Brown Paper Bag Test

Artist's Description

This is meant to be worn as a mask.

Chalk Pastel and Gouache on brown paper bag.

The “brown paper bag test” was a ritual once practiced by certain African-American and Creole fraternities and sororities who discriminated against people who were “too dark.” That is, these groups would not let anyone into the sorority or fraternity whose skin tone was darker than a paper lunch bag, in order to maintain a perception of standards. Spike Lee’s film School Daze satirized this practice at historically black colleges and universities.

The “brown paper bag test” form of colorism is also believed to have been used in the application process to the prestigious Historically Black College Howard University. The University once required students to submit a photograph of themselves, most likely to ensure that the majority of the Universities students were of lighter complexion. Along with the “Paper Bag Test,” guidelines for acceptance among the lighter ranks included the “comb test”, which tested the coarseness of one’s hair, and the “flashlight test,” which tested a person’s profile, to make sure their features measured up, or were close enough to those of the Caucasian race.

Artwork Comments

  • Abe Jackson
  • paintingsbycr10
  • Elisabeta Hermann
desktop tablet-landscape content-width tablet-portrait workstream-4-across phone-landscape phone-portrait
desktop tablet-landscape content-width tablet-portrait workstream-4-across phone-landscape phone-portrait

10%off for joining

the Redbubble mailing list

Receive exclusive deals and awesome artist news and content right to your inbox. Free for your convenience.