Racism exists among us and it takes many forms--institutional racism, wealth discrimination, under representation in the U.S. government, racial profiling, mistreatment of people during disasters that affect the Black community, and the traditional high rate of unemployment for African-Americans.
But there is another type of racism and it's not talked about much because it truly exists amongst us!
Bill Duke—actor, director, and producer—has film credits that include: A Rage in Harlem, SisterAct2, Deep Cover, Cover, Predator, American Gigolo, Car Wash, Menace II Society, Get Rich or Die Trying and more. Now, he and co-producer D. Channsin Berry have created a film that is sure to bring plenty of discussion and, perhaps, revelation, among African-Americans--Dark Girls.
This film is about racism experienced by dark-skinned women outside and within the African-American community. While the nation prepares for a holiday of service and remembers the work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., these two African-American men are showing a part of Black America that in many ways mimic the racism that King fought against. The Washington Informer met with Duke to discuss the documentary.
WI: What was your inspiration for Dark Girls?
Duke: Experiences I had as a young man in my childhood, being called names and seeing what my mother, sister and niece had gone through and seeing what children in general go through now in terms of racial bullying. We had a young lady tell us recently that her daughter who is 11 years old and dark-complexioned in school last week was called a tar baby. So the issue hasn't gone away.
WI: This is a learned behavior. It's a behavior that we were not born with but it was taught to us. So, how does the documentary change or tackle that view?
Duke: The documentary examines the issue of color as it is defined from a historical, media, spiritual, quantum physics and global perspective. This is the product of two and a half years of research – not just off the top of our heads. We put this together using several experts and women who have been victimized by this racism and they told their stories. We're not preachers, we're not healers. We bring you the evidence and if you feel that you want to do something that help us help our children deal with their self esteem issues and help them out – fine. If you don't – God bless you – it's up to the viewer. We're in it to show through media what the issue is, and we are sometimes asked what we are going to do about it. Well, we've done it, now it's up to you to determine what you're going to do about it if you think we've presented something of significance.
WI: Why dark girls?
Duke: Skin-bleaching cream is a 30 billion dollar business globally. People around the world are trying to get lighter for some reason. The irony is that white women are risking skin cancer, going to tanning salons twice a week, getting botox injections, butt lifts and crinkling up their hair. It's an issue of self-esteem. Color of skin is involved but our belief is that God does not make mistakes. How you were born is what you should be, simple. It's not that deep.
WI: Are there any males in the documentary?
Duke: No, it's called Dark Girls.
WI: But it affects all of us.
Duke: Our focus is dark girls.
WI: What has surprised you most in this documentary?
Duke: Until we started making this documentary, we weren't examining our own perspectives in terms of this issue so it has been a very self-evolving experience. We heard stories that were very painful and shocking to us. One young lady hears her mother say about her to her mother's friend "she has such beautiful cheekbones, eyes and lips can you imagine how pretty she would be if she had a little lightness to her skin?" She's not meaning her daughter any harm. That's just her value system.
WI: Have you talked to those that told their stories to see what effect the documentary has had on them now?
Duke: Yes, and they say thank you for giving us a voice. These are not issues that people talk about. And because they keep it in, it hurts.
WI: What has been the most rewarding experience while showing the documentary?
Duke: For us it has been the reaction of the women, coming up after viewing the film, bringing their daughters and telling us they're so glad they she saw this.
Dark Girl premiers at the Warner Theater in Northwest on Jan. 20.