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Twitter Activist Sparks Discussion After Asking Why “The Face of Young Black Feminism” is Light-Skinned and Biracial

• May 23, 2016

Pax Jones is the mastermind behind #unfairandlovely, a hashtag campaign she started with two Sri Lankan friends that has become a melanin movement for the Asian community. But a series of thoughtful tweets she posted in January have resurfaced, sparking dialogue online about why the public face of young black feminism in America does not involve any dark-skinned black girls.

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On the black progressive Son of Baldwin Facebook page, fans weighed in with thoughtful commentary about who gets to be the ‘public face’ of black womanhood in a country rife with racism and colorism.

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We discussed the tweets in a BGLH writers meeting and found them to be surprisingly true. After trying to come up with a list of young dark-skinned actresses and entertainers who are vocal about black issues and have been given a similar platform to Zendaya Coleman and Amandla Stenberg (primarily in the form of mainstream magazine covers and media features), we could not come up with any. The closest we could find is 26-year-old Jessica Williams, the wickedly funny, sharply intelligent and absolutely gorgeous Daily Show correspondent, who has been holding it down on cultural issues for a minute.

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But she has not been given the same platform or attention, and while it could be argued that her lane is different because she is a comedienne, it’s worth noting that Amy Schumer has graced multiple fashion magazine covers while, to date, Jessica has only covered one — BUST Magazine.

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There is also 22-year-old Keke Palmer, who is admittedly not as eloquent as Coleman and Stenberg, but has had an incredible career nonetheless, including being the youngest talk show host in television history, the first black woman to play Cinderella on Broadway and publicly identifying as sexually fluid. She cast Cassie as her love interest in her I Don’t Belong to You video, but the bold video barely made a ripple in feminist circles.

She has only graced black magazine covers and has yet to cover a mainstream fashion mag. And nobody is calling for her opinion on feminism as it relates to being a young, black, sexually-fluid steadily-working actress.

It seems that lighter-skinned actresses gain both industry and black culture followings much faster. Coleman, Stenberg, Alexandra Shipp, Zoe Kravitz, Kiersey Clemons and Yara Shahidi managed to become industry ‘it girls’ in their teens and early twenties (it is worth pointing out that all, except Shipp and Kravitz, began acting as children or young teens.) But on the flip side, it seems that dark-skinned actresses take a much longer time to gain traction. Yes, Teyonah Parris, Tika Sumpter, Aja Naomi King, Danai Gurira and Viola Davis are all having amazing moments right now. But they are also all in their 30s or older, and have only recently become household names despite being on the grind for years (I mean, have you seen Viola Davis’ IMDB page? Lady has been hustling for DECADES.)

It could be argued that Coleman and Stenberg are unique for the stances they’ve taken and what they’ve chosen to say. But the implication there is a bit dangerous. Amandla, in particular, has been VERY bold, and gained her notoriety for taking accusations of cultural appropriation right to the Kardashians’ front door. And for that she is to be rightly revered. But are we saying that there are absolutely no teen or twenty-something dark-skinned actresses and entertainers who are speaking up for the causes of black feminism and black rights? It seems more likely that those voices haven’t been given the same platform.

Ladies, what are your thoughts on all of this?

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Skeewee
Guest
Skeewee

Not sure what Keke Palmer’s sexuality has to do with her career, or getting on the cover of a white owned mag, but light skinned Blacks being the voice for Black ppl has been the norm for so long lol! In the 19th century, you had Booker T. Washington and Frederick Douglass, both mixed race, as the voices of Black ppl. By the early 20th century, there was WEB DuBois. Thurgood Marshall represented at the Supreme Court level, Malcolm X, Angela Davis, and the like. MLK was brown, but had a yellow lady by his side. Everything recycles.

Jacky
Guest
Jacky

The meaning of feminism has changed.That is why they mentioned that. Feminism no longer means looking for equal and fair treatment of females. Feminism these days is synonymous to open sexuality. If you’re a woman who is open with your sexuality, you’re a feminist.. at least according to modern day terms.

Guest
Guest
Guest

The biracial girls are the ones that are constantly getting hired, thus giving them a wider platform. Once we’re doing the hiring, then things might change. But until that time, the powers that be will continue to, as you said, recycle the same look.

Think_thenbreathe
Guest
Think_thenbreathe

Malcolm X was not biracial. he was literally maybe a 1/4 white. Its like people here just get mad to get mad. As if all those people you mentioned didn’t do good for the black community and risk their lives for change.
I would like to see you go out there and do that.

