The Bithplace of The Illuminati

By MATTHEW VICKERY

“I have heard there are some meetings here, but where and when, I have no idea,” Sister Anna told me, taking some time to open up on the subject. “I think they come from France, England, all over, but Ingolstadt is the meeting place in Europe.”

Working in the church bookshop opposite Ingolstadt’s colossal Gothic Liebfrauenmünster church, Sister Anna sees, and speaks to, a lot of people. But some remain shrouded in mystery to her: Illuminati pilgrims, who she believes may still carry out secret meetings in the Bavarian city.

The idea that clandestine Illuminati gatherings could be taking place in the small Bavarian city may seem far-fetched, but Ingolstadt does have a history of them. The city is the birthplace of the infamous secret society that has become part myth, part historical truth, and the foundation of countless conspiracy theories.

The charming city of Ingolstadt is the birthplace of the Illuminati (Credit: Credit: volkerpreusser/Alamy)

The charming city of Ingolstadt is the birthplace of the Illuminati

It was on 1 May 1776 that Adam Weishaupt, a professor of law at the University of Ingolstadt, founded the Order of the Illuminati, a secret organisation formed to oppose religious influence on society and the abuse of power by the state by fostering a safe space for critique, debate and free speech. Inspired by the Freemasons and French Enlightenment philosophers, Weishaupt believed that society should no longer be dictated by religious virtues; instead he wanted to create a state of liberty and moral equality where knowledge was not restricted by religious prejudices. However religious and political conservatism ruled in Ingolstadt at that time, and subject matter taught at the Jesuit-controlled university where Weishaupt lectured was strictly monitored.

After initially handpicking his five most talented law students to join, the network rapidly expanded, its members disseminating Weishaupt’s goals of enlightenment with radical teachings, while at the same time creating an elaborate network of informants who reported on the behaviour of state and religious figures in an effort to build up a wealth of information that the Illuminati could potentially exploit in their teachings. With the help of prominent German diplomat Baron Adolf Franz Friedrich, Freiherr von Knigge – who helped recruit Freemason lodges to the Illuminati cause – the clandestine group grew to more than 2,000 members throughout Bavaria, France, Hungary, Italy and Poland, among other places.

The Eye of Providence, pictured here on the ceiling of the Maria de Victoria church, is often associated with the Illuminati (Credit: Credit: Julie Ovgaard)

The Eye of Providence, pictured here on the ceiling of Ingolstadt’s Maria de Victoria church, is often associated with the Illuminati

Yet in the city where it all began, this peculiar legacy remains little known among residents.

“Not so many people know about it. But the Illuminati are part of the history of Ingolstadt,” local journalist Michael Klarner explained as we stood outside the old University of Ingolstadt, an unassuming, church-like building just a short stroll from Sister Anna’s bookshop.

The Illuminati was never meant to be noticed

“Weishaupt was in many ways a revolutionary,” Klarner continued. “He liked the idea of teaching people to be better human beings. He wanted to change society, he was dreaming of a better world, of a better government. He started the Illuminati with the idea that everything known to human kind should be taught – something that was not allowed here at the university.”

Entering the old university building, I was on the lookout for any sign that Weishaupt’s organisation started within these thick medieval walls, but clues were noticeably absent.

But maybe that shouldn’t be so surprising – the Illuminati, after all, was never meant to be noticed.

A small plaque outside Weishaupt’s former home marks the building as an old Illuminati meeting place (Credit: Credit: Julie Ovgaard)

A small plaque outside Weishaupt’s former home marks the building as an old Illuminati meeting place

The organisation didn’t evade the establishment for long, however. Just a decade after its creation, the secret society was infiltrated by Bavarian authorities after its radical anti-state writings were intercepted by government authorities. The Illuminati was shut down and Weishaupt was banished from Ingolstadt to live the rest of his life in the German city of Gotha, 300km to the north.

Yet the idea of a secret society revolting against the state has captured imaginations ever since, encapsulated in conspiracy theories cooked up by those who believe the Illuminati was never actually disbanded – a claim that has been widely debunked by historians. Even still, conspiracy theorists say that the organisation has been covertly working behind the scenes to subvert authority. The Illuminati has been suggested as the party responsible for the French Revolution, the assassination of US president John F Kennedy and even the 11 September 2001 terror attacks, and has become famous through books and films like Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons.

