Actress Gabrielle Union was one of the 4 so-called Black/African American thespian powerhouses invited to the panel on “Oprah’s Next Chapter”. She sat among the wisdom and strength of Cosby Show groundbreaker Phylicia Rashad, milestone master Alfre Woodward, and academy award nominee Viola Davis. Gabrielle made it very clear that she wasn’t the nicest person. That defining moment was revealed in depth during her acceptance speech at the Essence magazine’s Black Women in Hollywood pre-Oscars® luncheon where she received the Fierce and Fearless Award. Humbled by the honor, she made a statement that she took liberty and pleasure when she, “Tapped danced on another woman’s misery!” One may argue that this is akin to being a “woman” thing; however, among so-called Black/African American women the stakes are higher: be it vying for a desirable, presentable Black Man to date or marry; or the scarcity of available status building career advancement opportunities – if we cannot have it we have to tear someone else down to feel better about the perceived rejection experienced.
Admittedly, Union stated that at the core of her venom was simply fear: Feeling Exceptionally Aware of Rejection. Somewhere in her middle class, White-oriented upbringing she learned that being drenched in Black skin was ample cause to forget she existed in it. Realizing she was a dark brown skinned girl impressed that worldview even more. Gabrielle, stating that she had been a mean girl since she was 8 years old had two aspects of her life competing for her attention: survive being a so-called Black/African American in a White community; and live as a so-called Black/African American with the knowledge that she was only accepted if she was unabashedly engaged in her self-hate. A self-hate that she said helped her to negate Black History Month by loathing it; a self-hate that allowed her to totally believe that a White speech pattern and vocal tone included in her total assimilation was not only acceptable, but to a large extent for Hollywood worked for her: she’s dark enough to know she is a so-called Black/African American woman, but White enough to appeal to the mainstream; i.e. she knows how to act in front of and around White folk.
Essentially in spite of it all Gabrielle Union’s code switching has opened doors for her. Granted, she is a beautiful woman. A woman who has survived a sexual assault at age 19 and was duly accused of being a homewrecker with Miami Heat’s Dywane Wade as his marriage was fraying. All this and made it to 40 where many awakenings occur – and growth pursues. Yep. Gabrielle Union has grown up and she tells us so in the video clip. Even though the documentary “Dark Girls” was not all encompassing of the issues and concerns experienced in my own life as a dark brown skinned girl and woman, Gabrielle Union summed it up in her speech – though not verbatim it was clear she had a major issue with her skin tone and somewhere along the way she learned that ignoring that part of herself was alright.
As I couldn’t help but notice how very light skinned her mother is, I wonder just how much Gabrielle’s issues and hangups were reinforced…at home.