My name is Devin P-B. I’m half-black and half-white. I am not a “self-hating coon,” nor am I some “white boy runnin’ things.” I am, however, responsible for an article we posted this past Tuesday titled “#TeamDarkSkin vs #TeamLightSkin – 2013.”
I say we because the article was approved by the Mass Appeal editorial team before being published to the website, as are all of our articles. However, as the writer that pitched the story, I’d like to give the Mass Appeal readers insight into why it was written and its intention.
At our pitch meeting before the Christmas break, I talked to the staff about the #TeamDarkSkin and #TeamLightSkin hashtags being used on social media, and that it would be interesting (and somewhat comical) to pretend to take the hashtags seriously. My plan was to do an “intraracial draft” of sorts by picking members for each team and have the readers vote for who had the more successful year. While I was pitching the story, one of my co-workers searched “#TeamDarkSkin” on Google and found this video. (It’s important to note that I only saw about 15 seconds of this video because I was in the middle of pitching my story, but the person did mention something along the lines of “Yeah this Dark vs Light skin debate is a real thing. Here’s a video.”)
After finishing the pitch, the senior editors gave me the approval to write the story. However, our Editorial Director suggested that I have a ‘dark skin’ contributor from Mass Appeal serve as the team captain for #TeamDarkSkin to add more perceived validity to the story. In other words: if we were going to do it, we better do it right. He also asked if I would be mentioning the similarities the current debate shares with historical ones. I explained that I would compare the “hashtag” debate’s connection to the “house slave” vs “field slave” categorizations used during slavery. After the meeting, I asked one of my co-workers if he would be interested in writing the #TeamDarkSkin portion of the article. Although he was slightly reluctant at first, he agreed after I joked that he was just worried about “his team” losing our imaginary battle.
During the beginning of our Christmas break I started making my selections for #TeamLightSkin. Before deciding who had the best 2013, I thought about who could actually be considered “light skin” by reverting back to the old “paper bag test” my Grandma Eddie B (R.I.P.) used to jokingly ask me to undergo. (For those of you not familiar with the “paper bag test,” there’s an old joke in the black community that you have to be darker than a brown paper bag to be considered black.) What quickly became clear is that I would need to focus on the introduction and setup of the story rather than who I was going to pick for my imaginary team.
I need to clarify one very important thing:
I have a very dry and sarcastic sense of humor — my friends and co-workers can attest to this – and sometimes it’s hard to tell when I’m joking. Occasionally I use this to my advantage and make people think I’m serious when I’m actually joking. At other times I do it just to get a rise out of people, I think the kids call it “trolling.” (That was an example of trolling. I know what trolling means but pretended that I didn’t. I just trolled about trolling. “Inception” level shit.)
That being said, the “#TeamDarkSkin vs #TeamLightSkin” article was a “troll” of sorts. And while it was originally intended to be satirical, by the time everything was written and submitted to our senior editor it was clear that we would eventually need to address the underlying issue: black-on-black discrimination. Let me be clear that I will address this issue as it pertains to my generation, but for now let’s focus on the original story.
After reading through the article one last time, I wrote a short disclaimer at the beginning that read, “The following article is written in a very sarcastic tone, so if you’re uptight please remove the stick from your ass before reading it.” However, I thought better of myself and deleted the entire sentence. Like I said, it’s hard for people to tell when I’m joking. (Also, people act like they have a stick up their ass when you joke about them having a stick up their ass.) Rather than writing a more politically correct disclaimer, I opted for none.
Immediately after publishing the article a few co-workers asked if I intended on putting a disclaimer in the post. I informed them that I was already planning on writing a second article (the one you’re reading) addressing the intention of the one we had just posted, knowing that a lot of people would simply read the title and quickly skim through it, missing the underlying sarcasm and point of the article: to provide an example, by hyperbole, of how ridiculousness the #TeamDarkSkin and #TeamLightSkin hashtags are.
If you’re still reading this, I’d like to thank you for making it through that lengthy backstory. I learned my lesson from the first article and decided not to leave anything out. But trust me, we aren’t done yet.