Weishaupt wanted to change society, he was dreaming of a better world

“The Illuminati conspiracy theory is what we call a ‘superconspiracy’, or basically a conspiracy that controls smaller conspiracies,” said Dr Michael Wood of the University of Winchester, an expert in the psychology of conspiracy theories. “People do talk about the Illuminati, but a lot of the time it’s in a joking or self-aware kind of way, almost making fun of the idea of a global conspiracy.”

And all of this began in a modest Bavarian city that’s better known as the setting of Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein than anything else.

Ingolstadt is perhaps best known as the setting for Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein (Credit: Credit: Dr. Wilfried Bahnmüller/ImageBROKER/Alamy)

Ingolstadt is perhaps best known as the setting for Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein

Little points to the secret society’s creation in Ingolstadt, except perhaps a small, easily missed plaque outside Weishaupt’s former home, a light blue building on Theresienstrasse street, that marks it as an Illuminati meeting place in the late 18th Century. Yet delve a little deeper, and signs can be found of Ingolstadt’s unlikely role in history.

Tucked behind two sets of metal doors at the Stadtmuseum Ingolstadt (City Museum) I found city archivist Maria Eppelsheimer sifting through row upon row of centuries-old books in search of Ingolstadt’s Illuminati past, written in the words of the founder himself. The thick smell of ageing paper filled the narrow spaces between each bookcase, from which precious archaic hardbacks and delicate manuscripts jutted out.

“I think it’s one of the most interesting topics we look at here,” Eppelsheimer said as she studied the dusty spines in a section dedicated solely to Ingolstadt’s history. She delicately pulled out one of the smallest books on the shelf. It was Apologie der Illuminaten, a 1786 work written by Weishaupt in which he defended the creation of the Illuminati shortly after his exile from the city.

Several of Weishaupt’s works can be found in Ingolstadt’s archives (Credit: Credit: Julie Ovgaard)

Several of Weishaupt’s works can be found in Ingolstadt’s archives

“It’s crazy what the Illuminati has been made into,” the archivist said as she leafed through the pages of the well-worn manuscript. “What it’s been made into has nothing to do with the real Illuminati.”

More of Weishaupt’s words can be found in small, unassuming volumes hidden among the city’s vast archive. It’s as though more than two centuries after its formation, Weishaupt’s Illuminati has continued to remain as elusive as possible.

However there are some people in Ingolstadt, such as Klarner, who are actively trying to bring this unusual historical legacy to light.

“You know Frankenstein is believed to have been based in the city because of the Illuminati,” Klarner said enthusiastically as he took me on a short tour of Ingolstadt’s historical and religious landmarks. “By the French Revolution, there were already theories that the revolution began in Ingolstadt and that the Illuminati were the intellectual fathers of the revolution. This is why many literary theorists believe Mary Shelley knew about Ingolstadt, and why Frankenstein was then set here.”

Local journalist Michael Klarner leads Illuminati-themed walking tours to educate visitors on the group’s ties to Ingolstadt (Credit: Credit: Julie Ovgaard)

Local journalist Michael Klarner leads Illuminati-themed walking tours to educate visitors on the group’s relationship to Ingolstadt

Klarner regularly leads Illuminati-themed walking tours to educate visitors on the group’s relationship to the city. As we passed the large green, orange and yellow painted buildings of the old city, Klarner reeled off significant Illuminati dates, individuals and information, taking us back to 16th-Century Ingolstadt and the role of 15th-Century university professor Johann Eck in helping to cement the city, and the university in particular, as a bastion for the Catholic faith – something Weishaupt looked to counter two centuries later.

I think there is something here, but what exactly, I don’t know

“Of course we get some conspiracy theorists on the tours I do,” Klarner admitted. “But we can educate them to what is the real truth and what is conspiracy.”

Back at Sister Anna’s bookshop, however, the mystery around the Illuminati continues to catch the imagination of the shy nun – despite what the history books may say.

“Some people have come here and asked me about the meetings,” the nun said, leaning over the table as though disclosing a secret. “I think there is something here, but what exactly, in what houses, I don’t know.”

The Pentagon released 3 videos of UFOs spotted by Navy aircraft, and a senator who investigated it says this ‘only scratches the surface’

By MIA JANKOWICZ

The Pentagon on Monday released three videos of “unidentified aerial phenomena” — more commonly referred to as UFOs — after years of speculation about them.

The videos, captured on Navy aircraft cameras with infrared targeting systems, show black shapes floating and sometimes accelerating at incredible speeds against the wind as baffled pilots watch.

