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Misplaced Values and Issue of Colorism

May 08, 1988

I am certain that Itabari Njeri's valiant article ("Colorism: In American Society, Are Light-Skinned Blacks Better Off?" April 24) will provoke a serious debate in the African-American community.

Racism/colorism has been for the last 15 years or so a dreadful subject that the black middle class strongly avoided talking about. Whenever mentioned, they refer to you as "locked in the '60s."

Thanks to the pertinence of your article, it seems easy to say that we, African-Americans, have certainly lost our cultural frame of reference, particularly in terms of defining our physical identity. American racism is surely to blame in this. But, it's obvious today that the middle-class black has also his share of responsibility, for he promotes many of the values that are alien and detrimental to black culture and identity: Take for example the craving for plastic surgery, skin lightning and mixed marriages.

Until we re-establish our frame of reference, we in black America are condemned to swing to wherever direction the wind blows. Our capacity to solve the many problems that plague our community would probably remain impaired. We need to recognize that a people without a frame of reference would be lost forever.

KAMILI BROWN

Los Angeles

Because of an editing error, Njeri's story incorrectly stated: "Between all blacks and all whites with the same approximate level of education--12 years--light-skinned blacks earned about 58 cents for every dollar a white person earned." In fact, the 58-cent figure referred to all blacks, not just those with lighter skin.

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