Maria Fontenelle
Guest
Maria Fontenelle

Are we splitting hairs or rightly recognising a pervasive bias? I say both; but sometimes you gotta split hairs to get to the root of the matter. This is relevant and concerning but the action especially for sites like BGLH is to make a concerted effort to amplify the voices and stories of these darker skinned feminists ALONGSIDE that of others.

cryssi
Guest
cryssi

I noticed this awhile ago, with the cover of Essence or Ebony mag with Zendaya, the cutie from Grey’s, and Harry Belafonte.

I commend their efforts, but I do wish the other end of the melanin scale was represented as well.

Rose
Guest
Rose

I am surprised that Lupita Nygono or other dark women are not on this list. Just because a woman isn’t posting on twitter, it does not mean she is not a feminist. I think twitter feminism is the lowest form of political activism. It is more powerful for a dark-skinned woman to succeed in a visible way in my opinion.

TT
Guest
TT

Where are the young up and coming, under 30, dark skinned female actors getting this much shine? Lupita is in her 30s. You should not dismiss twitter feminism. Twitter has brought a lot of attention to a lot of issues.

Rose
Guest
Rose

I’m sorry, but people cannot express coherent thoughts in complete sentences or beyond 150 characters on Twitter. Do not tell me that is a legitimate form of media or political activism. It is just plain lazy social media trash. You must be a millennial to even think that Twitter is a respectable form of media or information. That is why the feminism that derives from Twitter is so problematic and unacademic. Twitter feminism actually derails real feminist work because it is short-sighted, narcissistic, reactionary, and childish.

TT
Guest
TT

So I guess you think the BLM or #Oscars so white is trash too, because guess what it started on twitter. Well you must be of an older generation who thinks there’s too much social media. The fact that you think feminism has to be “academic” is a problem. Not everyone brand of feminism has to be the same.

Think_thenbreathe
Guest
Think_thenbreathe

Lupin may be in her 30s but she doesn’t look it. And what does it matter if they’re in their 30s.?Whose fault is it that there are no teenage dark skin black actresses that are constantly on twitter??

TT
Guest
TT

I’m not even talking about dark skinned female actors on twitter. And I mentioned under 30 because all of these actors pictured above are, so it doesn’t matter to me if she looks younger. I’m talking about young, under 30s specifically, darker skinned female actors who are promoted like the lighter skinned actors are or given the same platform.

Dr.Rue
Guest
Dr.Rue

Yes she does. well to me she looks at least 32

S. Williams
Guest
S. Williams

Skai Jackson is well on her way. Been in the biz since she was a tyke. The woman from How To Get Away with Murder is well on her way. Gabourey Sidibe, Amber Riley. They may not be getting the attention that you feel they deserve but I’m am plenty sure they are happy for their successes and won’t stop at anything. Viiola Davis, Octavia Spencer, hell even Cicely Tyson give them hope that they have more of an edge when it comes to longevity bc success wasn’t just handed to them due to be “color safe” on the spectrum… Read more »

foreveryoung
Guest
foreveryoung

Yes!! So truthful and so well articulated — I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Dark-skinned women (whether famous in the media or not) who are doing, changing, making things happen for themselves should not be overlooked, because they are actually making a difference when it comes to how we as black women are perceived as a whole (as well as sets an example for young black girls to follow/aspire to). My aunt is this kind of woman for me.

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[…] is Kiki Palmer’s Teen Vogue cover story discussing the joys and difficulties of coming out as sexually fluid?  Her […]

LBell
Guest
LBell

As an older dark-skinned black woman whose primary role models (parents) taught me there was nothing wrong with being a dark-skinned black woman, and who had to leave home (literally and figuratively) to find out just how many folks think otherwise, I have a lot to say on this subject but since I have to go to work, I’ll keep it short: Internalized racism has done a number on all of us, whether we want to admit it or not. Ultimately I side with whoever’s willing to side with me…and I don’t care what color you are so long as… Read more »

Birdy
Guest
Birdy

Lupita nyongo and Janelle Monae

TT
Guest
TT

Name some actors who are younger and get the similar promotion like these actors get. I’m guessing you can’t name one.

TT
Guest
TT

Name dark skinned female actors under 30 getting the same or similar shine.