All three videos had previously been leaked, prompting the Navy to confirm their authenticity in September in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.

It said in January that some briefing material it had about the videos was classified as top secret and would cause “exceptionally grave damage to the National Security of the United States” if released.

GIMBAL pentagon declassifies UFO videos
A still from GIMBAL, one of the three videos released by the Pentagon on Monday. 

Despite long-standing popular associations with stories of aliens, the terms “unidentified aerial phenomena” and “UFO” do not mean the object is thought to be extraterrestrial.

“It accelerated like nothing I’ve ever seen,” one of the pilots, Cmdr. David Fravor, told The Times in 2017.

GOFAST, January 2015

This clip shows what looks like the ocean surface as a small object skims past the camera at high speed.

The pilots tracking it can be heard giving a whoop of satisfaction when the camera gets a fix on it. One says, “What the f— is that?”

GIMBAL, January 2015

In the 34-second footage, the aircraft’s infrared camera tracks a saucer-like object flying above clouds as pilots discuss what it could be.

One says it could be a drone, while another comments that “there’s a whole fleet of them,” though no other object is visible in the video.

The object then rotates.

“My gosh, they’re all going against the wind — the wind’s 120 knots to the west,” the first pilot can be heard saying.

The videos were previously published by The Times and the To The Stars Academy of Arts and Science, a UFO research group founded by the Blink-182 guitarist Tom DeLonge.

The Department of Defense said on Monday that it found that the videos don’t “reveal any sensitive capabilities or systems” and that their release “does not impinge on any subsequent investigations of military air space incursions by unidentified aerial phenomena.”

“DOD is releasing the videos in order to clear up any misconceptions by the public on whether or not the footage that has been circulating was real, or whether or not there is more to the videos,” it added.

“The aerial phenomena observed in the videos remain characterized as ‘unidentified.'”

This release ‘only scratches the surface’ of what the government knows

Former Sen. Harry Reid, who helped fund the US government’s UFO investigations, tweeted on Monday that the Pentagon’s release of the videos “only scratches the surface” of what the government has on file.

As the Senate majority leader in 2007, Reid funneled $22 million into the investigations, the news website Axios reported.

“I’m glad the Pentagon is finally releasing this footage, but it only scratches the surface of research and materials available,” he tweeted.

“The U.S. needs to take a serious, scientific look at this and any potential national security implications,” he added. “The American people deserve to be informed.”

‘Pandemic drones’ are flying over the US to detect coronavirus symptoms

By THOMAS MACAULAY

Aerospace firm Draganfly has conducted the first US test flights of its “pandemic drones,” the company announced today.

The drones are fitted with sensors and computer vision systems that measure body temperature, breathing, and heart rates from up to 190 feet. They can also spot if someone’s sneezing, coughing, or following social distancing rules.

The test flights were conducted in Westport, Connecticut, which became a coronavirus hotspot following a private party where dozens of people were exposed to the virus.

According to Draganfly, Westport will use the tech to protect at-risk groups, such as seniors and crowds gathering in public places.

Westport Police Lieutenant Anthony Prezioso told local news outlet Patch that the tests had been going on for “approximately the last five days.”

“It is anticipated that this will continue to be in effect through the summer months of July and August as we anticipate the need to continue to work to reinforce social distancing measures in order to limit and control the spread of the COVID-19 virus,” he said.

Essential surveillance?

Draganfly has made a big effort to allay concerns that measures to contain the coronavirus are expanding the surveillance state.

The company claims that its software uses biometric readings but no facial recognition, and that all the data it collects is anonymized.

“The system does not collect individualized data. The system does not identify people,” Draganfly CEO Cameron Chell said in youtube video.

“The system takes population samples and provides this anonymized data to our public safety officials so that we can have clear data giving us an indication of population health, and allowing our officials to make decisions based on real data.”

The company also has eyes on future pandemics — and business opportunities.

“This system, and our work with public safety officials, is so important, because never again do we want to be in a situation where we’re having to make such drastic guesses for such tremendous decisions that affect not just human lives, but also the economy and the world population,” said Chell.

“These types of decisions can’t be made in retrospect — they have to be made in real-time.”

Willie D Wishes Charles Barkley Would’ve Died Instead Of Kobe Bryant

By KYLE EUSTICE

Willie D Wishes Charles Barkley Would’ve Died Instead Of Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant passed away  in a helicopter crash on Sunday (January 26) alongside his 13-year-old daughter Gianni and seven other people.

