ago

That’s not true, the probably is my cluture is different from African cluture so there for there a disconnect.… For one I don’t share your customs, food or in some case religion. I have my own cluture just like Cubans, Jamicains, Haitians and all others. That’s why I like to be called black American because that’s what I am.… That’s where I’m from that’s my cluture.…

Chevanne
4 years ago

Maybe it’s because they put celebrities on their magazine covers and not the women behind the curtain unless they are widely known. They’re trying to sell issues of the magazine with well known and vocal black people. I can understand their decision. I’m not really here for this colorism business right now. This is a new civil rights movement. What, they can’t put Huey P. Newton, Kathleen Cleaver and Angela Davis on the same cover?

Elle P.
Elle P.
4 years ago

I saw the cover and I was intrigued… more by what Jesse Williams and Zendaya and what they have to say. These are very eloquent individuals that are not one-sided. Jessie Williams, as fine as he is, he is a smart man! I am looking more at what they have to say. There are a number of eloquent individuals that are as dark as me (or darker) I suppose Janelle Monae and Viola Davis ring a bell…

omfg
omfg
4 years ago

where the black people at? i think there’s only one there, and he can’t stand black women. lol.

Kevin Bacon
Kevin Bacon
4 years ago

(Some) Black folks are always tearing down each other but come together when another race tears them down. They’ll deny a lightskin black person their blackness and complain that a biracial person isn’t black enough yet call them a sell out when they embrace their other culture(s). Doesn’t matter what skin tone we have, we’re still a n*gger to a racist.

Cosita
Cosita
4 years ago

I’m really wondering if this site is now anti light skin people.

naughtycorner
naughtycorner
4 years ago

The twitter user above said they are fighting for injustices in our community, I’m aware of Jesse’s activism but which ” injustices ” exactly has Zendaya been fighting for? She claps back about something that affects her personally i,e criticism of her hair and all of a sudden she is Harriet Tubman ? This warrants her being on the cover ?
Sometimes black people can be real sheeple

Dana Brown
Dana Brown
4 years ago
Reply to  naughtycorner

Right? For me, it’s not so much the color/ethnic background of who is on the cover, it’s what they’ve done. Jesse can stay, he has been so instrumental in drawing attention to and supporting the cause. But Belafonte? You cannot tell me there aren’t other men (other non-misogynoir men) they could have chosen. And Zendaya? Sorry (not sorry) But Amandla Stenberg should have been standing there. There were too many options for them to choose from for them to make the whole cover well-known celebrities, and all light skinned celebrities at that. Not sure why some people are demonizing the… Read more »

CurlyQ
CurlyQ
4 years ago

I think people need to stop frickin complaining! Black people are suppose to be getting along within their community but as soon as a lighter skinned person is featured somewhere to respresent their blackness, it’s a problem. I’m personally tired of it. No other race of people do this! Yuck!

Soullight
Soullight
4 years ago
Reply to  CurlyQ

I challenge ypu to travel more…all communities are suffering from this disease of colonialism to some degree. From the use of skinn lightening creams in India and the widen eye surgery in Korea.

CurlyQ
CurlyQ
4 years ago
Reply to  Soullight

Yes I’m very aware of all those issues. I’ve traveled a lot actually..I’m not even from the states but I appreciate your comment hun!

Jason Young
Jason Young
4 years ago
Reply to  Soullight

Wait but how is that an excuse. Every time I talk to black people about colorism they always say “everyone suffers from it” or “it’s not as bad as.…“If you clowns can get up everyday and analyze the full extent of white supremacy than you can do the same thing here.

Sandy
Sandy
4 years ago
Reply to  CurlyQ

actually not true. India has colorism, Korea has colorism and this obsession with the Caucasian features, Brazil, light skin vs dark Brazilians and the issue is serious there as they are racist against eachother, the Caribbean as well.
It’s happening in some other parts of the world not just the states.

maralondon
maralondon
4 years ago
Reply to  Sandy

Yes you are right there is colourism in other parts of the wold that is because they equate dark skin with being closets to African. People from Brazil and the Caribbean are descendants of Africans, heck even Indians to some degree, so we do in fact belong to the same race.

