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December 10th, 2012
10:04 AM ET

Soledad O'Brien and three of the interview subjects from her docu discuss the fifth installment of CNN's Black in America series

The fifth installment of CNN's Black in America Series focused on the question, "Who is black in America?" That single, seemingly simple question unravels the complicated, densely packed issue of racial identity in this country. To continue this important conversation, three of the interview subjects from the documentary: Fmr. Editor, Essence Magazine Michaela Angela Davis, (1)ne Drop Project" Artistic Director and a consulting producer for the documentary Yaba Blay and poet and mentor Perry "Vision" DiVirgilio join “Starting Point” this morning.

Mentor Perry DiVirgilio, also known as "Vision" says during his workshops with students he would come across a lot of “folks who you would look at as a …black man… a young black woman,” who “were checking other or not wanting to identify with race at all.”

On the question of why this topic is important Davis says, “Acting like it doesn’t exist doesn’t heal.” Davis goes on to add, “That America as a family… this is our taboo issue. This brings up so much – it triggers a lot of black girl pain, it triggers up a lot of secrets. There’s a lot of bias. It triggers emotional things…. People don’t like to look at it but this is the roads to healing.”

Blay who says she could see her younger self in a young girl in the documentary who said she didn’t “want to be dark,” talked about the affects of colorism. Blay says, “At that age you’re very aware of whose privileged, who is seen as beautiful, which little girls are on T.V. with the curls in their hair.” She adds that for many like the young girl, “the pain of being dark-skinned is such that you will take an incremental step lighter and think that that is going to improve your life.”

Davis says progress can be made in “having this conversation. This is the solution.” She adds however, “It’s not that it’s done after this,” referring to the documentary.


Filed under: Black in America • Race
soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. Kade

    The entire discussion of this series which supposedly was about the crisis of definition facing lighter skinned African Americans created a new sub-crisis. The implied definition of mixed-racial in this situation is part African part Caucasian. While true in context, the idea that including a bi-racial button on college applications is ill conceived. The reason for stating race on college application or for them requesting it is affirmative action. I do not say affirmative action in any negative sense; it remains necessary. However, if one does not wish to identify as a particular race it is his/her individual choice. If one does not self identify with the cultural experience of being African American or Caucasian then click other or do not answer the question. There is no penalty for not answering. I am bi-racial mixed Indian and Caucasian. Though honestly, I have Persian decent and appear slightly Arabic. Basically in appearance I can pass as completely Caucasian, a Indian-British mix, or an Arab. As long as I am in a community less Indian than I identifying as Indian is common sense. If I were in a group of people more Indian than I naturally I would identify as Caucasian. I guess since little bias against Indians exists I simply fit in within America. However, on my college application I will click other or not answer the question because applying to most universities Chinese and Indians are at a disadvantage because of our success my race is over represented in colleges. However, I see myself as Indian American. If I could identify my decent more specifically or accurately than west asian pacific islander the closest identification to Indian I still would not because my particular descent is Parsi or Zorestrian which are even more well represented. This is the most educated religion in history and has been since the Persian Empire. So I identify as nothing, but if I were African American I would identify as such and take the advantage in applying to college though I would never identify as any shade be it black or whatever mix of white orange yellow and brown I appear.

    January 27, 2013 at 9:43 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  2. hanan

    i loved your show is was great .my comment is about the american race senus that states any one who is from north africa middle east is white ,it is suprizing to me that both places have people of color are they white in the usa funny ha.

    December 12, 2012 at 12:56 am | Report abuse | Reply
  3. M

    I enjoyed the latest intallment of Soledad O'Brien's Blackin America, "Who is Black in America?". As a black man, have experienced colorism for the first time (for being fair skinned)at university at university no less! Previously, I had not paid attention to my complextion because I was the only black person or one of handful at my school or event. I have only one criticism it was too short. You really needed two or even three hours. Will you issue a DVD or a longer version of this program? Along with Chris Rock's 'Good Hair' I am glad this dirty laundry is finally being aired out.

    Best Regards,
    M

    December 10, 2012 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  4. kevobx

    *Isaiah 37:11 Behold, thou hast heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all lands by destroying them utterly; and shalt thou be delivered?

    December 10, 2012 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  5. kevobx

    Repentance, means acknowledging the book of life as Faithful and True Christ is the vine. (Isa 5:5) Satan is divine, using divination (Ezekiel 12:24) *Matthew 12:31 but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. *Revelation 15:11 And blasphemed the God of heaven because their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds. *2nd Kings 19:3 And they said unto him, Thus saith Hezekiah, This day is a day of trouble, and of rebuke, and blasphemy: for the children are come to the birth, and there is not strength to bring forth.

    December 10, 2012 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  6. kevobx

    Psalm 9:17 The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all nations that forget God. *Revelation 11:18 And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come,..

    December 10, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Linda Riley

    Loved the documentary. I was born in the 60s and know the paper sack rule better than I care too. Could go on for ever about my experiences but not enough space. What I want you to know is that as I watch I was so grateful to the many people in my life that saw my insecurity of about a dark skin girl and told me "hey girl, you are too pretty". They made me aware of the beauty of my black skin. I started to value that and in the end value me. Now, I look at people who say negative things about "dark skin" as someone with a problem. I cannot change my skin, impossible! So I accept and love the woman encased in that beautiful skin. Hope that some of the young girls and women I saw last night stuggling with identy are blessed to meet the person that will help them navigate to self love.

    December 10, 2012 at 12:02 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Glenda Bies-Berry

    I was not able to view or record the special. Will it be rebroadcast and if so where can I find the rebroadcast dates?

    Thank you.

    December 10, 2012 at 11:04 am | Report abuse | Reply

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