The Brown Paper Bag Test

The Brown Paper Bag Test is a historical phenomenon deeply rooted in colorism within African-American communities, particularly during the Jim Crow era in the United States. Colorism is a form of discrimination based on skin color, where lighter skin tones are often privileged over darker ones. This discriminatory practice has had enduring effects on racial identity and social dynamics within the African-American community.

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, as racial segregation laws were enforced in the United States, African-Americans faced systemic racism and discrimination. Within their own communities, colorism became an additional layer of division. The Brown Paper Bag Test was one manifestation of this colorism, and it involved comparing an individual’s skin tone to the color of a brown paper bag.

The basic premise was that individuals with lighter skin tones, often closer to or lighter than the brown paper bag, were deemed more socially acceptable than those with darker skin tones. Lighter-skinned individuals were more likely to be accepted into certain social circles, organizations, and institutions, while those with darker skin faced exclusion and discrimination. This discriminatory practice extended to schools, churches, social clubs, and even some employment opportunities.

The origins of the Brown Paper Bag Test can be traced back to various factors, including the historical association of light skin with proximity to whiteness and the perceived hierarchy that placed lighter-skinned individuals closer to the dominant white culture. The test reinforced harmful stereotypes and perpetuated the notion that lighter skin was more desirable and superior.

Unpacking the Brown Paper Bag Principle

The “Brown Paper Bag Principle: Of the Myth” and “the Motion of Colorism” offer literary perspectives that delve into the psychological dimensions of colorism. These works challenge preconceived notions and invite readers to question the validity and impact of such tests. By examining these perspectives, we gain a deeper understanding of the underlying narratives that shape perceptions of color and identity.

Creating Awareness and Addressing Bias

The Ongig Blog’s coverage on July 27 provides a contemporary lens on the ongoing discussions surrounding racial bias. It becomes evident that education and awareness play pivotal roles in dismantling stereotypes and biases. We explore initiatives aimed at fostering inclusivity and understanding in today’s diverse society.

Crafting a Path Forward: From History to Hope

In crafting a path forward, it is essential to acknowledge the challenges of the past while embracing the potential for positive change. The year 2023, marked by February 3, becomes a symbol of reflection and an opportunity to reevaluate our collective journey toward equality.