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The paper bag principle: class, colorism & rumor and the case of Black Washington, D.C Hardcover – October 9, 2006
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Because fairer skinned blacks had better access to education and privileges due to either favoritism shown by slave owners or as benefactors of acknowledged white parentage, they were the ones who were the first black collegians in historically black colleges and universities. At one time Howard University and Dunbar High School had populations that were overwhelmingly fair-skinned. Over time, with better opportunities, blacks of all hues flooded the universities; however, as late as 1985, a group of Howard University law students gave a graduation party and employed the paper bag test. This hurtful, demeaning practice involved holding a paper bag against a person's arms or face and if you were darker than that paper bag, you were not allowed entranced into various groups, organizations and social clubs. Although the practice of providing a paper bag or a comb test to test the ease of it going through one's hair diminished, it became a metaphor for some groups to exclude those who they deemed not worthy.
Dr. Kerr wrote this book, as part of her dissertation, to not only explore the rumors and myths surrounding colorism among African Americans, but also to document black history in Washington D.C.Read more ›
However, she does not offer any insights or interviews from the point of views of light skinned/Creole people as to the reason why they would have promoted a "brown bag principle" in the first place. There is a part of her book that says that light skinned black people "isolated" themselves from dark skinned black people and yet still were never accepted into the white society. It is possible that the isolation was forced rather than by choice. She could have delved more into the history of light skinned black people being told that they were not "black enough" by dark skinned black people because they were mixed raced.
Technically, that is what a light skinned black person is
--- a person of mixed raced heritage.
There is much evidence many light skinned black people/biracial people claim to have problems being accepted and being ridiculed in their neighborhoods and schools. A "brown paper bag" party would have been seen as a safe haven for biracial, mixed raced, light skinned black people to be around those people who identify and understand them. They could relax without being ogled about their physical appearance or multi racial families.
It is normal and natural for all peoples to create friendships with those who understand their issues and struggles. With that said, after finishing the book, I was left with a pertinent question.
If the brown bag parties did exist and catered to lives of biracial or light skinned black people, then why would dark skinned black people even want to attend those parties?