Vita
Vita
4 years ago
Reply to  Sandy

So American black people have 2nd and 3rd world cultural beliefs? Offended. You might think like a third world culture, colorism and all, but not me and the other black people I associate with.

tracienatural
tracienatural
4 years ago

I hesitated to comment on this Ebony cover because at first I really didn’t notice the shade of the celebrities on the cover. However, I would like to say something about the perceived hypersensitivity of darker skinned black people by some of the commenters. Maybe it’s because I’m older, but some of the commenters here are forgetting (or may have never realized) that darker-skinned black people have borne the brunt of racism and prejudice for the time we’ve been in the West. Many light skinned and biracial/multiracial blacks, although having suffered as well, were many times given preferential treatment or… Read more »

maralondon
maralondon
4 years ago

When are people of African descent going to stop perpetuating Europeans’ legacy of slavery. Pitting dark skin against light skin was by design to divide us. What hope do we have for our children and generations to come if we can’t let something that we never created in the first place go. It’s time to bury this rubbish once and for all.

omfg
omfg
4 years ago
Reply to  maralondon

actually, the legacy of european slavery is accepting biracials as black. so, to say a biracial is not black is actually rejecting their racist categories.

maralondon
maralondon
4 years ago
Reply to  omfg

Europeans’ legacy was to not accept their mixed off springs and see them as ‘cast offs’. This is where the term half caste comes from. But anyway I’m not going to get into the hows and whys with you because your opinion is obvious.

Claudette UK
Claudette UK
4 years ago
Reply to  omfg

Exactly! That is the whole point of the ‘one drop’ rule. So they could continue to buy and sell people who were light, bright and damn near white.

Queen Mennon
Queen Mennon
4 years ago
Reply to  Claudette UK

Albeit, house vs field negros

Barbara Belle
Barbara Belle
4 years ago

When white people say they don’t see color and therefore racism doesn’t exist we get upset. THE VERY SAME BLACK PEOPLE will then turn around and say they don’t see color when it comes to colorism. This is why I don’t follow groups nor movements because like Patricia Hill Collins said ..eventually when the issue serves them the oppressed will become the oppressor. And the oppressive people here are blacks of all shades who see lighter skin as more beautiful and especially biracial people’s as more beautiful because of how close to white they may or may not look. They have… Read more »

Jason Young
Jason Young
4 years ago
Reply to  Barbara Belle

Duh why do you think so many darker complexioned black people are republicans or in mixed marriages? In many cases the black community treats them worse than whites do. Black people are the first ones to find racism in white people, yet ignore their own. I’m sorry but there is nothing worse than a hypocrite.

michelles2cents
michelles2cents
4 years ago

Alicia, Patrisse, Opal, DeRay, and Shaun should have been on the cover. They chose celebrities to sell magazines when they should have chosen the real voices of the movement.

It’s not even a lightskin vs darkskin issue, it’s a showhorse vs workhorse issue.

Dede
Dede
4 years ago

yes

Ms. Vee
Ms. Vee
4 years ago

Let’s see…one is married to a white woman and the other two have white mothers…

Oh yes I feel the revolution emanating from Ebony mag ‑_-

Vita
Vita
4 years ago
Reply to  Ms. Vee

Why does it matter one has a white mother? Many of us who are mixed race feel or relate ourselves as being black. This has never been questioned before. I think this is a fringe group of self-haters who wish to see the black race divided so much by superficial things that our race dissapears into oblivion. You hate your race that much? Abortion was invented as a means of euthanasia and genocide against inner city black people. We should be focusing on peacefully stopping genocide, not on dividing the black race by hair, eyes, features and such. That’s what… Read more »

Ms. Vee
Ms. Vee
4 years ago
Reply to  Vita

If there is going to be proper representation of the black image then the parties being used must be black. Not that hard to understand. Read a biology book please.

