Segments in this Video

Vivid Words to Describe Blackness (02:29)


A black woman recalls dating a dark skinned man whose mother thought he should only date light skinned women, to lighten up the family. We hear many of the adjectives used inside and outside the black community to describe the variations of black skin and hair.

Investigating Attitudes About Color (03:45)

Biracial Kathe Sandler explains why she made this film. Several individuals share their perception of color including insecurity, feeling ugly and subconscious conversations about color.

Color Consciousness (04:00)

For African Americans, color consciousness can be traced to the south. Annie Caldwell discusses color division in Tuskegee, Alabama. Dr. Payton explains how slavery divides Blacks.

Overcoming Color and Class Segregation (01:58)

Bobby Davis recalls socialites having problems with Dr. Payton as Tuskegee University President because of his dark color. Mayor Johnny Ford discusses the discrimination he faced when running for mayor.

Davis Family in Tuskegee, Alabama (01:32)

Bobby Davis discusses comments about his light skin from Black community members. Mrs. Davis believes that even if her family was dark skinned, they would be still be regarded as respectable citizens.

Appreciating Who We Are (02:30)

Rhonda Baraka discusses the popularity and wealth associated with light-skinned individuals. Mayor Johnny Ford believes his skin color helps individuals understand that you can be dark-skinned and still be in a leadership role.

Color Issues Invade Our Lives (03:46)

In Crown Heights, Brooklyn, Keyonn and Keith rap about the different black skin tones. Both face discrimination because of their complexion.

Resenting the Color of Skin (01:41)

Keyonn discusses judging females on their complexion. He believes that being dark-skinned is a problem.

Women Facing Resentment (02:27)

We see advertisements for lightening skin. Diane discusses the perceptions men have about light skin; she faces resentment from other Black people. Cheryl discusses the struggles of dark-skinned individuals.

Wanting to be Black (01:53)

Pat discusses the discrimination she faces from other Black individuals; oftentimes it is from the women. She recalls a physical confrontation with one woman.

Hostility in a Black Community (02:08)

In 1977, Kathe Sandler and her mother are on the cover of Essence magazine. The magazine receives hate mail because of Kathe's color. Kathe feels alienated but cushioned by the privilege of looking like a White woman.

Skillet Blonde (03:58)

Vertamae shares the negative comments she heard about her dark skin and African features. Melba recalls the times her mother combed her hair. The women discuss traits that made girls "bad."

Black Consciousness Movement (03:07)

We see archival footage of Malcom X and Stokely Carmichael discussing racial features and hate. Vertamae and Diane discuss the "African look" of the 1960s.

Big Natural Hair (02:20)

Melba Tolliver is one of the first Black reporters on the news. She recalls adjusting her look to the times and encountering resistance from her station when she wears her hair natural.

Remembering the 60s (01:39)

Diane and Vertamae discuss the perception of skin tone in the 1960s. The Afro gives way to the Jheri Curl.

Evolution of Hair (04:10)

The demise of the Black Consciousness Movement halted dialogue around color among African Americans. A woman getting extensions in her hair and Robin discuss role models for hair.

Hating What is African (02:38)

Keyonn and his family discuss the possibility of lightening their skin. Kayin believes girls would like him better if he were light-skinned.

Power Relationships Affect Self-Image (03:49)

Many people of color try to conform to a European standard of beauty. A doctor discusses the three groups of Blacks that have cosmetic surgery. He uses a nurse to explain what type of facial surgery he would perform.

Beauty at Howard University (01:43)

Kadisha Tamu discusses being "Ms. Howard" with dark skin and short hair. She reflects on the meaning of beauty for Black people in mainstream America.

A Surprising Therapy (02:45)

Kathe Sandler reflects on the need to confront color consciousness in the Black community. Interviewees discuss the self-revelations Sandler's documentary uncovered. A positive vocabulary builds self-esteem.

Embracing Black Characteristics (00:50)

We hear several adjectives to describe African American skin tone. Color consciousness in Black America is a consequence of racism in White America.

Credits: A Question of Color (02:18)

Credits: A Question of Color

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A Question of Color

3-Year Streaming Price: $169.95



“I am a black American woman from an interracial background. I look white, I identify myself as black,” says filmmaker Kathe Sandler. “I made this film because I wanted to understand something that had a very dominant influence in my life.” In this documentary, Sandler digs into the often subconscious world of colorism, a caste system within the African-American community that deems the lightest skin tones to be the most beautiful and socially acceptable. Tackling a painful and taboo subject with great sensitivity, the film helps viewers understand the complex interplay between racial identity, culture, and self-image. (58 minutes)

Length: 58 minutes

Item#: BVL49729

Copyright date: ©1993

Closed Captioned

Reviews & Awards

“An extraordinary accomplishment....This documentary is unforgettable. I urge you to see it.”  —Michelle Wallace, Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman  


“Remarkably even-handed and free of rhetoric....Its’ sensible, positive messages about self-acceptance in the face-off racism resonate strongly.”  The New York Times  


“Certain to spark conversation and controversy.”  New York Daily News  


“A free-flowing conversation within the extended family that is black America. Sandler’s tone, by itself, can begin healing the wounds it uncovers.”  Newsday

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