The population of Jamaica is about 97% black, but it wasn’t until 1968 when Karlene Waddell, became the first black woman to win the Miss Jamaica title. Many of the black winners since have features that many could describe as more Eurocentric or less African in appearance.

As an English-speaking, majority Afro-descent society, skin tone plays a significant role in the desirability stakes and it has become the trend for many to apply dangerous chemicals to leach the melanin out of their skin.

There’s a soap advert from my youth I remember aired regularly on Jamaican TV. In it, several black people are relaxing by the poolside. Suddenly, a svelte light-skinned woman emerges from the water oozing oodles of sex appeal. Her hair is long and silky, and her skin is very light coloured. All the men sit up, paying attention to her soft curves and smooth caramel tones. The women stare on in equal parts admiration and envy at her glowing skin and luscious locks. A voice-over booms in a rich baritone announcing the name of the soap and proclaims, “for the complexion you want.”

Our preoccupation with skin tone is not a uniquely Jamaican thing, its pervasive in many black cultures, and particularly those with histories set in juxtaposition to white colonisation.

On this episode, we explore some of the elements of colourism that affect us as black people, we talk about interracial dating and whether the concept of upholding whiteness as aspirational is a real problem in some of our communities.

Check out this music video by Ghetts, mentioned on the episode.

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My wife and I are in a cross-cultural relationship. We’re both black, but she’s of Ghanaian heritage and I was born in Jamaica. If you listened to the first episode of Marriages Behind Closed Doors, then you will have heard about some of the specific cultural challenges we faced during the engagement and leading up to the wedding.

For black men, dating outside of your race can bring its own difficulties, particularly from within the black community. There is a deeply held stereotype that many successful black men will choose to date and marry women of other races. There are countless forums on the internet criticising TV starts, sports personalities and other successful black men who have chosen to date or marry women of other races, and there is a lot of pain and anger from some black women about this.

There is another deeply held stereotype which offers a small part of the explanation as to why that may be the case. Black women are sometimes seen as problematic, angry and confrontational. In the desirability stakes, black women feature very low on the totem pole. Lighter skin, longer hair and more demure features have long been upheld as the standard of femininity and beauty.

Additionally, the history of racism and social privilege does not automatically lend itself to making black women the natural inhabitants of the upper echelons of society. The gender disparity in the figures of interracial marriage within the United States are significant and show that black men are choosing to marry outside of their race at substantially higher rates than black women do.

As a result, many black women feel cast aside and unloved by the black men they raised. 

This is obviously a very complex subject to dissect, and one that requires extreme care and sensitivity. In this episode, Daniel, Andre, Maurice and I all try to keep the conversation fairly light and humorous however, you will hear undertones of many of these issues as we talk about our own experiences.

If you like the podcast and want to give us some feedback, or if you want to be featured on the show, please use the contact form in the ‘About’ section.

In the meantime click the link above to start the episode now and thank you for listening.

Jonathan Gardner grew up as a devout Christian. His upbringing at times put him at odds with the desire to fit in with his friends, sharing in their experiences and figuring out adolescence without much of a guidebook to follow.

In this episode, Jonathan recounts some of his experiences growing up, being raised by a single mother and also how the devastating news of a sudden diagnosis changed the course of his life.

As we face a global health crisis, more so now than ever, we reflect on having taken relationships for granted but also the importance of being intentional about remaining connected with the people in our lives.

Jonathan is married and has a young daughter who celebrated her first birthday just this last weekend. We discussed how fatherhood has changed us and the beauty of seeing our daughters come into the world. My conversation with Jonathan lasted well over two hours, and there was much I wasn’t able to include in this episode. One of these was our recognition of the incredible roles the women in our lives have played. This was something Jonathan was keen to express, and I think it’s necessary to mention it here especially as we celebrated Mother’s Day in the UK on yesterday (Sunday 22nd March).

So, to all the mothers out there from those who do it alone to those who share the role of parent with their children’s fathers, a partner or other family members, we see you, we applaud you, and we honour you.

In this episode, Jonathan mentions a video that was sent to him by a couple and which inspired him and his family to move to Scotland. If this is something that interests you or you want to learn more about their story, you can view it on his YouTube channel here.

If you haven’t already listened to the previous episode, Sex in the Church: Part I, then I strongly recommend you do. This episode is a continuation of the conversation I had with Andrew Williams, about how his live changed when he found out at 17 years old that his girlfriend at the time was pregnant with his child.

Andrew and I are both black men, and in addition to his experiences as a co-parent and dating again, we also talk about how our similar cultures have shaped our attitudes towards sex.

Generally speaking, religion (Christianity, in our case) is a significant cultural factor within many Afro-Caribbean communities. Conversations within church about sex, sexuality and sexual conduct are almost always deeply conservative, and often not very open. This, to some extent, influences how open (or not) conversations between parent and child within our communities about sex can be.

As black men, often we learn about sex through our peers, porn and our own experiences, which can be both damaging and unhealthy. And while not explicitly discussed in this episode, there are numerous studies available which show that young black men are disproportionately at high risk of acquiring sexually transmitted infections. Equally, issues such as violence, abuse and a diminished view of the meaningfulness of sex or relationships are outcomes of poor sex education within our homes and the church.

If you like the podcast and want to give us some feedback, or if you want to be featured on the show, please use the contact form in the ‘About’ section.

In the meantime, click the button above to start the episode now and thank you for listening.