Yasmine Toney describes herself as a "dark-skinned sista." So when she heard about a recent club promotion in Detroit, allowing all-night free admission to the party for black women with fair or light skin, she was incensed.
"It's offensive," Toney said. "It continues a negative stereotype."
"I'm perceived to be aggressive, assertive, attitude-having ... a lot of things, because my complexion is darker," the 24-year-old receptionist said.
The party was canceled last week after its promoter, who is black, received dozens of complaints. But for Toney and other black women, the issue reopened old, deep wounds as word of the party spread through the Internet.
How black women are viewed -- and treat each other -- depending on the hue of their skin, eye color, and the length and grade of their hair has long been a point of contention for many in the black community.
Many women with lighter skin frequently are accused of believing they are better than those with darker complexions. Many women with darker complexions complain that they are not treated as well socially and professionally as those with fairer skin.
Ulysses Barnes, who goes by the name DJ Lish, says he canceled his "Light Skinned Women & ALL LIBRA's" promotion after complaints rolled in from women, activists and organizations across the country.
But Detroit author and anti-racism advocate Elizabeth Atkins believes it is time for open, effective dialogue on how black women interact with one another.
"The celebrated standard of black beauty have been the Lena Hornes of the world," said Atkins, referring to the fair-skinned singer and actress who became one of the most popular black performers in the 1940s and 1950s. "It's been the fair-skinned, straighter hair, bigger eyes."
A study last year by University of Georgia doctoral candidate Matthew Harrison shows skin color may play a role in hiring. Psychology undergraduates, most of whom were white, were given fake photos and resumes to make hiring recommendations.
Lighter-skinned women applicants were preferred over those with darker complexions but equal credentials. Light-skinned black men also were preferred over those with dark skin who had better credentials.
But lighter-skinned black women say they at times are accused of not being "black" enough.
Tamika Franklin, who works with Toney, says she was taunted as "white girl" by other black children. The 30-year-old administrative assistant has very fair skin, freckles and reddish-brown hair.
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