The Switch Out-Part I

Image result for dorothy dandridge
Harry Bellafonte and Dorothy Dandridge, Carmen Jones (1954)

Anyone that knows anything about Jenn Harris will tell you, I am a huge fan of classic film noir. I am a fan, of old Hollywood. I am a FAN, hear me? And in my love for classic film and film actors, I found myself drawn to Carmen Jones, and the actress (my style icon) Dorothy Dandridge. The same movie that garnered her praise for her role, exposed me to her co-star, Harry Bellafonte.


In a documentary about her life, it was revealed Dorothy was seeing/dating, Peter Lawford. (Yeah, RAT PACK, Peter Lawford!). And because it was the 1950’s, and interracial dating was frowned on–well, they could never be public with their romance. He is reported to have been inconsolable at her funeral.

That said, when I heard about Harry Bellafonte and his activism? I was proud. What he said about Black women, while dating/sleeping with the actress-dancer-fellow activist, Queen Mother Eartha Kitt? I was undone!  I invite you to read it.  According to Eartha Kitt, he told that he could not be with or marry a Black woman because they could not help him to do what he needed to do. Let me say that again:

Eartha Kitt said Harry told her that a Black woman would hold a Black man back.

Well! I’ll be damned.

I read this quote and my heart broke. As a Black woman, I am good enough to bare Black sons, whom will be Black men. But I, the daughter of a Black man, could not be assumed to be desired by a Black man? That I am not suitable to be on his arm, be loved by him because I can’t help him to where he wants to be?

That’s some Kanye isht.

Be that as it may, it’s not a new line of thought.

As a Black woman, you see this constantly. Women of my hue are good enough when these certain Black men are struggling, scuffling and trying to figure out who they are and where they are to go. But when any perceived power or money is secured? They need a lighter skinned Black girl, or an all-out white girl.

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Perhaps it is the esthetic that is craved. Perhaps to have the power and prestige white women bring is affirmation into all white or predominately white spaces. In that lust for power, prowess and progress, Black women are seen as the pariahs: the lowest of low ones who aren’t worthy of being on the arms of powerful men. Our skin tone is an affront to whiteness and affirmation of the innate blackness these Black men have.

There is a pain in my heart when it comes to this quote and situations that follow as a result of this rejection. It is a hell of a thing that men that look like your father don’t want you. And plan not to ever want you…

This life is hard enough as woman and Black without the kick in pain of imposed self-loathing over something uncontrolled. I have looked in the mirror and wished to be lighter and whiter. Or less Black. Or less strong, so I could be more acceptable; to be loved and lovable. My mother said this to me while I was dating before I married my first husband (whom was white), “I wish you would find a nice Black man.” I told her, “Me too.”

[image from Google]


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