"Beauty comes up in the book often. This notion of skin color as it relates to degrees of privilege, which is really a larger conversation about ownership and who dictates what is acceptable and what is not acceptable. I imagine navigating that landscape within Negroland—with its strict guidelines of beauty and decorum—must have been more difficult that having to navigate that terrain outside Negroland.
I thought you were going to say in a different period, because it’s all more fluid and flexible and generous now. Starting with, I would say, Black Power, those very constricted standards of Anglo-Saxon beauty got challenged and pushed out. Everything started to change, change, change.
Historically, these divisions—whereby lighter was better, thinner noses; let’s just say Anglo-Saxon looks—go back several centuries. These divisions and hierarchies started as soon as blacks arrived and mingled with each other, began to intermingle with white people, and were divided into house servants, field hands, free Negroes, not. All of these markers—what color you were, what you looked liked—had huge social and political consequences. They got passed on, not surprisingly, and really ruled in a society that was Anglo-Saxon. And I say that very specifically, because other immigrant groups who register as white were also aspiring to Anglo-Saxon models. That was what you were living up to.
We’re talking about physical markers; one of the key distinguishing facts for Negroes, black people, African Americans, was that we could be judged, categorized, dismissed, or abused instantly on the ground of visibly registering as Negro in some way. These markers of skin, features, all of that, became a determinant of one’s fate. Now place that on women, and black women therefore are bringing this body of prejudice and consequence into this maniacal, rigorous world whereby women are judged by excruciating visual standards, along with manners. All of which, again, is very white and very Anglo-Saxon, and which black women had been systematically excluded from so they could in no way live up to notions of being beautiful, being a good mother, being respectable, being virtuous. " source: gawker
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