Fic and Skin Tone
As Shakira sings, "when we speak of two, it is best to start with one". I'm a light skinned Latina who has been told countless times that I do not "look" Latina. I have been told this by people of many races and ethnicities, including my own. I patiently explain that although my family directly descends from indigenous people, the genetic dice rolled in such a way that I inherited my paternal great grand uncle's Spanish genes (short, light skinned, thin hair), instead of the tall, so dark olive we-might-as well-be-camo-green, genetics of my mother's family. So, I will admit that I am always alert to how people are physically described especially since my own mother plays into it by describing her two daughters as coffee (my sister) and cream (guess who).
Therefore I will also say that the following topic is quite emotionally charged for me. If you feel yourself getting defensive because of commenters' "tone" please remember that other people may be coming from similarly emotional places. We're all sensitive about what we look like, no? Maybe we can try to take people with a grain of salt and forgive awkward wording this time around.
I am noticing that I am reading a lot of fic descriptions of Uhura's skin tone as "light"-something. In my opinion, the woman is brown. And that is a lovely color. She could be "brown velvet", "rich brown", "warm copper" or any other type purple prose that doesn't connote lightness as if that is what makes her beautiful. As a reader, it's frustrating to me to read "it was the color of "heavily creamed coffee", "milky tea" and other such "she's just a darker shade of pale/whiter shade of brown" type description. I think the term "black" is vague as a skin tone descriptor, but it's also important to not be afraid of saying "so and so is black" because the more we dance around it, the more a term or an idea becomes taboo. If we kept describing people's eye color as various shades of blue, even when eyes were brown, well, we'd begin to wonder, "what's wrong with having brown eyes?" My eyes are brown, they are not a "muddy blue". I'm just sayin'.
So basically I am asking, what's wrong with being brown/black/inky/earthy/spiced rum/whatever? I don't think that people are purposefully conspiring to promote the old "light is bright and that is right" party line, but I wonder if this Euro-centric beauty standard has been unconsciously seeping into our perceptions of our beloved Uhura. I'm here to call attention to it. Fic writers will continue to do what they do and how they do it, but my desire is that after our hopefully interesting, informative and NOT WANKY discussion, perhaps there might be a little more thought about adjective choice in the future.
Of course, since we are all aware that race is nothing but a social construction and those pesky categories tend to be relative, it is possible that someone's "brown" could really look like someone else's "light tan." Maybe she IS light skinned in a relative sense and me not being African American has caused me to miss the boat? It's possible.
I will say this, the actress who plays her is of Dominican and Puerto Rican ethnic heritage and identifies herself as "una mujer negra" (a black woman- although I have to say, I was always taught that it was polite to refer to black people in Spanish as morenos, "brown people" and not use the word negra as that is more like saying the English old fashioned type word, "Negro", but the politics of language and Latinos is best saved for a whole 'nother post and god knows every country's Spanish is different. My family is Colombian.). I know Dominicans, I know Puerto Ricans. And I have seen the wide and varied range of skin tones in those groups. In Puerto Rico there is a saying, "tres razas, una gente" (three races, one people)" as many "Boricuas" are extremely proud of their Indigenous, African and European roots. So to me, having that knowledge to draw from? Homegirl is still brown. Beautiful, lovely, soothing, sweet looking, silky brown.
See how sensual that can be? See how I don't have to say she is bright anything or light anything or whatever?
Disagree? I'm just one person with one opinion and having said my piece, I'm hoping I get to shut up now and get some education.
In a related tangent: In another community, I saw that there was some frustration around describing people by using food metaphors. I happen to think that food is highly sensual and therefore, personally, I wouldn't mind, but I can imagine that being constantly compared to something that is devoured and commodified is also troubling. Maybe we can think on that too.