Aurora Sullivan
Guest
Aurora Sullivan

I’ve noticed this as well and I’ve spoken out about it many times but for Pax Jones to tell us, as light-skin women, that we’re not allowed to talk about black struggle when she’s not even black herself is just another way of an outsider coming in and trying to segregate us by skin color. We are still allowed to talk about our struggle because we have a struggle as well. While not all of us may recognize that dark skinned women get treated differently, some of us do realize it. So don’t tell us to shut up when these… Read more »

DrSelina
Guest
DrSelina

I don’t think that is what she is trying to say. I think she is saying that someone else who is brown, Sri Lankins are pretty dark, is commenting on how we, as Black people, are having a movement now, and despite there being so many who are making waves, all people on the outside are seeing is the light brights. Our light-skinned and mixed sisters are struggling too, and ALL voices are valid, but it would be nice if ALL voices could yell and scream and demand that more diverse faces are highlighted so that the narrative is more… Read more »

Simone
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Simone

Thank you! My thoughts exactly!

CocoaGoddess
Guest
CocoaGoddess

There should still be more diversity. Not saying that light skins can’t talk on the struggle, but there should be representation of all the skin tones that black people come in. From yellow to caramel, to ebony

Dee
Guest
Dee

Most light skin women will argue to death that their struggle and the dark black woman’s is the same. It is impossible. They shouldn’t be allowed to be the spokesperson for black women because the majority of black women look nothing like them. And they are not aiding the gap in representation, they are exploiting it! So I’m not sure exactly how we are supposed to stick together. Also…why don’t some of these “biracial” women go and be white feminists? Oh right, impossible. So instead of being on the bottom of the white pyramid, they want to be on the… Read more »

Rose
Guest
Rose

You nailed it. These “biracial” girls (who will HALT you the minute you simply call them black) are EXPLOITING racial privilege. They still want all of this glorified attention.

Tori
Guest
Tori

As a biracial girl, I’ll say this is 100% true. Don’t believe the bullshit. You’re black if you are BLACK, not if you have black in you. No other race practices a one drop rule…it’s a way to establish black blood as something overriding and absolute, to preserve the racial order. This is called the hypodescent rule, Google it. The only way to dismantle anti-black racism is to dismantle the one-drop mentality and put pure blacks at the forefront of the movement until society is comfortable with you.

Chloe
Guest
Chloe

Pax Jones is black, and dark.

Maryanne Peters
Guest
Maryanne Peters

I definitely agree with there being a problem with having the face of black feminist youth being two light-skin people who I rarely see acknowledge their privilege. Black feminism is so pervasive now especially among teens, which is why its so weird to me that just two people have been chosen as the face of young black feminism. I know so many black feminists who’ve said more eloquent things than what Amandla said in “dont cash crop my cornrows,” and nobodys giving them a voice or acknowledging them. This isn’t even to focus specifically on Amandla or that video but… Read more »

Nicole Tran
Guest
Nicole Tran

Thank you for this, I’m glad someone acknowledges what the media is doing. I’m biracial, Vietnamese french and black, and I’ve heard and read time and again lighter skinned women couldn’t represent the black community and we should be able to. The media is racially dividing our community and that is the issue that needs addressed, but we should support any person who is on the right side.

Rose
Guest
Rose

I still think biracial people should not be the *face* or foreground for these issues. Who better to represent black issues than an actual black person?

Osinachi
Guest
Osinachi

There is a space for everyone’s voices to be heard. The problem is that biracial and “biracial looking” people are the only face of black women in particular. Darker skinned black women are being erased and silenced by the dominant culture and even among blacks, and if you’re truly committed to solidarity among blacks, you should see the issue with that. I think that’s why darker skinned black women are portrayed as being so angry… we have so few forums to voice our frustrations. Black people won’t talk about colorism and white people certainly will not. To biracial/light women, this… Read more »

Rose
Guest
Rose

Exactly. Any time we have a conversation like this, some yellow-bone or woman who loudly identifies as biracial, NOT African-American/descended, wants to cry and say it is all about her. NO. If you identify with black so much, then you should know that the average phenotype of Africans is to have a deep brown skin complexion. If you are offended that Africans and their descendants don’t want people who don’t even identify as African (I am BIRACIAL is a great example of this) to be the face, that is your egotistical problem, which is based on the notion that your… Read more »

Think_thenbreathe
Guest
Think_thenbreathe

its so weird to me that just two people have been chosen as the face of young black feminism”
But who chose these two as the face of black feminism? Seriously, who?! I’m 20, so i’m in their generation and i’m still not getting this whole “chosen” thing. Who decided this?

ehansom
Guest

Chescaleigh is the only one I could think of. She’s the only reason why I subscribed to MTV’s youtube channel.

