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Sunday, February 20, 2011


(photo by Nancy Thomas)

In an upcoming series on PRI's The World, we'll look at the global perception of black skin color. We speak with a cognitive psychologist who has studied initial reactions to skin phenotypes, political scientists, a refugee from Darfur, historians, Chinese students, a development specialist from Yemen, African expats, Latin American activists and others.

There have been many attempts to understand blackness. Among the most classic explorations was Frantz Fanon’s "Black Skin, White Masks". (see video clip) Fanon observed that the most common view of black skin –which exists in hues from tan to charcoal and shades of gray –was a denial of recognition. Other perceptions at the time of the Algerian Revolution, and still in force today, are heavily weighted down in stereo-types.
So we ask these questions: Can anything or anyone change the universal or global perception of blackness? Is it even necessary in a world where perceptions of race and racism are changing, albeit slowly?   Does the fact that race is a social construct in any way mitigate anti-black skin prejudice? And does the ascendency of prominent individuals of African descent (Obama, Mandela, Rice, Powell) connote "post-racial" progress, or merely obfuscates what some regard as an immutable negative frame of reference to black skin color? 

1 comment:

Candelaria said...

I don't think that any one person can change perceptions. We have had thousands for great Black people in all walks of life - academic, entertainment, sports, literature, etc., and that hasn't changed perceptions.

Over the course of my life, I've even had white people try to take my "Black" away from me, when they said I wasn't like other Black people or that they didn't think of me as Black.

Obama will lift the minds of people ready to have their hearts and minds changed but it won't be a great sea change.
I think his greatest benefit along these lines will be among the perceptions of young Black and other men of color.

WGBH , PRI and BBC Announce a World-Wide Reporting Initiative Focused on Color

WGBH Radio, Public Radio International and the BBC have announced the launch of “The Color Initiative”, a landmark journalism project that will examine complex global issues of politics, culture, history and society through the framework of human perceptions and experiences related to color. Once complete, this on-going project will air on The World, broadcasting on WGBH 89.7, Mon-Fri at 4pm and 7pm. Feature Color Initiative stories reported from around the globe will be produced by Lifted Veils Productions, a Boston-based non-profit radio journalism organization dedicated to exploring issues that divide society. Former NPR supervising senior editor and NPR’s former Race Relations Correspondent, Phillip Martin, will serve as lead correspondent. He is also the Executive Producer of Lifted Veils Productions. Anthony Brooks, The World’s former senior producer and former national correspondent for NPR, is the Color Initiative series editor. The World’s Executive Producer is Bob Ferrante. The project is made possible by a grant from the Ford Foundation and the Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities. “The establishment of an international editorial beat dedicated to covering color worldwide is the first of its kind, and places The World in a unique position in public radio in the United States and Britain,” says Marita Rivero, General Manager for WGBH Radio and Television. Among the topics that will be explored by the Color Initiative are: • COLOR AND IMMIGRATION: A FOUR PART SERIES • IRAQ’S WAR DEAD, AMERICA’S RESPONSE AND THE ROLE OF COLOR • CASTE, COLOR AND EDUCATION IN INDIA The first report in the year-long project looks at the on-going marketing campaign by Benetton, which mixes business with socially conscious messages focusing on diversity of all sorts, including color. Those messages are now coming up against growing anti-immigrant realities in Europe, including the dominant presence of the Northern League in the very Italian city where Benetton is headquartered: Treviso. That report airs in early November. About The World Winner of the 2006 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award for Broadcast News, The World with anchor Lisa Mullins has been bringing daily international news to local audiences for the past 10 years. Monday through Friday at 4pm on WGBH 89.7, the international staff of The World presents a mix of news, features, interviews, and music from around the globe. The World is the first international radio news program developed specifically for an American audience, giving listeners an upbeat and informed take on the day's events. Co-produced by WGBH, the BBC World Service, and Public Radio International, The World is heard on more than 200 public radio stations across the country. About WGBH Listener-supported WGBH 89.7 is Boston's NPR® arts and culture station. Bringing you the best for more than 50 years, 89.7 serves its wide-ranging audience with a menu of classical music, NPR news, jazz, blues, folk, and spoken-word programs. The station is an active participant in New England's vibrant music community, presenting more than 300 performances every year, including live broadcasts and remote recordings from such diverse venues as Tanglewood, the Lowell Folk Festival, the Newport Jazz Festival, and WGBH's own studios. WGBH 89.7 can be heard online anywhere in the world at, and can be heard on Nantucket at WNCK 89.5.