Like many of you, I was excited to watch Bill Duke’s “Light Girls” on OWN last night. When I tuned in, DVR set, I was expecting to hear some much needed insight and intelligent conversation around the topic of colorism within the Black community.
To my dismay, I was bombarded with a panel of light skin women recounting how they were bullied by brown/dark skin women, AND wait for it…how they were more likely to be sexually abused.
Now listen, I hate colorism just as much as the next conscious Black person, but dammit, there are some things about this documentary that we just can’t let fly.
First, let me start by saying that I don’t doubt that light skin Black women have had a rough time in this country. I know just how evil some people can be. With that being said, I really didn’t hear much of ANYONE who was interviewed acknowledge the heightened sense of importance that SOME light skin women seem to have…OR their privilege! I feel like the documentary spent a lot of time villianizing brown/dark women. *Cut to images of “nappy headed” brown girl standing by with sharp scissors, waiting for the chance to cut some long, luxurious, “sandy brown” hair* as one of the interviewees put it. The doc seemed to talk more about how light skin women were dying to be brown, and how dark skin women were dying to be light, but nothing about what is REALLY going on in our communities, and how to solve the problem.
The doc even touched on albinism…I wasn’t quite sure how that even fit into the documentary, but hell, what do I know?
Scratch that. I do know some things, and in the words of Oprah, “This is what I know for sure.” : Having light skin, does not make you a trophy. Having dark skin does not mean you are “down for whatever”, “down to earth” and able to change a tire in 2 minutes flat. NO. “Light Girls” reinforced that idea.
Adia Rodriguez, although she was one of the people I rather enjoyed in this piece, reinforced negative stereotypes about dark skin women without even knowing it, describing herself as “Marilyn McCoo on the outside and Florida Evans on the inside.”
Then, Raven Symone, who recently said publicly that she didn’t want to be referred to as “Black” talked about how she tanned three times a week to be prettier.
I get that Raven. I really do. But here’s what everyone needs to understand. Historically, people with darker skin have suffered more. Now let me make this disclaimer: This isn’t a competition. I certainly don’t want us arguing back and forth about who’s more oppressed within the Black community.
But what I DO want us to do is think about the messages we put out for the world to see.
I know about dark skin vs light skin. My mother is very light skin. My father is very dark. As a child, I would sometimes wonder why I wasn’t just a little bit lighter. I’d wonder why my nose wasn’t as slender as my mom’s. Why did I have to have all of my dad’s “Black” features?? I wondered. On my mom’s side of the family, I was the “dark one.” Me and my grandpa, that is. Subconsciously, I think that’s why he and I have such a strong bond. Let me be clear, no one in my family ever made me feel like an outcast. Luckily, I lived in a household where being any shade of Black was celebrated, and any color complex I had was quickly done away with.
My father had his share of run-ins with folk because of the color of his skin. I had friends who weren’t always comfortable in their skin because of their complexion. I had dark skin friends who were teased for being dark, but I never witnessed light skin girls being teased for being light. If anything, they were glorified for being “pretty.” I had a friend who refused to go swimming because she didn’t want to get “too dark.” Needless to say, that bothered me. When I first got to college, a guy told me that he “didn’t date brown girls”, but would make an exception for me. I guess that was supposed to be a compliment? Ugh.
That has been MY experience. So, I’m sorry. I can’t really sing the praises of this documentary. I think it actually created more of a divide than address the actual problems…which in the end, continue to be structural and internalized racism.
See internalized racism here:
I think people in the Black community need to realize that at the end of the day, we’re all Black, and THAT’S not going to change. Light skin is not a badge of honor, and dark skin is not a scarlet letter. Self destruction isn’t the answer.
Tell me what you think! What has been YOUR experience when it comes to colorism in the Black community?