Annamuffin
Guest
Annamuffin

No other racial group makes biracial people and those that don’t look like the the forefront of their group.…

Chloe
Guest
Chloe

Actually, colorism is rampant in Asia. They use more bleaching cream than any other group and only their palest members get to be A list celebrities, especially among the women.

Annamuffin
Guest
Annamuffin

Do people in Asia allow biracial people that don’t look like them to represent them? What you are talking about is their beauty standard I’m talking about how black people put those that don’t look like them as stand in members of race representation… I’m not talking about bleaching I’m talking about reality and how black is seen.…

Comk4ver
Guest
Comk4ver
Amari
Guest
Amari

We all know this is true in the black community. I said just yesterday that I knew of/was exposed more to colorism, before I really felt racism. We all know this, and there’s probably a minority of you who don’t for whatever reason, especially now that there are black ppl who are cross-cultural and racial, who may not have had the same experiences. The only reason I like that we’re talking about this issue PUBLICLY, is the fact that this issue is finally coming to light. It should be exposed to outside the black community, because it is a pervasive,… Read more »

Osinachi
Guest
Osinachi

Black people need to work on the colorism issue before even attempting to involve whites. Whites are the architects of colorism and it’s the highest form of flattery to them to remind them of it.

Jane Dempsey
Guest
Jane Dempsey

I am biracial and agree that so many of the black female activists who get the most recognition are biracial and/or lightskinned. It would be beneficial for them to acknowledge this and put some shine on other activists doing the work. Also highly underrated and needs more acclaim: Teyonah Parris and Tika Sumpter.

Z
Guest
Z

What about Lupita Nyong’o?

Comk4ver
Guest
Comk4ver

I came here specifically for this comment but I would like to point out that Lupita is half Mexican and half Kenyan. She’s been on the cover of New York, Dazed and Confused, Vogue, Elle’s, Glamour, Lucky, Harper’s Bazaar, Mujer Ahoy, Paris Match. And in spite of this she doesn’t qualify for this article because she’s thirty three and we’re looking for young women under the age of 25

fromanotherplanet
Guest
fromanotherplanet

Chile…

Briana B. Crockett
Guest
Briana B. Crockett

I think it’s not so much that light skinned people Shouldn’t be the face of the black community, but they shouldn’t be the Only face of the black community. There should be an equal mix that supports all of the glorious shades of blackness, because we aren’t all the same and neither are our experiences. to have only light people getting the recognition for advocating is wrong, but to white people they look like the “safer” black person. And that goes into the stereotypes about darker skin tones and how they’re always angry and bitter, while lighter people have so… Read more »

V3
Guest
V3

How many of these black feminists are either gay or with a white males?

Rose
Guest
Rose

Why should a black woman date a black man? Do black men have natural rights to black women’s bodies? Is that what you’re saying???

V3
Guest
V3

I didn’t say who should be dating who. It’s just an obvious pattern that black women that claim to be feminists are highly likely to be gay or in a relationship with a (specifically) white males.

BTW, the “natural rights” stuff is definitely some of that weak whiteass bs.

Rose
Guest
Rose

I encourage all women, especially black women, to avoid misogynistic, macho, entitled black men like the plague they are. I stopped dating black men due to their hatred for women, awful taste in music, rampant cheating, and aversion to a family-orientated lifestyle. I am dating a guy who went to a top school in the world, *just like I did*, and he is not black. Moreover, he is intelligent, feminist, romantic, and loyal–traits a millenial woman would never find in a black male.

V3
Guest
V3

lmfao ” misogynistic macho” give me a break with that anti-male cut and paste feminist BS. So brainwashed , it’s laughable.

royalty_Iam
Guest
royalty_Iam

Your opinion is asinine, sheer foolery, absolutely dumb. I feel sorry for the person who’s involved with you. This comment was disgusting and sad. In an attempt to lift yourself about who you’re dating you’re willing to tear down a whole race of men.…..unbelievable

royalty_Iam
Guest
royalty_Iam

Top school in the country still pumped out an idiot who has no problem contributing to the bs in the world

Rose
Guest
Rose

Only reply to my comments if you can write complete thoughts.

Jessica
Guest
Jessica

who a black woman decides to go to bed with is a) none of your damn business, and b) not a “pass” excluding her from experiencing discrimination or speaking up and out against discrimination that she herself or other black people have experienced. politely have all of the seats.