Willie d is one of the thousands of fans who are mourning their deaths. But on Monday (January 27), the Geto Boys MC ignited controversy when he suggested Bryant’s fellow NBA superstar Charles Barkley should’ve perished instead.

“It’s OK to question God,” he said on Instagram Live. “In the wake of the late, great Kobe Bryant dying tragically, suddenly, young, a lot of people are in pain all over the world. Some people are saying it feels like the loss of a family member.

“I agree. Kobe was a good dude. So much so that some people are questioning God. I got a question for God too. Why Kobe? How come you didn’t take Charles Barkley? No more talk.”

Willie D’s comment section lit up with hundreds of reactions to his video. Many pointed out Barkley has a family as well and wishing death upon anyone is extremely disrespectful and tactless.

“U gotta stop downing other black men in this occasion!” one commenter wrote. “You can’t wish death on a man and not receive karma! Question god all you want but u playing games willie.”

The Houston rap vet’s beef with Barkley stretches back years. In 2016, he ridiculed Barkley in a song called ” Coon” in which he accuses the famous athlete of speaking down on his race.

“Blacks been free since Lincoln got wasted,” he raps. “But some of these niggas still on the plantation/Listen up Charles Barkley/You light skin but still calling you a darky/The only reason that they put the mic in your face/Is so you can do they dirt and talk down on your race/TNT made you big put you on a wig/Now you’re acting like you never had trouble with pigs.”

He followed up with “Coon 2” took aim at Michael Jordan, Steve Harvey, Ted Cruz and more.

Slum Village’s T3 Drops ‘Mr. Fantastic’ EP



By JUSTIN IVEY

Slum Village member T-3 has released Mr. Fantastic, an eight-track EP produced entirely by Teeko and Ruckazoid. The veteran MC’s new solo project includes collaborations with Frank Nitt, Illa J and the late Baatin, among others.

“Working with Teeko and Ruckazoid was amazing,” T3 said in a press release. “It was like when I first heard their production I felt like it was tailor-made for me in a sense. Songs came together quickly. When me and Ruck talked later I found out that he had previously worked with Baatin. Imagine the odds. Some guys I found on the internet randomly … almost seems like it was meant to be.”

Pete Rock Calls Out Oprah Over Russell Simmons Sexual Assault Doc

By KYLE EUSTICE

Legendary Hip Hop producer Pete Rock shared a video to his Instagram account that makes his feelings about Oprah Winfrey crystal clear. The billionaire talk show host mogul made headlines earlier this month when she stepped down from her executive producer role on a documentary about one of Russell Simmons’ sexual assault accusers, Drew Dixon.

The Def Jam Recordings co-founder public called out Oprah via Instagram for signing up for the role in the first place. Oprah has since denied the public pressure had anything to do with her decision.

The video, which Rock posted to both Facebook and Instagram, features several video snippets of Oprah. In one, she appears to defend disgraced Hollywood heavyweight Harvey Weinstein whose been accused of multiple sexual assaults by dozens of women, including Ashley Judd, Gwyneth Paltrow and Rose McGowen.

“If we make this just about Harvey Weinstein, then we will have lost this moment,” she says.

Elsewhere in the video, an Entertainment Tonight story about the singer Seal, who called out Oprah in a 2018 Instagram post and accused her of knowing about Weinstein’s predatory behavior, pops up on the screen.

“Oh I forgot, that’s right…..you’d heard the rumours but you had no idea he was actually serially assaulting young starry-eyed actresses who in turn had no idea what they were getting into,” the post reads. “My bad.”

The text is written across a photo of Oprah kissing Weinstein’s cheek and reads, “When you have been part of the problem for decades, but suddenly they all think you are the solution.”

That clip is then followed by a snippet of Oprah’s recent interview on Good Morning of America, where she was adamant she couldn’t be silenced by Simmons, which is coupled with a story about Weinstein’s alleged sexual misconduct involving actress Lupita Nyong’o.

At the end of the video, the words, “We will expose this agenda of TARGETING the BLACK MAN.. OPRAH. And EXCUSING the System of WHITE SUPREMACY” is written across the screen, a sentiment Rock apparently supports.

CATHOLIC SCHOOL STUDENTS ALLEGEDLY MADE VIOLENT THREATS IN GUY FAWKES MASKS

BY AILA SLISCO

Police in a Detroit suburb are seeking criminal charges against students suspected of making masked threats against a Catholic high school on social media.

