Chapter 2: Pretty Color ‘n Good Hair: Creole Women of New Orleans and the Politics of Identity

Authors of the highly cited The Color Complex: The Politics of Skin Color among African Americans (Russell, Wilson, & Hall, 1992), define the “color complex” as “a psychological fixation about color and features that leads Blacks to discriminate against each other.” The purpose of this chapter is to critically re-examine the current definition of the “color complex” to conceptualize issues of skin color politics among individuals of African descent. Through an examination of intergenerational skin color politics among women self-identified as Creole in New Orleans, Louisiana, this chapter illustrates manifestations of skin color politics at levels far more dysfunctional than the definition of “color complex” suggests. The voices of three generations of Creole women serve as testimony of the degree to which skin color has come to signify privilege, beauty, value, and identity, and furthermore, the degree to which skin color prejudice and discrimination has undergone several generations of rationalization and now constitutes logical order.