Karen Carter — If You’re Light, You’re All Right?

Tim Tagaris can’t quite figure out why Karen Carter is called the “white candidate”. As a black person, I see the dynamics between her and Dollar Bill Jefferson a little differently. I’m goin gto take some heat for this post — it’s airing some dirty black folk laundry — but bring it on. It’s the 21st century. It’s time we came clean in more ways than one. I’m not the first to bring it up, y’know — books and movies have been made on the subject for decades.

Sure, the white folks in Carter’s district may be supporting her. But part of the tension here may be due to skin color. As a white man from northern parts who may be less familiar with certain dynamics among blacks arund skin color. Both candidates are black , right? Wrong — take a good look at their pictures and you will see that one candidate has lighter skin than the other.

In my family, which has light-skinned members and darker-skinned members, there has sometimes been resentment among browner relatives towards lighter ones as they are seen as having it easy. On the other side, light relatives are sometimes accused of looking down their noses at darker relatives. I’m light-skinned and I’ve actually almost lost a dark-skinned friend or two because of jealousy and resentment.

Have you heard of the brown paper bag test? Let’s put it this way — Carter passes, Jefferson does not. In New Orleans, “color struck” or inside the race racism took on epic proportions during slavery times as an advanced caste system based on color developed over time.

Jefferson’s slightly darker hue provides some surface solidarity among the black community most likely — they want to think Jefferson is more on their side. Even if he demonstrably is not. The same thing happened with Ray Nagin — light and bright, whites loved him — which made him suspect among blacks. Then Katrina happened, some things got said later

“This city will be a majority African-American city. It’s the way God wants it to be. You can’t have New Orleans no other way.”

and blacks got convinced that he was truly down with the brown. Which, um, turned off white voters.

And so it goes. Skeptical Brotha is not optimistic for Karen Carter. I am though. I am really hopeful that blacks can get past the color struck colorism — if that’s a factor — and vote for the person who will really fight for them instead of just grinning, shucking and jiving like Dollar Bill. After all:

“Hello, you’ve reached the office of Congressman “Dollar Bill” Jefferson. For bribes, press one. For extortion, press two. For kickbacks, press three. For no-bid contracts, press four. For help with problems related to Hurricane Katrina, vote Karen Carter for Congress. I’m Karen Carter and I approved this message.”

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