- prejudice or discrimination against individuals with a dark skin tone, typically among people of the same ethnic or racial group.
“Team Light Skin. Team Dark Skin. Light skins are soft. Light skinned girls are evil. Dark skinned girls are tough. Dark skinned men are intimidating. Dark skinned men are winning. Light skins taking all the L’s this year. I don’t like dark skinned girls. Light skinned women are stuck up.”
Ah, all the rhetoric we hear in the Black community regarding the skin tones of our counterparts. In case you didn’t know, colorism is nothing new. Darker skinned slaves were to work in the fields while the lighter skin slaves worked in the big house. Working in the house was considered to be a privilege; no toiling in the elements under the watch of a wrathful overseer. Have you ever read about the horrors house slaves went through as well? Working in such close proximity to your owner was not a walk in the park either. Be that as it may, Black people have been divided on skin color for centuries. During our most tragic period of oppression, this was a key element in keeping slaves from uniting. Find a way to esteem one segment of them over the other, and now you have created resentment. You can’t be strong if you have no unity, meaning you can’t come together to stir up any trouble. The idea that the lighter you are, the better has carried on into present day. Fast forward 200 years, and it is still the same. White people or other races may find darker skinned Black people more intimidating, but it seems as if the bigger issues with skin tones come from inside the Black community. All of the brainwashing has divided us on the very thing we wish to no longer be marginalized for. As I write this I am brought back to 4th grade when two of my good friends told me they didn’t want to be my friend any more because I thought I was “all that” because I am light skinned with long hair. Everything was all good just a day ago, but now I am a villain over things I could not control. They even had the teacher move their desks away from mine. Why would 10 year old girls reject a friend they had fun with daily based off of looks? No child that young should already feel so self-conscious about their skin that they can’t even hold on to an elementary level friendship. Black people as a minority are forced to live in a country where the standard of beauty looks nothing like us. Of course we come in all shades, eye colors, hair colors, etc., but we will never posses the European standard of fair skin, blonde hair and blue eyes. Instead, the Black community desires for someone to look as close to White without actually being White to be considered attractive. Light skin, light eyes, long “good hair.” That’s the recipe. The division in the Black community is staggering. We are divided across gender lines, education, and of course skin color. Outside forces contribute to our lack of unity, but we do much of the damage internally.
Pretty For a Dark Girl
One backhanded compliment that has always made me sick is “Wow, you’re so pretty! What are you mixed with? Oh, you’re not mixed? You’re so pretty to be just Black!” What the hell is that supposed to mean? I forgot that Black women are not supposed to be beautiful. I find our full lips, rich toned skin and thick hair gorgeous. Want to know what’s worse? When another Black person tells a darker Black woman that she’s pretty for a dark skinned girl. So if you took her exact same features and placed them on a lighter canvas, she would look better? The only thing that happens when you tell a dark skinned person they’re pretty for a dark girl is the negative connotations of having dark skin get reinforced. All I hear is “you’re still ugly, just not as ugly as the others.” The beauty of Black people is how diverse we are within our own race. My paternal grandmother is very fair skinned and had red hair. My maternal grandmother was chocolate skinned with thick black hair. Would there be a such thing as beauty if we all looked exactly the same? The media does not help. Usually when you see a Black woman on a commercial she looks mixed or is lighter complexioned. Turn on a music video and the video vixens all have the same look. Light skinned, long weave and voluptuous bodies. Of course this is not always the case, but majority rules. Colorism floods rap lyrics constantly: “I like a long haired, thick red-bone,” “Beautiful black woman, I bet that bitch look better red.” I salute my dark skinned sistas. You have to have thick skin to listen to your own people degrade you, yet still support them nonetheless. As Black people in America, we constantly have to deal with a lack of representation. We’ve had to create our own networks, magazines, carve out a section of Black Twitter, and usually are the only Black faces at our job. We hate it, yet we do it within our own community. So what if we have been conditioned to equate dark skin with aggressiveness and being less attractive? That foolishness has got to stop. Guess what? We are all dark skinned to the police and to the judge. I find it incredibly stupid that we diminish the looks of another Black person just because society has tried to tell us that dark is not valued. You do not have to be light to be attractive, you do not have to be mixed to be beautiful.