Detroit Catholic Central High School in Novi, Michigan was shut down Friday after students were threatened online by figures wearing Guy Fawkes masks, and warned of a violent attack set to take place that day. Officials at other area Catholic schools including Regina High School, Warren De La Salle Collegiate and University of Detroit Jesuit High School and Academy also cancelled classes over the threats. Authorities say the other schools were not directly threatened.

According to a Monday press release by Novi police, an investigation undertaken in association with federal authorities began on October 25, after a student’s parent contacted authorities. The parent reported that their child had seen a person wearing a Guy Fawkes mask while making threats towards Detroit Catholic Central High School on Snapchat. Another threat was allegedly made on October 31 by a figure wearing the same kind of mask, warning that “Everyone would be wearing masks and start killing” the following day at the school’s All Saints Day mass.

The original threat was allegedly made by an individual who lives with his parents in Ohio. It is claimed that he was assisted by three students from Detroit Catholic Central High School. Authorities say the October 31 threat was also made by a student at the same school, but the two threats are not directly related.

After quickly discovering the identities of the suspects, police are believed to have interviewed the five over the weekend. There does not appear to be any further threat. The school remained closed on Monday, but classes are set to resume Tuesday.

guy fawkes mask
Guy Fawkes masks have been a particularly popular method of disguise since the release of the 2005 film “V for Vendetta.”

Guy Fawkes masks have been popularly used as an anti-authoritarian symbol and disguise method after appearing in the 2005 film V for Vendetta. Set in a dystopian future version of England, the film’s protagonist wears the mask while attempting to counter a fascist government with violent acts. The masks were later worn by the anonymous members of online activist group “Anonymous.”

Fawkes was a key figure of the failed November 5, 1605 gunpowder plot, which involved a group of Catholics in England who hoped to install a Catholic monarch by assassinating King James I in an underground gunpowder explosion at the country’s Houses of Parliament.

Police have handed over the results of the investigation to the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office. The press release states that the school will be “levying applicable school discipline to the four students involved.”

If prosecutors who review the findings move forward with the case, the five will likely be charged with making terroristic threats, a felony that carries a possible prison sentence of 20 years.

Mystery surrounds the killing of a witness in the Amber Guyger trial. Here’s what we know

By HOLLY YAN

Two weeks ago, most of the country had never heard of Joshua Brown.The 28-year-old catapulted into the spotlight when he reluctantly testified in the murder trial of former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger, who was convicted of killing her neighbor, Botham Jean.Ten days after he testified, Brown was shot & killed, a victim of the gun violence he had always feared. Here’s what we know and don’t know about the case:

What we know:

Brown was visibly shaken after the murder of Botham Jean, who lived directly across the hall from him last year at Dallas’ South Side Lofts. The two men met hours before Guyger allegedly mistook Jean’s apartment for her own, walked in and killed Jean, thinking he was an intruder.On the night of September 6, 2018, Brown returned home at nearly the same time Guyger walked into Jean’s apartment.Brown said he was down the hall when he heard the voices of two people who sounded like they were meeting by “surprise.”Gunshots followed “right after,” Brown said.Later, Brown said, he saw Guyger leave Jean’s apartment and enter the hallway. The officer was on the phone.She was “crying, explaining what happened, what she thought happened, saying she came in to the wrong apartment,” Brown testified. Through his peep hole, Brown said he saw the former officer “going back, back and forth on the phone.”Brown testified he did not hear anyone say anything like, “Stop! Police!” But he said it was difficult to make out the brief and frantic words between Guyger and Jean. About three months after Jean’s death, Brown moved out of South Side Flats.He tried to keep a “low profile intentionally,” said attorney S. Lee Merritt, who represents both the Jean and Brown families.Brown moved to the Atera Apartments in Dallas, about five miles from his former complex.On Friday night, an assailant shot and killed Brown in the parking lot of the Atera Apartments.Witnesses told police they saw a silver, four-door sedan speeding out of the parking lot right after the shooting.

What we don’t know:

Who killed Brown, and why So far, police have made no arrests in Brown’s death.Investigators also don’t know what the motive was, DALLAS POILCE CHEIF U. RENEE HALL said. Authorities haven’t said whether Brown’s death has any connection to his testimony in the Guyger trial. Whether the killing was connected to the last time Brown was shot Brown had survived a shooting almost a year before his death, Merritt said. He was shot near a strip club in Dallas in November 2018, Merritt said. Brown and his family believed he was targeted in that shooting by someone he knew and had grown up with. Another man, Nicholas Shaquan Diggs, was killed in the shooting, Merritt said.After Brown was shot last year, “he was concerned that that person might try to come back and finish the job,” Merritt said.The gunman in that shooting has not yet been arrested.

