Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Light Skinned Blacks vs. Dark Skinned Blacks

So, I was watching a re-run of the Tyra Show last night and it was on the taboo topic of Light Skinned Blacks vs. Dark Skinned blacks. When discussing the subject, she had the audience determine who fell under which skin complexion, what women felt about their skin color versus that of someone who is lighter or darker, and lastly what men felt about skin color when choosing the women they date. As a young black woman, this topic is a situation that we confront daily and often times it creates prejudice within the black community. One woman on the show who was of a lighter skinned complexion looked foolish as she degraded darker skinned women by considering herself superior and by disallowing her 12 year old son to bring home a dark skinned girlfriend. Sounds preposterous huh? Well, it's true and it's happening in our society today. As a dark skinned woman I will say that 'Black is Beautiful' period. Regardless of the shade, we are all one people. Dark skinned women have taken the fall while light skinned women have reaped benefits in other areas such as entertainment, magazine covers, and shows. Many seek the light complexion, long hair, and hazel eyes, without realizing that dark women too can have long hair without the aid of extensions. While Hazel eyes are not so common, a black woman with brown eyes can be just as beautiful. I have friends that vary in skin color and I have noticed a trend where groups of guys notice us due to my lighter skinned friends first. Has this ever occurred in your group of friends?

On the show, Whitney of 'America's Next Top Model' mentioned when guys approach her they will comment ' Your bad for a dark skinned girl'. What's that supposed to mean? I can relate all too well when I've had guys, even male friends, make the same comment. While I may brush it off with a thank you and a smile, it is wrong and meaningless. I, too, play a part by allowing them to sway me to feel as if they just said something positive, when in all actuality they are downplaying ethnic women. As equally interesting, when the men were asked who they approach the darks stuck with the darks and the lights stuck with the lights. Surprising? Yes and No, I'm of two minds. Some choose to stick with what they know because physically it looks better. Others choose to branch off to their opposite because of their taste preference as well as silly reasons such as the predicted color of their offspring's. For personal testimony, my cousin and I are opposites in complexion. I'm of darker skin and she is much lighter than I. However, she tends to date darker guys and I somehow end up with lighter guys. Pure coincidence, no such preference. My friends always joke around when I tell them I've met someone new by responding 'He's light skinned, ain't he?'. Surely enough, he usually is, but not by choice per say. I'm not the bold type, so I rarely approach men, they generally approach me. So the guys that do approach me more often are lighter skinned guys. I can remember a time when I was talking to a guy and I was supposed to head back over to his house. Instead of telling me to head over, he instead responded 'my sister's home'. What that had to do with me coming baffled me, but I let him go on. 'She and her friends are here and they're clowns. They're gonna say 'Oh she's too dark . . .'. Was I hurt? Taken aback? Hell yea. But did I say anything? No.

It's happening Ladies, and it's not so much a new thing, it's an ongoing historical thing amongst African Americans. The women who columned in Essence weren't afraid to confront the issue and Tyra wasn't afraid to bring it out on her show. As her little protege (he he), I wanted to put it in the air as well. So tell me ladies, have you ever faced the light skinned versus dark skinned issue?


Gangstarr Girl said...

I have faced the light skin vs dark skin issue. One boy in the 5th grade teased me relentlessly because I'm dark but I ran into him again in HS and he tried to holla. But aside from that I've had people say things here and there like I'd be prettier if I was lighter or that i'm a "pretty dark skin girl" but overall, it hasn't completely fucked with my sense of self and beauty. I mean, I do think people are ignorant when it comes to color. I've seen in a lot of cases that the lighter you are or the whiter your features, you're regarded as being attractive and even treated better. But the bottom line is it isn't just black people. The world (Hispanics, Asians etc) has been taught to worship white. It's really a shame. At the end of the day, I know I'm attractive and I'm a catch and my confidence speaks for itself so if someone wants to judge me for my darkskin and my locs, fuck em. I have no problem getting dates.

P.S. I didn't see that episode of Tyra but i don't like when she does shows like that. They always seem a bit one sided and she doesn't explore the issue deep enough.

Gangstarr Girl

Anonymous said...

I too have run into this problem... Im a medium brown complexion and I have friends who are lighter as well as friends who are darker... we usually all joke about it but usually our lighter skinned friends do get approached first. It is a sad reality but luckily my mother raised me to recognize the beauty in all people and most importantly myself.

Staci said...