Queen Mennon
Queen Mennon
4 years ago
Reply to  Vita

The one drop rule is dead. Black = Black mother and Black father. White people do not get to define us.

Delia
Delia
4 years ago

DeRay should have definately been on that front cover. Good thing I never bought an Ebony mag before in my life. I guess I wasn’t missing out on anything…

Nicole
Nicole
4 years ago

I’m sorry but telling lighter skinned black people or multi racial people their skin is dark enough for them to be honored or able to represent the black community is racist. I’m disgusted, we should be celebrating each other. Yet so many people are butt hurt. Prejudice is real, even in our own community against our own people. So sad

Nyna Nickelson
Nyna Nickelson
4 years ago

this is so wrong. As a darker skinned woman i’m distrubed to see that we are pushing away and ostracizing our brothers and sisters for the sake of building up the other. Colorism is real and it’s a conversation we should have but i don’t think undercutting other’s blackness. we can appreciate all shades equally instead of playing into this agenda of division. Also ebony has always been one for colorism so if that was the point it doesn’t surprise me.

December86
December86
4 years ago

Willie Lynch syndrome at its best! Just be happy, we are our own worst critics. You think “Whites” complain about Anne Hathaway being too pale and George Clooney to tan!

January
January
4 years ago
Reply to  December86

I agree. Why do we hate ourselves that much? By now we should know that we come in all shades. I know someone darker than me who is mixed and someone lighter than me who isn’t. The shade of brown we are is not a representation of how black we are. Like you said, white people don’t do this kind of thing to each other. Let’s lift each other up, not bring each other down. That type of thing you can’t blame on the white man, that’s all on us.

get over it
get over it
4 years ago

It’s EBONY, 70 years.…not surprising

Luvbug2216
Luvbug2216
4 years ago

I didn’t see anything wrong with the cover until I read the article, and while to some extent I understand why people may be a little put off, I don’t think all of the negative attention is fair. Yes, they may very well be mixed, but they are in fact still Black and have brought awareness to a lot of social issues concerning Black/African-Americans. Instead of asking why the ones being highlighted are mixed, people should be asking why being mixed seems to invalidate a person’s ethnicity, and their actions for the Black community which is what some of the… Read more »

Queen Mennon
Queen Mennon
4 years ago
Reply to  Luvbug2216

The one drop rule is dead. White people do not get to define us.

blogdiz
blogdiz
4 years ago

Colorism is the deeply entrenched practice of bias/preference in favour of biracial/light skin people,.reading these comments I see why it will never go away as many people have accepted it support it and defend it For the record this has nothing to with denying the personas on the cover their blackness but rather questions Ebony’s intent to have these 3 Only on the cover Jesse deserves the cover, . Belafonte at 88 has a history of activism (despite his misogynoir ) Ok Fine but if they are going for Old guard why bypass Danny Glover? What about Viola Davis who used… Read more »

Annamuffin
Annamuffin
4 years ago

Well this is what happens when you accept biracial people as full blood black folk. All I’m saying is you want see biracial Asians on Asian magazine. But for some reason black People have allowed this to happen. Pretty soon black magazine will look more like the magazine in Brazil, we’ll be totally erassed…

Jason Young
Jason Young
4 years ago
Reply to  Annamuffin

That’s why you won’t see me out there marching for anyone. Black people are too hypocritical. Life is too short. I’m not going to risk my life for people that pretend to love everyone but have a hidden motive.

Queen Mennon
Queen Mennon
4 years ago

These mixed race 1/2 white people R not Black and do not represent real Black people. They don’t look nothing like us. This society no longer accepts a real black person. They have to be mixed so they feel relevant. Stop with the race mixing. White genetic survival is not black peoples priority.

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