Ship seized in $1.3 billion cocaine bust is owned by JP Morgan Chase

By CHRISTOPHER BRITO, JASON SILVERSTEIN

A cargo ship that was seized last month with nearly 20 tons of cocaine on board — with an estimated street value of $1.3 billion — belongs to JP Morgan Chase, a source familiar with the situation confirmed to CBS News. U.S. Customs and Border Protection said this was the largest vessel ever seized in the agency’s 230-year history. 

The ship, the MSC Gayane, is owned by JP Morgan Asset Management clients through a transportation fund managed by the bank, a source said. JP Morgan leased the ship to Mediterranean Shipping Co., a Switzerland-based shipping company, which is solely responsible for the vessel’s crews and operations.

JP Morgan Chase declined to comment on the record. Mediterranean Shipping Co. said in a statement, “Unfortunately, shipping and logistics companies are from time to time affected by trafficking problems.” The shipping company said it is cooperating with U.S. law enforcement on the investigation. Neither JP Morgan Chase nor MSC are targets of the criminal investigation.

The U.S. Justice Department said agents boarded the ship on June 17 after it arrived at the Packer Marine Terminal in Philadelphia, and seized 19.76 tons of cocaine. On the Fourth on July, CBP seized the ship itself for possible forfeiture to the U.S.

“A seizure of a vessel this massive is complicated and unprecedented — but it is appropriate because the circumstances here are also unprecedented,” U.S. Attorney William M. McSwain said in a statement. 

The ship, which was built in 2018 and flew under the flag of Liberia, had traveled through South America and the Bahamas before arriving in Philadelphia, according to Marine Traffic.

Several crew members on the ship have been charged with knowingly and intentionally conspiring with each other and others to possess cocaine, the Justice Department said. A federal criminal investigation is ongoing. 

Why dark-skinned black girls like me aren’t getting married

By DREAM McCLINTON

Black women in the US marry less than others – and the numbers are even lower for darker skinned black women. Is colorism – favoring lighter skin – to blame?

I take a deep breath and ready my fingers. I admonish myself for being theatrical about something so mundane. Another deep breath.

“Here we go,” I mutter, pressing enter.

My profile has been created. It seems simple enough: swipe left to dismiss, swipe right to express interest.

The first eligible bachelor appears – not my type, I swipe left. Then another follows – too young, I swipe left again. Ten swipes in, and I find myself texting my eldest sister this was a bad idea. A feeling of vexation settles over me.

I didn’t think I would ever have to use a dating app, but men don’t talk to me any other way.

I’ve spent so much time trying to understand what is so unattractive about me that men shun me. At first, I thought it was because I was intimidating – a word I’ve heard used to describe me. For a while, I concluded I was “not that interesting,” a line I subsequently used as my biography on social media. But those explanations won’t do.

The real issue is staring me right in the face: my deep mahogany skin.

Colorism – the prejudice based on skin tone – has stunted the romantic lives of millions of dark-skinned black women, including me. We are not as valued as our lighter-skinned counterparts when seeking romantic partners, our dating pool constricted because of something as arbitrary as shoe size.

Like other systems of racial inequality, American colorism was born out of slavery. As slave masters raped enslaved women, their lighter-skinned illegitimate offspring were given preferential treatment over their darker counterparts, often working in the house as opposed to the fields. This order has since been perpetuated by systemic racism and internalized by black people. It remains alive even now, insidiously snaking into my life.

I have many memories of being degraded because of my complexion, the most piercing is from middle school: two girls giggled in my Georgia history class during the showing of a documentary about slavery. As the film explained the origins of skin tone prejudice, one girl – biracial, hazel-eyed and the only other black girl in class – whispered that she would have been a house slave, but that I would have been a field slave. As the famous image of whipped Peter played on screen, I sank down in my chair, silently greeting the weight of oppression on my 12-year-old shoulders.

In many ways, nothing has changed since that day. Dark skin still not only comes with the expectation of lower class but lessened beauty, not to mention uncleanliness, lesser intelligence and a diminished attractiveness. Meanwhile, everywhere we look, women like me see successful black men coupled with fair-skinned female partners who pass the paper bag test – a remnant of the Reconstruction era, where the only black people worthy of attention had to be lighter than a paper bag. This “test” was even instituted in places such as historically black colleges and universities as an informal part of the admissions process.

