'Dark Girls' Documentary Filmmaker Bill Duke Opens Up
Duke said he's surprised colorism is a global issue
Filmmakers Bill Duke and D. Channsin Berry shined their lens on one of the darkest stains on the African American psyche. In their new film “Dark Girls,” set to premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, Duke and Berry show how deeply racism and subsequently colorism still affects blacks, not only in America, but around the world.
Loop 21 caught up with Duke while en route to the New York City premiere of “Dark Girls” to discuss why racism and colorism still affect the modern-day African American, how the film affected him personally and if America is more racist with it’s first black president in the White House.
Loop 21: In the 21st century, in this so called post-racial society, why is colorism in the African American community still an issue?
Bill Duke: Well, because we’re not living in a post-racial society and racism exists all over the place. When you see Mr. Obama having a Senator say he didn’t want to touch a “tar baby,” remember that? ...When it’s said that they put watermelons on the White House lawn. Did you hear about that? How could we be living in a post-racial society? So, what we’re dealing with is the illusion of a post-racial society but in reality we are in the most extreme--I have never seen the most blatant--I don’t know how to describe it. Do you?
Loop 21: What surprised you the most when producing the documentary?
Duke: There were a lot of surprises. One was our self-realization and revelation that we as two black men started questioning our values and our sense of aesthetics in terms of choosing who we are attracted to and why we were attracted that way, and who we were not attracted to. ...We had issues too. Another surprise: we thought we were dealing with a domestic issue, but it’s really a global issue. Skin bleaching is a multi-billion dollar industry. Did you know that? In the film, we had people from Ethiopia, the Dominican Republic, from Korea, all over the world talking about these issues of colorism where in their own communities if they’re darker they’re considered less. In Cuba, people told us that they’re families told them to marry light-skin and don’t marry dark because it will harm the lineage of the family. This is in 2011.
Loop 21: Do you feel America is more racist since Obama took the White House?
Duke: I think there is definitely something being revealed and I don’t think the people doing it consider it racism. Like Sarah Palin said, ‘He’s not one of us.’ You can interpret that in many ways, right? But I mean, he’s American and I don’t understand her example. Here’s a person who has presented his birth certificate and they’re still questioning whether he’s an American citizen.
Loop 21: In doing your research about colorism, what do you think is the solution to this problem? Because this didn’t start with us. Our feelings about colorism are learned. Do you think there’s a solution?
Duke: That’s an excellent question and it’s not an easy question to answer. ...We are not psychiatrists, or healers or philosophers. We’re filmmakers. What we have attempted to do is to take a subject matter, to examine the subject matter from various points of view; from the historical point of view, from the media point of view, from a global point of view, from a human point of view and from a quantum physics point of view. We’ve done over two and a half years of research. What we’ve done is to present the issue and to let people determine what the solution is. If people see the damage that’s been done, and if they care, what we are saying is: we’re not the saviors, you are.
"Dark Girls" kicks off it's nationwide tour tonight in New York City. For more information, visit www.officialdarkgirlsmovie.com.