Commentary: One Nightclub’s Insane “Complexion Battle”

A Missouri club is in hot water after hosting a battle between light-skinned women and dark-skinned women.

Posted: 02/29/2012 12:28 PM EST

First, some backstory. In a study last year, professors at Villanova showed that when it comes to skin color, justice is not blind. Says the study: “Researchers at Villanova University analyzed over 12,000 Black women imprisoned in North Carolina between 1995 and 2000 and concluded in a new study called ‘The Impact of Light Skin on Prison Time for Black Female Offenders’ that Black women with light skin receive significantly shorter jail sentences than darker women.”


Alas, it’s not just the justice system doing its part to undermine Black equality with blatant colorism. It’s happening in our own communities too. In St. Louis a lot of African-Americans are righteously angry about a nightclub’s offensive new event: A “Battle of the Complexions” beauty pageant. Held at a club called the Venue last weekend, the battle’s Facebook page proclaimed, “This is the most debatable topic of the year, what's the sexiest skin complexion?? So ladies come out & lets settle this!!” To try and win the pageant, light-skinned women competed against “caramel” and dark-skinned women by strutting sexily down a runway in bathing suits."


As you can imagine, the battle caused an uproar amongst St. Louis’s Black community. Adolphus Pruitt, president of the NAACP’s St. Louis chapter, told a local news station, “Folks who buy into it, support it, feed into it, they're just assuring that using race — using the skin complexion of women, devaluating women and things of this nature — is going to continue to happen, because as long as people spend money to take advantage of it, somebody's going to use it as a promotional tool.”


Naturally, the event’s organizers say it’s being taken out of context, and that the battle is honoring Black History Month. But to any student of history, that claim should ring absurd.


Colorism — the perception that light Blacks are better than dark Blacks — is a very real and very damaging form of bigotry. To promote it in order to have some fun at a nightclub is sick, and certainly not a smart way to celebrate Black history, which is dotted throughout with ugly instances of colorism.


Ironically, the venue is located on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. We highly doubt Dr. King would abide Blacks dividing themselves by shade.


(Photo: Howard Burditt/Landov)

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