Today, this gradation discrimination remains. “It’s typical to see light-skinned black women as representing beauty in the black community and therefore being highly desirable for high-status spouses,” says Dr Margaret Hunter, who teaches sociology at Oakland’s Mills College and has studied the relationship between marriage and colorism for over two decades. Hunter sums it up like this: “Black women in general marry less than other races but darker-skinned black women marry men of lower social status than the lightest-skinned black women.”

The lighter the shade, the higher the probability of marriage

Jasmine Turner, owner of BlackMatchMade, a Chicago-based matchmaking company, agrees this affects all black women. “Honestly, I think black women tend to lower their standards because they’re finding challenges in dating. Now I’m finding that black women are like ‘You know what, as long as he has a good job and he’s a good person …’ No matter how successful they are, they’re open to dating him.”

I’ve never been one to settle. I’ve taken this attitude to the app, only searching for men who are gainfully employed and fairly decent-looking. But I definitely understand what she means. Previously, dating has made me feel like I must drop some of my must-have criteria – a college education, a steady job, and able and willing to pay for the first date – in order to find a match. My mother has even scolded me for it, telling me to raise my standards: “I’ve been on a lot of dates, and no girl should ever pay for a first date!”

But my feelings of a necessary drop in standards have been validated by research from Dr Darrick Hamilton, a professor of economics and sociology at Ohio State University. Hamilton aggregated information from the 2003 Multi-City Study of Urban Equality to identify why so many dark-skinned women who date men remain bachelorettes. His assessment was designed to show how the imbalance of eligible black males – taking into account high incarceration rates and a limited labor market – affects the marriage market.

His research shows that a scarcity in available “high-status” husbands (defined as higher levels of education, not growing up on public assistance, coming from neighborhoods that had less crime), effectively leave black men in control of the dating selection process. His data concluded 55% of light-skinned women were married while only 23% of dark-skinned women had jumped the broom.

“[Black men] have unnatural power within marriage markets that enables them to bid up cursory characteristics like skin shade,” Hamilton told me over the phone. In other words, the lighter the female, the higher the probability of marriage. “One of the results that we found was that [darker-complexioned] black women who have ‘higher status’ faced a greater penalty in marriage markets than those with a lower socioeconomic status.”

According to his research, I am the epitome of the “high-status” option. College educated, familial middle class background, age 16-30, able-bodied. But according to the equation, I haven’t the “social capital” (read: skin tone) to seek a quality match.

But before even entertaining thoughts of marriage, I have to get past the dating stage. Turner says she often sees black men pass up perfectly eligible dark-skinned women. “Black men will say, ‘complexion doesn’t matter’, but they might give that lighter complexion woman who is very comparable to a darker-complexion woman a chance, when they wouldn’t give that darker-skinned woman a chance.

The effects play out in the lives of women like me and my friend Larissa. We usually like to talk about sci-fi books and traveling, but today I ask her if she’s ever felt diminished by men due to her complexion. “Sometimes, I can kinda feel their eyes sliding off of me to go the pretty white girl next to me, or even the fairer-skinned Yara Shahidi type,” she says, a twinge of sadness in her voice. While she sees herself getting married, she doesn’t know if she will end up with a black man. “I don’t necessarily see myself walking down the aisle with a black guy. Not because I’ve written them off or because I don’t want to, but just realistically, based on how the dating life has been treating me and how I’ve been approached.”

Julie Wadley of North Carolina’s matchmaking service EliSimone, which caters to a mostly black clientele, has observed this dynamic in her field. “I’ve had colleagues who were like, ‘Hey, I have a black client and he’s open to any race’. I’m like ‘Oh, OK, great! I’ll send you a couple of matches who fit what he’s looking for. Then they’ll come back and say, ‘She’s too ethnic looking’.”

I know exactly what she means, but I ask anyway: “What would ‘too ethnic’ mean, in terms of look?”

“Dark skin. Someone who is probably brown to dark skin. Someone with natural hair. Someone who is over the size of six,” she answers. “I would bet $5,000 every single one of my black colleagues have had that happen. Where they’ll come back and say, ‘Uh, well, he’s only looking for someone who is very fair’; or, ‘He’s looking for someone who is light-skinned’.”

