Skin Deep


From Uptown — It’s an old discussion. Some might even say tired. But the truth is, even in 2011, there isn’t a black person in America who hasn’t been touched by the color issue. The ways in which we perceive the wide range of our complexions, and the coded, loaded stereotypes mired within them, have shifted and evolved—but have somehow never gone away.

Black people are still knee-deep in this dilemma, and whether we are analyzing Lil Wayne lyrics (“I like the redbone / Pretty feet / Slim waist / Cute face”), questioning if someone is actually lightening Beyoncé’s skin in her beauty campaigns, or bearing witness to the very real lament of our sisters in Bill Duke’s documentary Dark Girls, one thing is clear: Tucked within this conversation is a good deal of pain.

In order to come to terms with this issue for a new generation, UPTOWN interviewed a cross section of African-American professionals who are making an impact on our world in their own way: Allison Samuels, a senior writer for Newsweek The Daily Beast who frequently covers race; Marc Lamont Hill, a TV host and Columbia University professor; Julian Riley, a media attorney and consultant; Bevy Smith, a TV personality and Harlembased gal about town; and Michaela Angela Davis, an editorial consultant and image activist for women and girls.

Their fields of expertise, as well as their skin colors, run the gamut. Of course, the expectations, judgments, advantages, and slights that boost one shade of brown over another are not exactly an easy thing to talk about. Considering this, we were looking for only one thing from each of the interviewees: emotional honesty. And we got it.

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