Monday, September 29, 2008

More Than Skin Colour (A Vixen & Others Redux)

There's a conversation happening over on livejournal about the difference between light skinned privilege (and problems) and white privilege and most important of all, the fact that white people Do. Not. Get. To. Decide. Who is POC enough. White people do not get to police the POC community for authenticity. See the links for more. Note - those posters will ban AND mock idiots, read all first before commenting.

The conversation sparked something in my own head which I feel the need to make clear. The problem with Vixen was never that she was being made into a light skinned character of colour. The problem was never that darker skinned fans of the character and fans of DC in general had a problem with (as was said several times by some ignorant and unknowledgeable people) the artist being Brazilian and putting up his interpretation of a Woman of Colour. The problem was that Vixen was created a dark skinned sister and suddenly she was no longer. And in the real world, when a dark skinned woman suddenly turns lighter skinned, it's usually because she's using toxic products to BLEACH HER OWN BODY. And the reason she's using said products has to do with racism and colonialism and the idea that the ideal beauty is white or as close to white as possible. THAT is the problem behind Vixen's lighter skin tones, and Misty Knight's.

You see it hit me that the comicverse/comic blogsphere is an interesting and perhaps perfect place to see how much outsiders think they know about the POC community. And how often they get things wrong or they get wrapped up in old arguments that were created in the first place to cause strife and separation and a denial of foundation and a solid base.

It is more than a rant or an academic treatise on the fundamentals of beauty when POC bloggers talk about hair texture and style and the color of the skin of a character. It's about a history that we as POC can never, ever, forget; it's in our bones and our blood and our grandmother's tears over our skin when we stood in the sun too long playing like innocent children. It's in the fears of our mothers that our fair cheeks would attract some wayward lecherous man who would never be held accountable because as pale skinned as we, the innocent child might be, we were still OTHER enough to be a mere animal and the victims of a predator. It's in the sighs over a baby boy being beautiful but dark which makes it, to this day, unlikely he could live to see twenty one, or forty.

When is hair more than hair? Skin more than skin? When it's dark skin and dark hair, sometimes kinked and sometimes not. When are eyes more than eyes? When they're slanted, with different folds. When eyes and hair and skin are all a line that represents inclusion or exclusion. When there's intergenerational trauma. When what you look like involves history as recent as your grandparents that no one wants to talk about because of the bad things that happened that can never. ever. be rectified.

Each bit of melanin in our skin is a word in a history that often only other POC hear screaming. That is what is up on the page with POC characters. To deny Vixen her dark skin and her flatter and larger nose; to deny a character his locced hair, or natural fro, is to try and erase an ocean of history... because those who made the decisions and sign off on the prints are still cocooned in the sense of power their ancestors had when they raped a land; India, Africa, Australia, Vietnam, Laos, Japan and more. It's a violation of the memory of the past, the weight of the present and the promise of the future.

1 comment:

  1. the comicverse/comic blogsphere is an interesting and perhaps perfect place to see how much outsiders think they know about the POC community.

    All of it is-- scifi books, tv, graphic novels, comics, etc. We've seen repeatedly in the content and in the discussions about the content how little people know, but feel is a vast store of knowledge.