Unless you live under a rock, you have surely watched or heard about humanitarian/actor Jesse William’s iconic speech at the BET Awards last weekend. In case you missed it, catch a clip of that here. After watching his speech, I felt empowered. I felt understood, and most of all I felt proud. I felt proud to be Black, but I was also proud that he used his moment of recognition to acknowledge us all. It was very moving. But like with everything, people love to rain on the parade. Instead of being supportive, some Black people decided that we only responded with such intrigue to Jesse Williams because he is light skinned with blue eyes. Former NFL player Ochocinco had to write Kendrick Lamar on Twitter to say something to the effect of, he has been saying these things on his albums all along, but no one wanted to listen until a light skinned, pretty boy said something. What a perfect way to shift the focus off of what is really important to petty, dramatic irrelevance. Who cares who says what is important, as long as it is being said? What would have been the complaint if Idris Elba had said it instead of Jesse Williams? He’s dark skinned but he has a British accent, so it doesn’t count? Light skinned people experience racism everyday. I have been followed around in stores. I’ve gone on job interviews where when the interviewer came out and saw she was interviewing a Black woman, her face recoiled. When I first started college, some of the staff couldn’t believe that I wasn’t there on an athletic scholarship. I guess Black people only go to college to dribble or throw a ball around. I was accused of stealing from the mall with my friend when I was 16, and 4 cop cars surrounded us, only to find nothing. What did my light skinned “privilege” do for me on all of those occasions? Nothing. It doesn’t matter how light you are or if your eyes are the color of the sea in the Caribbean, you are going to experience racism. Why try to create a divide between Kendrick and Jesse when we can appreciate them both for trying to open people’s eyes? The point is to care about the cause. If people were being this petty during the Civil Rights Movement, we would still be sitting in the back of the bus. It’s the message that is important, not necessarily the messenger. It seems like our generation has to make everything a competition and getting credit supersedes solving the problem at hand. I want my student loans eradicated. Would I be salty that they listened to Donald’s solution over Hillary’s? Nope, as long as I’m debt free.
When Preference Turns Into Bashing
When it comes to chicken, I prefer white meat over dark meat. I just think it tastes better. It looks more appetizing and is much juicier. Does that mean I gotta throw shade at dark meat and talk about how I think it tastes less flavorful and how eating chicken thighs annoys me? So many walk the fine line between having a preference and putting something else down. Personally, when it comes to men, I can take them either way; caramel skin or chocolate skin that looks like velvet, it doesn’t matter. Too bad we aren’t all as neutral. I see on Twitter at least once a day men championing light skinned women as if they are the best thing since sliced bread, while demeaning our darker women in the same 140 characters. We all have a type, but we are also the roots of the same Black tree. In essence, you’re putting yourself and your ancestors down. It’s normal to have a type, you don’t have to be Rae Sremmurd. But why in explaining what you’re attracted to, you have to make it a point to point out something negative regarding your counterpart? Of course we can make jokes within our own community, but sometimes these jokes extend beyond a few laughs. I see so many insensitive jokes toward dark skinned people, the perpetual stereotype of light skinned people being weak, and the defense that everyone is entitled to their own preference which soothes no hurt feelings. As Black women, we hate it when Black men spit on our image in their pursuit of White women and other races. I personally don’t care who wants to date whom, but you don’t have the right to make us feel less than in the process. It’s very normal to fall in love with someone you didn’t originally see as your type, but many just objectify based off of skin tone/color. Do you love the actual person or are you infatuated with their looks? I had a conversation with a man once who said he would only date
light skinned mixed Black women or White women because he wanted to have light skinned children. This man said he hated Black women’s nappy hair, but mixed girls have pretty curls and light eyes. I didn’t know he had a degree in genetics or had the ability to design his own children, but what flawed logic to have. He was speaking as if he was swinging his hair in Vidal Sassoon commercials. This man was midnight dark, yet he wanted his future children to look nothing like him. This is what happens when you live in a world where ‘White is Right.’ A certain standard of beauty has been drilled into our heads, and we can’t seem to shake it. We want our lives to matter, yet we throw shade at each other based off looks. Having a hierarchy within our own culture impedes progress. Whether you like light skin, brown skin, purple skin or dark, you can make a choice and still uplift the other. Even if you choose not to uplift us all, that’s fine, just don’t put the rest of us down while doing your thing. I don’t know about you, but I want Black people to be a united front, not divided among lines of color.