Still, Wadley tells me, she hoped I’m not writing a “woe is me, nobody wants dark-skinned girls” article. I wince hearing it, hoping for the same, deep down. But this topic doesn’t lend itself to optimism.

‘It made me feel like I would never be wanted

Writing this piece, a memory I had long forgotten resurfaces. At university, on the line for the security check-in for dorms, I bumped into a friend of my former roommate. I inquired about something someone had said. Immediately, his face changed from joy to anger. “You’re too dark to be talking to me like this, Dream,” he sneered. Hurt to the point of rage, I bristled and walked away. We never had a conversation again.

I aimlessly skim the app late one night, swiping left, right, right, left. I’ve only made a few matches since downloading it the week before. Then, I come across a profile. “I only date light-skinned women…” reads his bio, even though his skin tone matches mine. I wasn’t going to swipe right in the first place – he was not cute – but I still feel the bristle of my sophomore year. I roll my eyes, and swipe to the next one.

I would like to think I’ve grown up since that 19-year-old who was insulted at the gate of my dorm. My dark skin is not something to be ashamed of, even if past lovers made it clear they were ashamed to be associated with me because of it. I’ve been all of it before – I’m dating someone but there’s a secrecy to our relationship: hands that only hold yours in private, a reluctance to present you to family and friends, kisses that only meet your lips when no one else can see.

I hate that I’ve had to beg for legitimacy in my intimate relationships. I hate that my friends have had to do so too. I want love, but my self-esteem is too high a price to pay.

Sharlene and I met at a Kendrick Lamar concert during our freshman year of college and we’ve stayed in contact ever since. Knowing she’s shared similar sentiments about dating in the past, I get in touch, hoping to round out my perspective on the matter. “I feel like dark-skinned women were just the women that men had behind closed doors. They weren’t trophy wives enough for you to show to the world. Somebody wouldn’t want to show me off but, next thing you know, they’ve got somebody lighter and they’re showing them off … It made me feel like I would never be wanted.”

Deflated, I talk to Elizabeth, my former sophomore-year roommate, who is now in her third year of law school. I ask if a partner has said anything rude to her because of her skin tone. She names a man I know, to my dismay. “There was just a comment that he made one time. [He said] ‘I want a white family’.” She laughs: “It was just so weird to me because you’re telling me you want a white family. I can’t give you that! Like, why are you talking to me?”

“I want a white family.” The words stick with me for the rest of the day, weighing me down like a bale of cotton. It brings tears to my eyes. I wonder: are dark-skinned women just the placeholders until they meet their desired match? Do all these men really just want white families?

A few nights into the app, another guy pops up on my screen – decent looking and seemingly gainfully employed. I’m mildly interested. His profile bio is just one line: “The darker the berry, the sweeter the juice.”

My immediate thoughts warn me of a possible fetish. Dating with dark skin often comes with a double-edged sword: we are unwanted, except by men who want to create an experience out of us, leaving our personhood out of the equation altogether. We become empty objects, vehicles for pleasure, rather than multi-dimensional beings.

Hunter vocalizes this sentiment. “At the same time, there’s also a kind of fetishization of darker skin. So sometimes you’ll hear people say ‘I only like dark-skinned women’ or that ‘dark skin is sexy’ or something like that,” she tells me. “Not that those things aren’t true or good, but they also kind of objectifying or sexualizing in a way that isn’t necessarily the solution to the discrimination. It’s an inversion, basically.”

The bachelor on my screen shares my mahogany skin tone. But I’m wary he, like other black men, may fall victim to this form of objectification. I remember how Sharlene expressed her frustrations with her beauty being seen as skin deep. “We can’t get just get a regular compliment,” she laments. “I know that people think that calling me chocolate all the time, or talking about ‘your skin is beautiful’ is a compliment. But why can’t I just be beautiful?”

I hear what she and Dr Hunter are saying, but my choices are few. I feel limited; I was made to feel this way. In the end, I swipe right. My screen darkens, proclaiming a match has been made. We chat, but the spark isn’t there.

But three weeks after joining the app, I finally hit a stride and start having more fun. I’ve matched with someone who seems promising. He’s smart, we work in the same industry, and our conversations online have been pleasant. I ask him to meet, and he agrees.

We are meeting at a food hall; for me, it’s a short walk and a train across town but feels like a world away. A slew of hopes run through me on the way over. I hope I’ll be just as attracted to him in person as I am online. I hope he won’t murder me.

I approach the hall, take a deep breath, and ready my fingers to pull the door open. “Here we go,” I whisper to myself.