I am light skin and still remember not fitting in with my darkskin friends in school. They seemed to have the issue with me, which left me feeling insecure. Today, I'm constantly told "I need to get a tan" or that I'm "bright". I don't see color but have noticed I tend to date men who are brown skin or dark skin.

Anonymous said...

I've had the same skin complexion issues. I'm what one will consider a dark skin female and one thing I dislike hearing is that "you are pretty for a dark skin girl". Why can't it just be that i'm pretty period? Luckily, I was raised to be extremely confident so things like that do not bother me, its just gets annoying. I think its also funny that most of the compliments that I have recieved in my lifetime has been about my skin tone. Ex: "I thought only Hershey's has the best chocolate but you damn sure proved me wrong girl"...And as for light skinned girls, I do think they are usually the first one to get approached, especially by African American Men. However, I do not completely blame them for being shallow because the American society have drilled in our heads that lighter skin is always better...

~Mercy A.

1stLady said...

I believe that dark skinned women are on a come up. I was watching that series scream queen on vh1
and the black girl won out of all those white girls. Especially this one white girl thought she was gone win because she was pretty but she got played. I think dark is beautiful because that is the true meaning of black. I am a proud dark skinned female and beautiful to I used to feel ugly because I was not light but all light skinned people is not pretty. I wish there could be a dark skinned woman convention held where we speak about how we are beautiful and how we can overcome this racism in our on race. That is my dream! I hope someone can help me to make it happen!!!

Anonymous said...

How Colorism Colors Our Daily Lives
by Kim

As young women of color, we might not have ever heard the word “colorism” before, but I would bet a million dollars that all of us have, at some point in our lives, observed or even experienced it. For example, we practice colorism when we refer to straight, long hair as “good”, and kinky hair as “nappy.” We refer to it when we call people “red bone” or “t'r baby”. We reinforce it when we talk about “putting milk in your coffee”; that is, when an individual with a dark skin tone seeks a lighter skinned partner in the hopes that the children will also have a light complexion.

Colorism can be defined as the practice of placing value on skin tones, with a preference for lighter skin. This behavior pervades the mentality of many cultural societies to such a large degree that many of us have become desensitized to it, and even have come to accept it as part of our own way of thinking. African American writer Maya Angelou comments on this issue in her book “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”. The narrator says: "Wouldn't they be surprised when one day I woke out of my black ugly dream, and my real hair, which was long and blond, would take the place of the kinky mass Momma wouldn't let me straighten? My light-blue eyes would hypnotize them”

Why is it that our society has this disturbing “color stuck” obsession? One factor comes from the enslavement of Africans, who were subsequently shipped out of Africa into the US and the Caribbean. Sexual relations between white masters and black slaves resulted in mixed children who bore more Caucasian features than other slaves, like a lighter skin tone and straighter hair and noses. These individuals were favored over darker slaves because they could “pass” for white, and were thus given more opportunities for education and to climb the social ladder. Thus the message black men and women learned was that European features were more desirable and were synonymous with social status and beauty. We still share this message today.

However, colorism is more an issue within a racial or ethnic group, rather across racial groups. With colorism, people discriminate against their own people, by valuing lighter skin over dark skin. Look at any catalog, magazine or television commercial featuring an African American woman, and usually she will have a light skin tone, and straight hair, or that “nice” curly hair that is unlike the kinky texture most African Americans have. Watch those BET and MTV music videos. They feature such a high percentage of light-skinned video dancers that it’s almost a shock to see a woman with mocha or chocolate colored skin tones. Look at the Latino soap operas, where most of the star actors and actresses have European features and do not really represent the diverse range of features that the Latino population possesses. In many Asian cultures, people who have lighter skin are thought to be of a higher class, because they do not have to work in the sun, which would give them darker skin.

This practice of colorism has affected our mentality so much-to the point where in our societies, young girls cannot wait till they’re old enough to relax their hair chemically (to make it straighter). To the point where some individuals have “light skin” as part of their criteria for choosing a mate. To the point where skin bleaching creams have become a standard item in the cosmetic bags of many women.

Colorism. If you’ve never thought about it before as a problem, now is a good time to analyze how hurtful it can be to young women of color. It creates serious divisions among us, and can create a negative self-perception for those who aren’t born with the “right” skin tone and features. We all need to recognize colorism for what it is- a superficial, divisive, and destructive mindset. And if we can break that mentality within ourselves and refuse to reinforce it in our societies, then we can break the cycle of passing this practice on to future generations…and maybe one day soon colorism itself will be a legacy of the past.

ed said...



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