Colorism
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This week, popular Youtube vlogger Biannca Prince found herself in a firestorm of social media backlash after she and her husband posted a vlog of their daughter’s birth. In the video, filmed just moments after baby Nova came into this world, Biannca seems visibly disappointed and makes several comments about being taken aback that her daughter doesn’t, “have pretty eyes,” because they are brown and not hazel like hers.

Even though both her husband Damien and several members of her family gently point out that her daughter is beautiful just as she is, the couple then proceeds to look at the newborn’s ears and knuckles to see how dark she will get.

READ MORE: ‘Black-ish’ executive producer explains the colorism episode and why they chose to unpack one of the most controversial issues in Black families

Even as they jovially laugh and crack jokes about how Nova seems like she is going to get much browner with age, when Biannca’s husband — who is a beautiful, deep, chocolate brown — jokes that he will finally have someone else in the family his complexion, his wife bristles at the idea and assures him that probably won’t be the case.

Eeek!!!

Not surprisingly, when “woke” Black Twitter got a wind of this exchange, which was shared with the 3.6 million followers who subscribe to the Prince Family YouTube channel (and all the lurkers who don’t), they called the young mother out on her deeply problematic views about her daughter’s appearance and how it’s clear that to her “light” and “pretty” are apparently synonymous; be it in eye or skin color.

Normalized bias, is still bias

When it comes to television ratings, the success of a show is based on what you watch, not necessarily what you like. Which is why shows that everyone hates, but still tune into in order to drag, often get renewed. Viewership is viewership regardless of the reasons for being viewed.

The same goes for YouTube.

If a video gets viewed 2 million times because we find it problematic, the person who makes the video is still getting a huge check for it. Which is why the Prince family has refused to take down the birthing video for their daughter (although they’ve claimed its for more noble reasons – media savvy folks know the deal).

READ MORE: Shift in race discussion needed for our kids and our media

Hoping to further capitalize on this drama, they even did a follow up video with a click bait title, “Nova has colorist parents,” in a clear attempt to cash in even further on this controversy.

Now I’m not a hater and will therefore never have an issue with a young couple trying to leverage what they’re working with to make money to support their family. But what I do take issue with is the deeply lame explanation Biannca gives in an attempt to school us on why she’s not colorist.

“When I said I wish she had ‘pretty eyes,’ I didn’t mean she doesn’t have pretty eyes,” she said trying to explain. “When I said pretty eyes, I meant the term ‘green eyes.’”

Then she goes through the dramatics of asking her husband if anyone has ever complimented him on his brown eyes? To which he responded, “No.” And she smugly replies, “exactly,” before going into an anecdote about her brown eyed sisters have never received compliments about their eyes either, but strangers always told her mother how beautiful her eyes were.

Sis, that story doesn’t mean you’re not colorist, it just means a bunch of other people with color bias have been gassing you up all your life *insert exasperated face palm*

This goes deeper than preference

What Biannca and her husband are experiencing is a clear case of cognitive dissonance. For those who are unaware of what that term means, it is essentially the state of mental discomfort someone experiences when something they’ve been led to believe is deeply challenged by facts they were previously ignorant to. As a result they basically get a headache while trying to reconcile how those two contradictory versions of reality can exist, and then fight to create a new reality where they still get to be right, (despite pesky things like facts, 400 years of systemic racism, and a host of other isms that have been thoughtfully explained by experts).

Whenever you try to explain to someone who is color struck, how much racial bias they’ve internalized, the first thing they want to tell you is a story about other color struck people, point out their dark skin friends/mates, or declare some deeply irrelevant ish like, “but I’M Black too!” as if people of color aren’t exactly who this mental affliction was built to attack.

In Biannca’s case, what makes these glaring contradictions even more painful to watch is that she’s been caught admitting that she was shocked to find out her husband was attracted to “Black girls,” but when it suits her cries then about how her own Blackness should shield her from our thoughtful critiques.

You can’t have it both ways. While in my personal experience many biracial Black people are often extra pro-Black because they’ve seen with their own eyes (and within their own families) how pervasive white privilege is — it appears that Mrs. Prince is that less savory type of biracial girl we all hear about but hope is a myth. The one who wants to be Black enough to benefit from the richness of our cultural identity and swag, while still using their proximity and likeness to whiteness to position herself as a fair skinned prize for our men and our community’s admiration as a whole.

You don’t have to take my word on any of this. The gift and curse of being a YouTube influencer is that your own words often create the best receipts. But as someone who has been able to avoid colorism as a personal pain point (mostly because I grew up thinking my mother – who is the darkest person in my family- was the most beautiful person on the planet), rather than be upset with Biannca Prince, I instead find myself feeling sympathy for her and for all the people who let her live this long with such a clear blind spot about her own limited views on race and beauty.

Because the truth is, as I mentioned above, little girl’s learn a lot about self worth, beauty, and boundaries from watching their mothers. And this little gorgeous little girl Nova, who is undoubtedly loved by both her parents and the extended family who seems to be excited about her arrival, will still have to reconcile with the ugly reality that when she was born, among her mother first thoughts, was to wish she was “prettier” i.e lighter.

Which is a shame because, if we all kept it one hundred, we’d be willing to admit that not everyone who can pass the brown paper bag test is necessarily a beauty queen. But that’s another topic for another day.

Do better pham.


Follow writer Blue Telusma on Instagram at @bluecentric