Hue & Phenotype: Colorism… Even More Complex

Hue & Phenotype: Colorism… Even More Complex | Fueling Conversation

Dash Harris

I have interviewed over 100 people for this docu-series and recently I’ve come across more and more interviewees who ask me about my background. I’ve had a handful of Caribbeans ask me if I were ‘dougla,’ a person of Indian or indigenous and African ancestry and when I was in Honduras I was called a mulatta, which means the same. Usually someone who identifies as a mulatto is of european and african ancestry but that’s not how it was used in Honduras among the people who described me as such. I asked the reasons for these assumptions and people pointed out that my skin wasn’t “very dark” and my hair was curly and my eyes were “different.” I found that interesting because I consider myself a chocolate brown, my hair has gone days without a comb being ran through it because of the wrangling that it calls for and I see my eyes as any other person’s eyes can be. One Garifuna young man said I wasn’t ‘black enough’ and I could remedy that by getting a ‘super black boyfriend,’ he graciously volunteered himself. All courting aside, I thought he and many others were just pointing out the phenotypes that guide perception and categorization of ancestry in Latin America and the Caribbean. It is important to note that the U.S. is the only country that followed the one drop rule of hypo-descent, where you were considered ‘Black’ no matter what other ancestry you had. This did not exist in Latin America so it gave way to many ways to describe someone based on skin tone, hair color, hair texture, size of nose, lips, eyes. These all decide what category you’ll fit into. Your desciptors may also vary just based on individual perception. In Brazil there are 134 color descriptors. In the Dominican Republic ‘javao’ describes someone who is of pale of light complexion with “African features,” the list below shows more…

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