“Bessie” and colorism in the Black community

I watched Bessie last night on HBO and of course Queen Latifah was radiant as the iconic and tragic blues legend who died at age 43. Early in the biopic I caught a theme before it became part of the broader story line- Bessie experienced prejudice within the black community for her skin color ( too dark) and once she had her own act she dismissed the “yellow” dancers who came out to audition.

The scene reenacted with the Blackque Swan record label was also filled with colorism from both Bessie and her husband Jack towards the effete Harlem men and towards Bessie from them. Throughout the story this colorism was more emphasized than the racism Bessie encountered from whites who were portrayed as either fetishists or outright racists which rang true to me as a white person.

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