Feb 20

“Ambiguous”: A Powerful Piece On Colorism

It starts off and it’s, like, girl, you are so pretty. What are you? Nayo Jones, “Who is Black in America,” and co-presenter of “Ambiguous”

In her introduction to defining the term colorism, which was originally coined by writer Alice Walker, Nadra Kareem Nittle (About.com) quotes the following “old children’s rhyme”:

If you’re black, stay back;
if you’re brown, stick around;
if you’re yellow, you’re mellow;
if you’re white, you’re all right.

Colorism was a theme in a 2012 CNN series called “Who Is Black in America,”  in which teenage best friends Becca Khalil and Nayo Jones, among others, helped to make certain points about racial identity. One is that race is only one part of one’s identity and another, as writer/producer/image activist Michaela Angela Davis says in the documentary, “You are who you say that you are”—and not necessarily who others perceive you to be.

Heather Dekin, Examiner, explains the differences between how both Khalil and Jones are likely to be perceived versus how they perceive themselves. Although Khalil wants the option not to describe herself by her physical appearance, if pressed she’d go with black, as her family’s from Africa. However, the U.S. Census Bureau apparently would consider her white because of her family’s Egyptian heritage. Jones, on the other hand, who prefers a biracial identity, would be deemed black by the Bureau. “I don’t really feel Black,” she says, which reflects that she was raised by her white father and his culture, not by her black mother.

According to website Mixed Race Studies, anti-racism activist Tim Wise adds in the documentary that society reinforces the notion that biracial people are black “in a million subtle ways.”

Below Khalil and Jones present their powerful work called “Ambiguous,” about regularly having to deal with others’ offensive question: What ARE you?