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Editor's Letter: Why We All Need To Care About Alexandra Shipp's Thoughts On Colourism

No one is born woke - unless you’re a white male journalist who works at the Evening Standard, of course. Getting to a place of wokeness is a journey, even if you are a black woman. In my journey of wokeness, I will hold my hands up and say I have made mistakes. To stay in a state of wokeness, it requires constant self- evaluation. Looking back, I made a decision in 2015 to watch  Straight Outta Compton and now, in 2017, I would not pay to watch the film again. Before I go on and explain why I feel like it is not something I would do again, I want to make it clear my u-turn does not mean I am judging anyone else for their love of Straight Outta Compton. 

As many of you know, the film’s producers used a detailed ranking system when it came to casting women in the film. Women were ranked from A-D, with A girls being the hottest of the hottest, "and could be "black, white, Asian, Hispanic, Mid-Eastern, or mixed race too and D girls African American girls. Poor, not in good shape. Medium-to-dark skin tone.” Now while, I am black British, according to the descriptions, as a darker skinned black girl - I fall into the D category and yet, like a fool, I still used my hard earned cash to see the film. 

This issue of colourism is a deep disease that still hasn’t been eradicated within the black community and my gut says that it is because the problem has more negative consequences for black women rather than black men. As a darker skinned black woman when trying to confront this issue, I have often run into remarks such as: “stop being so divisive,” “don’t you understand we all suffer as black women?" or “why are you hating.” Writing and speaking about the issue within the protective walls of Black Ballad feels nerve racking, as I do worry if there is a way to address the issue without making some women in our community feel personally attacked. However, this space that we have created is the perfect place to address such a contentious issue that disproportionately affects black women. This week, I saw that X-Men actress Alexandra Shipp shared her thoughts on colourism and the affect it is has had on her as a black woman. Without putting words in her mouth, she explained that she had felt more prejudice from her own community than others when it came to her skin tone.