The Good The Bad The Tar Baby


The term “tar baby” has been defined in its modern interpretation as a “sticky situation”. The term was derived from a fictional character called Tar Baby that was featured in a collection of African American folktales entitled Uncle Remus stories as compiled by Joel Chandler Harris in 1881. Tar Baby was said to have been a doll made of tar and turpentine that was used to entrap another fictional character named Br’er Rabbit in the previous mentioned Uncle Remus stories. Tar Baby, also has become known as a racal slur towards African Americans, as it is used to describe the darker complexioned African American, suggesting that their skin color resembles that of tar as opposed to those who are viewed as brown or lighter skinned in appearance. Some of those that are outside of the African American culture may not realize the categorical depiction of our color spectrum, as I am more than sure that in the case of many non-blacks, we are seen universally as black no matter what different hues of skin or eyes that we have on display. In fact I will “go there” in saying that this categorical depiction or skin classing system is an internal issue for African Americans as a culture. In my opinion, this has been just as divisive as segregation and just as poisonous/genocidal as heroin was for our communities in the 1970’s. James Brown pontificated “say it loud, I’m black and I’m proud!” But my question is, are we really?

When a self portrait is viewed as less than human, we can no longer blame the artist nor the brush. We are venturing into an abyss of degradation that perhaps the late Jacques Cousteau would find way too challenging to explore. I self reflect before I reflect, so I am starting with me first. I recently watched the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) as there was an interesting and enlightening documentary called “Dark Girls”. The documentary focused in on the darker skinned African American women in our country and their self analysis of their beauty. I, for one, had in my mind that this would be a documentary celebrating and ingratiating the beauty of my darker sisters. It proves how naive I have become at the age of 40 as my view on life has become that of which I’m empowered by and what I embrace. My belief and my confidence are always on full display as I developed what was termed as “rhino skin” when it comes to what others think or view me as. In fact I will go as far as to say that I got “God Swagger” (you better ask somebody). I grew up as a child only knowing a darker skinned woman, who was both powerful and beautiful in my mother. So when Oprah puts on a show called Dark Girls, my first inclination is to think that I can watch beautiful women and tell my wife that Oprah made me do it (men follow my lead and you may stay off the couch for once). But as I started watching the show, what I believed to be a documentary on beauty, quickly became a documentary of bereavement, as I realized that the saddest dying element of the African American woman was their self esteem regarding their beauty and self worth. Some of the women spoke of how they have tried to rub their skin away as children believing it was dirt instead of flesh. Many claimed to have been teased and ridiculed about their complexion and were called gorillas at one point. One would think that individuals who are non blacks would be the ones causing such terror and pain, however, the troubling/disturbing irony in all of this is the fact that the ridicule has come from other African Americans. I will go deeper in saying that there were more testimonial accounts of the acceptance/appreciation of the darker flesh by white males more so then black men. Some black men went as far as to say that darker women are unattractive and that they prefer to be with lighter skinned women instead. This ignorant betrayal of our dark woman by the generations of fruits that spawned from her rooted existence in Africa is far beyond an identity crisis. It shows a genuine disconnect from our culture, bloodline and heritage. To have a disdain for your blood lineage is the same as depriving your body of water and oxygen. We can blame the dynamic of the field slave versus the house slave and say that this division was the cause of this. But if slavery is 400 years plus removed and we are far more educated and aware; then why does this self hate of our image still exist? I often ponder the question of people like Michael Jackson who decided to erase everything noticeably Afrocentric about him from his pallet with the acceptance of his rhythm. What disturbs me even more so is that his family instead of revolting, decided to go under the knife to look just like him so that he would look less odd (see any Jackson family photo prior to recent ones and see their noticeable transition). What is wrong with dark skin? Why does the African American athlete seemingly make a calculated decision to generally have coffee with more cream in their cup and less dark roast? Why are only 26% of black women married versus 51% of white women? Is their a level of disdain that reaches far beyond comprehension? I guess blame can be laid on a lack education and an influx of incarceration. Yet we still see black men who are both educated and not in jail still choose the fruit less ripened. Perhaps the poison is far too deep for extraction and our identity is completely lost. A very sad and disturbing epiphany for me; how about ?

Please know that ones choice of cohabitation, whether blue, white, yellow or black is all about preference. I have dated within and outside of my race so I have zero tolerance prejudice of any culture, especially that of my own. I identify with who I am first and embrace that and stay rooted in my origin. It is in that rooted origin that I am able to embrace other cultures and their race. To judge anything based on something as shallow as hue of flesh is far beyond the realm of ignorance. When that shallow judgment is aimed towards your own flesh hue, it is no longer life; it is your own death. #lost ones

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: