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Session 217: What Influences How We See Ourselves & Others?

The Therapy for Black Girls Podcast is a weekly conversation with Dr. Joy Harden Bradford, a licensed Psychologist in Atlanta, Georgia, about all things mental health, personal development, and all the small decisions we can make to become the best possible versions of ourselves.

In Session 60 of the podcast, Dr. Donna Oriowo, joined us to discuss colorism, texturism, and how we could begin to dismantle these things in our lives and in our relationships. As a follow up to that conversation and to broaden it, today we’re joined by Dr. Yaba Blay. Dr. Blay and I further discussed the system of white supremacy, skin color politics, and the role of the media in shaping our ideas about who we are.


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Session 217: What Influences How We See Ourselves & Others?

Dr. Joy: Hey, y'all! Thanks so much for joining me for Session 217 of the Therapy for Black Girls podcast. We'll get into the episode right after a word from our sponsors.


Dr. Joy: In Session 60 of the podcast, Dr. Donna Oriowo, author of Cocoa Butter & Hair Grease, joined us to discuss colorism, texturism, and how we could begin to dismantle these things in our lives and in our relationships. Here's a clip from that conversation.


Dr. Joy: And what do you think we can do, Donna, as a community, to begin or continue to change the conversation around like light skin and pretty hair (so to speak) being the only things that are deemed attractive?

Dr. Donna: What you said is so true, we definitely started. Issa Rae’s Insecure shows us a different spectrum of beauty. The Black Panther, of course, showed a completely different spectrum of beauty. But some of that is what we are going to do for ourselves as individuals as well as how we're going to relate to one another. So number one, like this judgment of someone's character based on their hair, it's got to stop. Because what often is happening is someone is seeing someone with light skin and there's the silkier hair and they're saying, oh, well, they're stuck up. Well, you don't know them.

You haven't had a conversation with them. You're already assuming a character trait based on what you see. Just like there's an assumption that if you are dark skinned with kinky hair, that somehow you are lazy and not willing to take pride in your appearance. So that judgment of character based on our hair and our skin tone, that's part of what needs to sort of stop. We need to take stock of why we are feeling and thinking this way, and figure out whether or not this thought even originated with us. Because what I'm finding is that for most people, it's not what they think first; it's what someone else thought that they have adapted as their own.

Dr. Joy: Mm hmm. And where are those messages primarily coming from?

Dr. Donna: Oh, this is so pervasive in American society that I'm not even sure. You know, it's one of those like, what started first? The chicken or the egg sort of conversations. So, of course, we have to talk about slavery and to deny slavery's impact on texturism and colorism is to deny a huge part of black culture here in America. So they already were grading us based on our skin tone and our hair texture then. So those that were closer in looks to them, you know, through rape and all that other stuff that was going on, they're like, “Oh, well, I like this child. I'll take better care of this child.” So lighter skinned slaves with good hair got better privileges.

Now, that's not to say that it didn't suck all around because it did. It's still slavery. But more likely to be freed, more likely to be taught to read and write and more likely to have other privileges like, oh, you get to bathe more often. You get to wash your hair more often. Like yay, you. But so like we have to understand the impact that slavery has had. And I know that a lot of people want to say “but slavery was so long ago.” And to that I say, let's go back to what they already said in the Lion King when Rafiki hit Simba on the head. He said it's in the past but it still hurt. And I want us to remember that just because something happened in the past doesn't mean it doesn't still hurt.

Dr. Joy: For clients that you see, probably 18 and older, like what kinds of strategies are you using with them to help them unpack some of this and to really heal some of the trauma that has likely come about related to either hair texture or skin color?

Dr. Donna: I'd talk about that all day! But where I end up starting, number one is, some people won't even acknowledge that that is the problem. So first, like I'm trying to unpack about why they're there and they don't want to bring it up in that way because they don't want to seem like they're hating on themselves, but they're hating on themselves. So I try to, number one, help them to even see that this is an issue that they have been having and that they like to talk around that issue. So what I like to do is really get people from a place of talking around it to talking about it specifically. And being real about it.

And also talking about the origins of where this came from. Because unfortunately, a lot of us got these hurts from our parents, from our mothers, from our grandmothers and we don't want to talk badly about them because they did so much for us. And, you know, I'm not denying what they have done for us or the great things that they have instilled within us, but that doesn't mean that we cannot also acknowledge the bad with the good. So being able to sort of separate the things that we didn't like from the things that we did like about growing up, and how those messages continue to show themselves in our everyday life. Trying to make sure that we are bringing that up and that we're actually talking about that.

And really also examining the difference between how they think about themselves and how they think other people think about them. Sort of getting to that intrinsic versus extrinsic value and, you know, getting those baseline assessments. I need to understand where they are and where they're trying to go and their reasoning for getting there.

Dr. Joy: What tips might you have for listeners who might be struggling with some of these issues? Any like places for them to start?

Dr. Donna: I would say the first step is always, to me, acknowledgement. Stop holding on to that pain and to your silence. It's way past time to speak out. Talk to your mother, your grandmother, your family, your romantic partner. Talk to the people that are in your life that you love, that have hurt you in some way, shape, or form. And also, that means you have to talk to yourself. You have to acknowledge the way you also hurt you. And just having that first step of acknowledgement, really, it does wonders in and of itself. Acknowledgement and then thinking of your what next. What do I want to do next? How do I want to proceed with this?

And of course, making sure that we're not trivializing it. That we're not saying that hair texture and skin tone are frivolous, because they're not. Just like we wouldn't say that racism is frivolous, we should not be saying that colorism and texturism (which are derivatives of racism) are frivolous. It doesn't make any sense to say that. So as a community, we need to be able to be willing to have this conversation and that means that our light skinned divas have to check themselves and their privilege and listen to our darker skinned people and vice versa.

Because everybody is having some level of hurt; it's just that some hurt is more systematic and sort of mimics the way that racism has been mimicked. So it's like yes, you can hurt a white person's feelings but that doesn't mean that you've “reversed racism” them. And it's the same thing with colorism and texturism. Just understanding power and the power dynamics and how those things sort of come together–those are really going to help with being able to move forward in a positive direction where we can all heal collectively.


Dr. Joy: As a follow up to that conversation and to broaden it, today I'm joined by Dr. Yaba Blay who is a scholar activist, public speaker and cultural consultant, whose scholarship, work and practice centers on the lived experiences of black women and girls, with a particular focus on identity and body politics and beauty practices. She is also the author of the award-winning book, One Drop: Shifting the Lens on Race. Dr. Blay and I further discuss the system of white supremacy, skin color politics, and the role of the media in shaping our ideas about who we are. She begins by sharing her thoughts on the social construct of race and how it has evolved throughout history.

Dr. Blay: People always say race is a social construct but I don't know if they really understand what they mean when they say that. It's bigger than a social construct; it is a political one. And by political I'm mean that there are negotiations of power at play. And so, at its origin, the only purpose for creating race was to substantiate racism. That doesn't make race a fact.

Dr. Joy: Yeah. And can you expand on that a little more to kind of talk about like how you have seen the conversations on race evolve kind of throughout history?

Dr. Blay: Well, they weren't conversations. They were laws. It wasn't anything to discuss; it was a law, right? And so in creating blackness, for example... And the language, of course, has changed over time. And I'm speaking specifically about the United States’ example. Though the book talks about many global examples, in this context, I want to be clear that I'm talking about how race was constructed in the United States specifically.

But race has been situated at the binary opposite for the most part and so when I say that race was constructed to substantiate racism, I'm saying that whiteness needed a reason to justify its oppression of blackness. And how do you do that but to create binary opposites? Total ends of the spectrum. Whiteness comes to be defined as pure and that is the language that they used, and so whatever it is it meant to be black was going to be the opposite of that. If whiteness was all things human and civil and smart and good and valuable, blackness was going to have to be everything opposite. And it wasn't about it being a fact. This wasn’t based upon fact; this was based upon a projected definition that needed to substantiate racism.

How else do you justify being able to literally walk onto any continent that you please and do whatever you want with the land and the people, if you don't justify your superiority in this world? And so much of what we have come to believe, understand, know about race, is not real. It's constructed. Once you put white supremacy on the table, didn't they buy our bodies? Entitlement. Shouldn’t they have access to a culture? *[inaudible 0:13:24] So it's not surprising y'all. It's a sense of entitlement that comes with the historical inheritance of whiteness.

I watched a newly released interview someone did with James Baldwin back in the day that apparently hadn't gotten much traction and so it was just re-released a couple of weeks ago. And I watched it and I love Baldwin for his bluntness and the way he would look white people in the eye and tell the truth. And he's having this conversation with this white woman, who of course, is walking with him through Harlem *[inaudible 0:13:59]

And so she's talking to him and, you know, he's letting white people have it. He's letting white supremacy as a system have it. And, you know, she's looking a little weary and he's like, “Look, I don't know you personally but I know you historically.” And that's what I'm saying. We’re not talking about individual white people necessarily; we're talking about historical political relationships that we should not be asked to forget.

Dr. Joy: You mentioned white supremacy as an institution, like not necessarily individuals, and that white people are not, of course, the only people who buy into these systems. Like it is everywhere and so of course even black people sometimes buy into these systems. And I find that this comes up most often when we try to have conversations around colorism. And it feels like it's really hard for people to grapple with the idea. Like they can see it on some level, like of course there are differences between how darker skinned sisters are treated versus light skinned sisters, but it feels like sometimes light skinned sisters don't want to let go of like the pain that they may have been caused by their skin color, and don't understand like how that isn't also colorism.

Dr. Blay: So language is important and so it’s *[inaudible 0:15:17] this is me and how I approach it. I use colorism to mean one thing, I use skin color politics to mean another. Skin color politics will be a broader spectrum that would allow for us to talk about, again, negotiations of power that are based upon skin color–which means it could move in multiple directions. It allows for us to talk about that pain you mentioned that all of us experience. When we talk about colorism, though, we're speaking specifically to a system that is founded on power differential. It doesn't work in reverse. In the same way that we should not be saying reverse racism, there is no reverse colorism.

And so for me, in opening up the space to talk about skin color politics, I acknowledge that there may be pain. I don't want to dismiss that at all. Pain that comes with perhaps feeling rejected or being teased or what have you, for having light skin and even for being racially ambiguous. I heard a lot of those stories from many of the folks in my book, in One Drop. But similarly, I hesitate to make the likeness but the likeness is necessary because what I know is that colorism is an outgrowth of white supremacy. And we can't talk about colorism without situating it within the broader context of white supremacy.

But in the same way that we don't want to hear white folks talk about how they've also been discriminated against, it's hard for us to hear–and that's just me being a human being, being a black woman and being honest. And I feel like we have to create safe spaces for us to be honest about how we feel about these things and our relationship to these things and our experiences with these things, if we truly want to move forward. And I've been able to have some beautiful conversations with light skinned sisters and work through some of this.

Because again, I don't want to negate or dismiss any of your experiences but I also want you to not do the same to mine. And when you liken what you are going through to what I am going through, that feels like a dismissal or an inability or refusal to recognize it for what it is. Because you can talk about pain but you don't want to talk about your privilege. In the same ways that we continue to ask white folks to recognize their privilege so that they can do something about it. So the white folks talking about equality–there won't be no equality unless you give up some of your privilege.

Dr. Joy: Yeah. More from my conversation with Dr. Blay after the break.


Dr. Joy: I appreciate you broadening the conversation to skin color politics because I think you're right, that a lot of the conversation sometimes gets shut down because people get caught in the semantics of it. Like maybe they don't necessarily understand that colorism doesn't go both ways and so they want to have space for their pain too, but if we broaden it to skin color politics, then there is space for all of those conversations.

Dr. Blay: Absolutely. And again, for me, let's not have any of these conversations absent of a contextualization within white supremacy. Because if you understand white supremacy and if this were a visual presentation, I'd show you a vertical hierarchy, with whiteness at the top blackness at the bottom. Which means we've got a range of colors in between. The whiteness is at the top and blackness is at the bottom, so what happens to everything in between?

If whiteness is situated as superior, that means that each one of those shades closer and closer to whiteness, closer to closer to privilege, right? That's the hierarchy of colorism. Those things aren't separate. Yes, it's not to say that there's not pain at every step of the hierarchy. And I hate to compare, like I hate when we get into like oppression Olympics. We’re not saying that you don't have pain; I’m just saying your pain ain’t like mine and that's okay. I'm not saying mine is more, that it's greater, that it's better. It's not compared to it, is what I'm saying. Yours is yours, mine is mine, but please do not act like there is not privilege attached to white skin. Let's not do that. It is as offensive as it is when we hear white folks acting like they don't have privilege.

And I'm not saying that you asked for it. I'm not saying that you got in line and signed up for it. When I talk about skin color politics, then I can acknowledge that it's not your “fault” but it is what it is, so what are we gonna do about it? Those are the conversations we have to navigate as opposed to throwing darts at one another and, you know, we don't like each other because of this that and the third. What a beautiful conversation it would be.

And I’ve had these conversations where lighter skinned sisters say I acknowledge the privilege that I have. I know I didn't ask for it but I can tell you all the experiences that I had that I know I've gotten because of my skin color. And it pisses me off and I don't appreciate it. But this is what I think I might be able to do with it. Why don't you tell me, sister? What do you think I can do? How can I... I don't want to use the lens of ally because that's connected to other stuff. But like how can we be in community around this thing that we both acknowledge?

Dr. Joy: What are some of the things you think are necessary for us to be able to create spaces to have these kinds of conversations?

Dr. Blay: Yeah, I'm not sure if there's a guidebook. I mean, I know what I've done. And it's not anything that I think I can say that other folks can necessarily replicate, but there's a lot of work that comes with it that I don't know that we're all ready to do because it's painful. So this might be connected, maybe not, but I'll tell it anyway. More recent news, let's say this year, from a professional standpoint, I know a lot of black woman who do all kinds of work, public work. And in a lot of ways, because of white supremacy, because we've been robbed (if you will) over time of particular opportunities, now when we get opportunities–and by we I mean black folks in general–we are on some Issa Rae. I'm rooting for everybody black, right?

In that space, though, it's difficult. Because on the one hand I'm rooting for everybody black, but why can't I point out that everybody black seems to be looking a particular way? Because we’re not supposed to say that publicly, right? We’re supposed to be celebrating blackness. And the painful thing is, when you talk about how do we get to a space where we can have these conversations, you should also know that dark skinned women, dark skinned people, are tired of being the only ones calling it out. In the same way that black people are tired of being the only ones calling out white supremacy.

Dr. Joy: Yeah, and it does seem like... You've mentioned a couple of times where you feel like you've had like successful kinds of conversations like this and it does seem like the privacy piece is a large part of it. But I think what often happens is that we try to have these conversations like on Instagram or on Twitter.

Dr. Blay: No, no, no, that's not gonna be the space. I mean, let me not say that. I think those spaces can be a conduit for healing but let's not expect too much, we're limited by characters. And also for me, I text a lot but if there's something going down, we’ve got to talk.

Dr. Joy: Yeah.

Dr. Blay: These words typed out ain’t it. We’ve got to talk. Yeah, we’ve got to talk it out.

Dr. Joy: Yeah, and it does seem like... I mean, I think you've probably heard these jokes around like secret black girl meetings and, oh, we’ve got to have a meeting, we’ve got to talk about this thing. And in some ways, I really wish we had that. I mean, of course, I think we have that in smaller communities like in our group chats but I feel like there would be a lot that could be accomplished if we could be in a room (so to speak) with one another in a space that felt private and confidential for us to really hash out some of these things.

Dr. Blay: Absolutely. And by safe, whoever’s in conversation, I don't know about if it could be just an open conversation for everyone to contribute necessarily as much as like, who's going to model how to have these conversations? Like we need models, we don't have models for this. We know... I'm dating myself. In those school days *[inaudible 0:25:23] we know the beef, we know team light skin/team dark skin. We don't have many models for sisters of different complexions having... I’m not going to say healing conversations as much as that conversations that ultimately acknowledge each of us, each other, even when it's painful.

And to be quite honest, part of my inspiration and motivation to do the work of One Drop was to heal my own stuff around colorism as much as it was connected to black identity. So if I'm dark skinned growing up in New Orleans and being rejected and teased and bullied and what have you because of that dark skin, or feeling like I'm left out of particular spaces and opportunities because of that dark skin, then how do I... I’m not gonna say defend myself because it became less about a defense as it was about an offense.

And so the one thing you can't ever take away from me is my blackness. If you see me, no one is asking a question at all. There's no question to be asked. So then what happens to folks who are racially ambiguous, folks who might identify as Creole? You know, you're not black but I am. And so it was a complete turnaround eye opening experience to move to the northeast and come into contact with folks who look like the folks I grew up with but who were very clear that they were black. So I’m like how does that work?

And again, listen to the language–why would you claim blackness when you don't have to? Which when you unpack that, Yaba, it says a lot about your relationship to white supremacy, sis. Are you not conforming then or conceding then to that superiority complex? Are you not feeding the idea then that whiteness is superior and therefore all of those shades beneath it are more superior to your dark ebony complexion? Why wouldn't somebody want to be black, sis? You’re so black and proud–why wouldn't somebody want to be black?

And so having all of these conversations and talking to all of these folks from all kinds of backgrounds who claim... And again, in this moment having done the work, it almost sounds offensive to say “claim their blackness” because for me it wasn't a choice. You see what I'm saying? And so that's my stuff. Looking at them from where I am, thinking that it’s a choice that I didn't have that choice. You see what I'm saying?

And so I had to sit on my hands in a lot of ways and let them lead me because it wasn't about me. It was about me in terms of a starting point, but if I really wanted to be open to the healing, I had to let them lead me. I had to be present and listen to what they were saying and that translated. But what's in the book, I had interviews with folks, in person interviews that I recorded and transcribed, and what I wrote as their memoirs are their words. In terms of the process, once I wrote the narrative form, I sent it to them for their approval and we did edits together because I wasn't going to publish anything. I needed them to trust me with their stories. This wasn't about me reframing, rewording, you know. This is what you said–does this work for you? Because it’s your picture that's gonna be next to this, not mine, you know.

And so it just reminds me of so many situations just in relationships in general. That if you enter a conversation that might be conflicting (or conflictual, I should say) and you enter it as a fight or you enter it committed to winning, you are not open to hearing what the other person has to say. Because you're so focused on winning, you're so focused on the comeback and the retort and the dismissal, that you're not present for the conversation and you cannot acknowledge their truth. And that's hard for so many of us who are so used to having to defend ourselves, who are so used to having to fight, and then you want to do this in the context of colorism?

Dr. Joy: Yeah.

Dr. Blay: That's a big challenge so I also want to extend us some grace.

Dr. Joy: Mm hmm, yeah, it's not easy.

Dr. Blay: It's not easy, it’s not easy at all.

Dr. Joy: More from Dr. Blay after the break.


Dr. Joy: I wonder if there are other questions. Because I think that was such a beautiful question–how you kind of examine, like is this my stuff? Like what's coming up in terms of my own relation to blackness, right? Are there other questions that you can offer that might be helpful for people to kind of examine how they might be moving through the world, related to their identity?

Dr. Blay: I mean, I think again those questions of identity in terms of who I am. I don't have a step by step guide, but like sitting in that question for a minute. Who am I? Whatever answers you come up with, are they your answers or were they answers that have been given to you over time? Our parents give us a lot of answers. Our families give us a lot of answers, our friends give us a lot of answers, our intimate partners give us a lot of answers. What is the work of digging through and unpacking all that to get to your answer?

You know, I think of the college students that I taught. I taught in a political science department in my last position. At an HBCU, everybody was gonna be a lawyer. I'm like, look it, all y'all ain’t getting into law school, okay, so what else is possible? But it's just so interesting. You know, I was raised by Guinean parents so you have about five options in terms of what they thought was success. Doctor, lawyer, engineer... There are so many of us who are in school for so many things that have nothing to do with who we are and our best selves. And so the challenge I have found with parenting, and what I think is really beautiful parenting, it's to take yourself out of it.

So much of parenting, and I think this is also connected to a lot of cultural and historical stuff, is that parents, we give ourselves... We are hard on ourselves and we believe that whatever it is our children do or don't do is a reflection of us and our parenting. And sometimes it don't have nothing to do with you; it’s them. So that if your child doesn't go to college, if your child doesn't become a “successful X, Y and Z” that somehow you think people are looking at you sideways like you did something wrong.

We have the privilege and the blessing in this moment to, you know, challenge ourselves to find joy in our work. And when folks say in my ancestors’ wildest dreams, that's what I mean. Taking advantage of the possibilities they didn't have. It's enough engineers in this world, it’s enough attorneys, it’s enough medical doctors. Again, not discouraging anybody if that's truly who and what you want to be. But let's be honest, most of us when it's time to “pick your career” in the same way it's time to pick your major, how many of us actually went through a process where we were connecting that choice with who we really are? We think about how much money I can make.

Dr. Joy: Right, and pay these loans back.

Dr. Blay: You see what I’m saying? We’re not thinking of ourselves for real, for real, it's almost like it's just a concession. What am I willing to do? And so, again, we might have had a different conversation a few years ago but it's definitely where I am in this moment in my life. And it's been a beautiful like revealing to me. I'm learning so much about myself–now that I work for myself–about what I want and how that might look different next year. And guess what? I'mma be alright.

Dr. Joy: Right, right. Yeah, you mentioned how a lot of times these answers come from our parents and from other people in our family. But I think the other thing is that a lot of these answers sometimes come from media and so I think, especially as we're thinking about like colorism and we think about like how media perpetuates these ideas about like what blackness looks like. And so today, I think we see shows like Black-ish and Mixed-ish and like there's one look for how a family is. But then we think about, you know, like Good Times or the Bernie Mac Show and families looked very different. So I'm wondering what your thoughts about like what prompted this shift in how black families look different as it is seen today?

Dr. Blay: I would question if it’s a shift. I mean, it's a shift on surface but ultimately both presentations ultimately support white supremacy. So when you talk about, okay, there might be a time when we saw predominantly dark skinned families on TV, what kind of family, though? Were they in the projects?

Dr. Joy: Well, not Bernie Mac.

Dr. Blay: Not Bernie Mac, no.

Dr. Joy: Good Times definitely.

Dr. Blay: Good Times, Sanford and Son, that generation, right. Moving forward, then, okay, let's say The Cosby Show that people love so much to the extent that they want to defend that man, but I'll leave that alone. The Cosby Show. You got Cliff and you got Clair–I always question. I know, yes, there's a diversity in blackness, I know we come in all shades, but y’all not gonna convince me that Denise and, what was the older sister's name?

Dr. Joy: Sondra.

Dr. Blay: Sondra. Y’all can't convince me that Sondra and Denise came from them two people. Sorry! So, similarly, when we looked at Mixed-ish or we look at Black-ish. Like what I'm saying is those tropes hardly change. Because a mom is supposed to be beautiful and feminine, yes? What does she look like every time? Daddy is supposed to be strong and the provider, what does he look like every time? And then you get the United Nations among the kids. Those tropes haven’t changed. We're still projecting similar images, I think. Again, it's not to say sum total because we do have different examples. Like... what am I thinking of? Everybody Hates Chris.

Dr. Joy: Oh, uh huh.

Dr. Blay: You know what I mean? We have different examples and I found that show found lots of success. So again, it's not to say in total, but it's still there.

Dr. Joy: Yeah.

Dr. Blay: The media is absolutely responsible for a lot of our stuff because if we are only relying upon the media to see ourselves, we're getting very strong messages about not only who we are but who we can potentially be.

Dr. Joy: Mm hmm.

Dr. Blay: Yeah, I'm a hard one. Like, I don't give the media too much credit. Incrementally. Y’all not getting gold stars?

Dr. Joy: No, no, definitely not.

Dr. Blay: I’m going to give you credit where I see it. But most of the things that I would celebrate are independent productions, it’s why I love Issa Rae productions so much.

Dr. Joy: Yeah.

Dr. Blay: You know what I mean? Like much of that had to come from the ground swell up. That's not some mainstream. No.

Dr. Joy: Right. So we could talk forever, Yaba. There’s just so much more I want to talk with you about but I know we have to wrap up. But I do want to get a sense of any resources that you really enjoy, that you think other people who are interested in like digging a little deeper into this conversation might also enjoy. Anything you would share.

Dr. Blay: I don't want to go the textbook route necessarily because there are lots of books that talk about the history of colorism and things of that nature. But I'm a visual person and so one of the projects that I created, it's called Pretty Period. On Instagram, it's @Iampretty.period. Not to big up myself, but to big up myself.

Dr. Joy: Of course.

Dr. Blay: The project is really... it’s a kind of collective response to the backhanded compliment I've gotten way too many times. “Oh, you’re pretty for a dark-skinned girl,” which is not a compliment at all. And the response is: “No, I'm pretty. Period.” And so part of the work of the project is part of the reason why I love Instagram because it is a visual platform. I would just encourage people not just to look at Pretty Period and the images that we share on a daily or go to the website which is, but do some hashtag search. You can hashtag melanin anything, you know. Hashtag black girl anything and just see the diversity of our beauty online. Because again, we don't have to rely on the mainstream anymore. Like we are creating new images of and for ourselves, I think.

In addition to that, I also don't want to discourage you from digging into the histories of colorism and black racial identity. It's hard when folks ask me about resources because I feel like I end up having to name the same work over and over again. Which is okay but at the same time I think it also speaks kind of to what we opened the conversation with, like the idea that many of us aren't trained or guided in terms of thinking critically. So if it's in a book, it's real. I’m gonna say that the publishing industry controls which books are released so then there's somebody who's making an assessment about which conversations we get to have and in which direction and for what audience.

And so, yes, there are lots of resources out there; I'm just not sure that there's any one that I would say this is it. If I would have to say one, and it's not connected to colorism as much as it's connected to blackness and our identity, it is a novel of Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. I know so many people have read it, I am obsessed with this book, I adore it. If I were in the classroom, I would find a way to teach it. It is an amazing book and what I love about it is that it offers us the opportunity to connect the dots and to stop seeing ourselves as these individual identities across the world. And recognize that like when people say we came from the same place, that's like historical fact, you know?

Dr. Joy: Right.

Dr. Blay: But I love how she tells the story so I would definitely encourage folks to read that book. Again, just to be open. In any case, not just the resources that I'm sharing but any resource that anybody shares with you, recognize that you're only going to get from that resource what you're able to. Based upon where you are, what you're willing to release about yourself, in order to receive what's being shared. So all of that to say, I don't know.

Dr. Joy: But you shared, you've already shared some good stuff as well. And where can we keep up with you and all the incredible work that you're doing? We already have Pretty Period; where else can we find you?

Dr. Blay: I’m online, my website is And I'm also on social, on Instagram and Twitter @YabaBlay. My name will lead you to where I am.

Dr. Joy: Perfect. We will be sure to include all of that in the show notes. Thank you so much for today, Yaba.

Dr. Blay: You're welcome. Thank you for having me.

Dr. Joy: I'm so glad that Dr. Blay was able to share her expertise with us today. To learn more about her and her work or to check out the resources that she shared, be sure to visit the show notes at And don't forget to text two of your girls and tell them to check out the episode as well. If you're looking for a therapist in your area, be sure to check out our therapist directory at

And if you want to continue digging into this topic or just be in community with other sisters, come on over and join us in the Sister Circle. It's our cozy corner of the internet designed just for black women. You can join us at Thank y'all so much for joining me again this week. I look forward to continuing this conversation with you all real soon. Take good care.


Discover the transformative power of healing in community in Dr. Joy Harden Bradford’s debut book, Sisterhood Heals. Order your copy now!

Sisterhood heals
Order Now

Looking for the UK Edition?
Order here

Discover the transformative power of healing in community in Dr. Joy Harden Bradford’s debut book, Sisterhood Heals. Order your copy now!

Looking for the UK Edition? Order here