(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?