This Week in Diversity: Forgotten Shades of Grey

It’s bitterly cold outside (at least here in New York), so stay inside and read! Here’s this week’s selection of articles and essays.

Last month we shared an Indian ad for White Beauty, a skin-lightening cream. Now, a study is highlighting the dangers of these types of products, many of which contain steroids or mercury. A NYTimes Op-Ed looks beyond the products and into the roots of their popularity with an exploration of colorism, the tendency to be biased towards people with lighter skin, even within one’s own racial or ethnic group.

On Wednesday, newscaster Chris Matthews commented that during the State of the Union, he “forgot Obama was black.” Ta-Nahisi Coates examines the comment and the assumptions that underlie it, explaining why the well-intentioned comment is deeply problematic and a concept of “invented truth.”

Meanwhile, we’re all still thinking about Haiti. Henry Louis Gates gives us all a history lesson, going over the troubled and troubling relationship between Haiti and the U.S., starting with Thomas Jefferson’s fear that a black republic would incite American slaves to rise and revolt.

Lastly, in book-related news, there’s a new exposé into the secret world of offline book piracy, where shadowy individuals known to one another as “librarians” lend books in silent, hidden dens of iniquity called “libraries.”