V3
Guest
V3

lmfao give me a break. Again, it’s obvious that black females that claim to be feminists are confused and attempting to emulate white women. Also, 80% of these women that make the claim of being black feminists are either gay or in relationships with white men, so it should be quite clear the amount of brain washing that has happened.

Rastaguy2
Guest
Rastaguy2

God damn! The how to book on complaining.

royalty_Iam
Guest
royalty_Iam

I don’t understand this comment

Rastaguy2
Guest
Rastaguy2

This article details a bunch of complainers doing what they do best.

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[…] of Cosby’s admission to having sex with drugged models. In Segment 2 we cover colorism in black feminism and hijab fashion.  Next week we will be live from Afropunk Fest […]

Courtney Banks
Guest
Courtney Banks

Lets be honest as far as beauty standards, Zendaya’s physical features (her light complexion, curly hair, not too full lips, etc.) is very Eurocentric.
Zendaya’s accomplishments are rooted in a lot of social privileges because of how Eurocentric she looks and not looking fully black.

Rose
Guest
Rose

Yes BLM and #Oscarssowhatever are both trash. Neither movement has actually caused change. It is actually memed, over-hyped, and highly mocked. Don’t even start with how BLM is really Black MEN’S Lives Matter and how it spawned by wrongfully conflating black criminality with real police brutality. Also Oscars so white is pathetic for not acknowledging class privilege and the entire sexual abuse, pedophilia, and corruption of Hollywood as an industry. Even some black people of the industry participate in the corruption (see BILL COSBY). OSW does not get to the root of the issue of who owns media. It is… Read more »

Jessica
Guest
Jessica

I was disappointed to see that Franchesca Ramsey aka Chescaleigh wasn’t included on this list of strong, black women speaking out against racism, colorism, discrimination etc. She’s in her 30s, but she’s been a vocal youtube phenom since her 20s.

Comk4ver
Guest
Comk4ver

But she’s not main stream nor on a big stage.

Monte Varrick
Guest
Monte Varrick

#BlackFeminismSoLight

Lake
Guest
Lake

Franchesca Ramsey on MTVs Decoded is a woman who eloquently debunks stereotypes among other issues.

Rose
Guest
Rose

You still can’t refute anything I’ve said. Black men are childlike boys and cannot step up to the plate. Bye little boy.

V3
Guest
V3

We are all childlike under a system of white white supremacy.

Rose
Guest
Rose

Speak for your own damn self little boy.

V3
Guest
V3

No, im speaking for you too. Deal.

Jaz
Guest
Jaz

Lupita is not half Mexican by ethnicity. Both her parents are Black Kenyans. She was born in Mexico but her family moved back to Kenyan when she was one. So she is not mixed but is a Mexican citizen by birth.

foreveryoung
Guest
foreveryoung

EXACTLY. Thank you for clearing tht up. I hate when people go around spreading misinformation. She is 100% African, she was just born in Mexico.

Milo
Guest
Milo

Miss Japan was actually, and unfortunately, shunned by Japanese media, while being embraced by foreign media.

Claudette UK
Guest
Claudette UK

I welcome this post because I notice that a lot of bi-racial women set themselves up as spokespersons for the entire black race.

3caramel7
Guest
3caramel7

I really hate these kind of conversations because all it does is divide.
All I ask of of all black people no matter what our shade is, is that this is the shade we are born with. We don’t have a choice in the matter, but please don’t blame people whether dark or light for societys mis-informed ills. We will always be stronger together!

me
Guest
me

You lost me at Keke! were we talking about black success or about colourism??? Keke often portrays the black woman stereotype whether intentionally or not. Its has been done even in some of her acting roles, Where at least Zendaya and Amanda have done a better job of making things with activism more of a concern., Then fitting the worlds idea of black women.

Tori
Guest
Tori

I don’t see this as a problem stemming primarily from white supremacy. If this were true, dark-skinned men wouldn’t be given large platforms. But time and again, they are. This problem is rooted in sexual objectification. If a woman doesn’t fulfill the prerequisite of being hot, she’s not allowed to speak. And of course, beauty standards are Eurocentric. As much as we don’t want to point fingers at our fellow black men, they’re just as responsible for this pattern as white people. Colorism is largely a women’s issue.

Vecr
Guest
Vecr

My family comes in all color. I am on the lighter side. What gets me is that biracial people are more really accepted by the black or the white side. So where do we fit in. Other? It sucks.

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