How Black is Too Black in the Media World?

Jacklyn Nowotnik, Arts & Life Editor


Published: Monday, February 6, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, March 6, 2012 21:03

Is black beautiful, or too black in the world of media?
Courtesy of

I remember one day in grammar school, my class had shared what our ethnicities were. When the circle finally got to me, I didn’t know what to say, because I am of both Caucasian and Latina descent. When I was even younger, I remember thinking my grandfather, whom I loved dearly, was African American because he was so dark skinned (my mom thought so too when she was little). Of course, I didn’t know that my grandfather was Mexican-American until I asked both my mom and my grandfather.
Can you blame me though? Growing up in the 90s and even before that, TV barely showed Latinos, let alone dark skinned Latinos. That just wasn’t something for which the TV had enough color. As I got older and became more interested in theater, I started to watch older musicals like “American in Pairs” or “Show Boat”. My fascination and love for musicals grew so much that if there was one on TV or being featured on my Kindlefire, I would watch it. I just recently watched Gypsy (1962) and at one point of their act, the kids were wearing black face paint (blackface) to make them look like African Americans. I had seen blackface before in other musicals but for some reason this times around, it bothered me.
Africans Americans were already freed, yet in the early to mid-1900s, we still had “White” actors trying to perform as “Black”. The roles given to these blackface actors didn’t help the image of African Americans in our culture. The roles were always some poor “black” person who sang, danced and even though they were not so intellectual, they still were good hearted, happy and hopeful that things would get better. The media’s view of being “too black” hasn’t changed much since. Recently, a friend (who is a very light skinned Puerto Rican) posted a video on Facebook, which was called “Black and Latino”. This video featured many Afro-Latino singers, actors and media personnel who were “too Black” to be Latino but “too Latino” to be Black. For the actors, most of them were cast for African American parts.
However, despite the blurred lines of skin color, they all were asked to choose which one they were: Latino or African. It seemed that they all came to the conclusion that while yes, there weren’t the Hollywood version of Latino/a, they embraced their indigenous, African and Spanish roots. There is a unique beauty for the Afro-Latino and their dark skin color. Ultimately, I feel that despite our technological advancements and the fact that we are in the year 2012, things are still black and white in the world of media. However, with acceptance it seems as though we get and will continue to get wisps of gray and brown in between our Black and White.