“Dark Girls:” The Light-Skinned Vs. Dark-Skinned Dichotomy
How is beauty perceived in a race that has endured enslavement, second-class treatment and the denial of basic civil rights?
Even hundreds of years later, there’s no surprise why a race would struggle to maintain a positive cultural identity after its people were institutionally considered as an 8th of a human being and depicted as animals. It’s only logical that a race would struggle to love their skin when its people have become replete with insecurity and are surrounded by an enormous amount of scrutiny from the outside.
Dark Girls, the documentary on Colorism in the context of women of the African diaspora, put a spotlight on these issues.
Growing up, my mother and two older brothers showered me with praises for being both beautiful and intelligent—and I believed them. As a lighter-skinned woman, I couldn’t wholly relate to the women in Dark Girls who spoke about the turmoil their complexions caused them. Though I did have moments of staring myself in the mirror and feeling insecure, I never actively believed my skin color or hair texture made me ugly, undesirable, or unlovable.
Dark Girls exemplified the so-common misguided and ignorant dispositions about black women of different shades. Generally, gross ideals tie dark-skinned women to having too much attitude or not being as beautiful, while light-skinned women tend to be thought of as stuck up or promiscuous. In the documentary, one guy says he doesn’t like dark-skinned women because he believes they all are too angry. He presumes their attitude stems from dealing with a lot of shade about their complexion. In contrast, a different guy says light-skinned women can’t be considered true queens or “pharaohs” because of their complexion. (Read: not being “black enough.”) He also says they expect too much, jokingly adding that to be with a light-skinned women, guys need to have a Jerry curl.
Other vivid illustrations of the separation in the community came from the jarring stories the women in Dark Girls told. They recounted times they were insulted by their lighter-skinned peers. One woman cried as she recounted the time a friend said something like “Thank God my baby didn’t come out dark!” Another woman remembered a time when some girls she knew poured Nair in a light-skinned girl’s hair—a symbol of perceived superiority.
I’m not interested in getting into a self-righteous debate about who gets the most hurtful or annoying comments from the outside, light-skinned or dark-skinned girls. I’m most interested in a conversation about how there is so much separation within the community, yet the unifying factor is that black women, regardless of skin tone, are still black and perceived as the same from the outside communities. Even direr to realize is that skin tone doesn’t negate the lifestyle disparities between black woman and other women. The truth is, black women have bigger problems than the tired “light skin vs. dark skin” dichotomy.
For starters, behind American Indian/Alaskan women and women of mixed race, Black women are most likely to be raped in their lifetime. Black women are also the racial group that is most at risk to be in an abusive relationship. Health-wise, black women are disproportionately affected by a number of ailments and diseases including but not limited to: heart disease, fibroids, HIV/AIDS, diabetes, lupus, breast cancer, and hypertension to name a few. Black women are also the least coupled group, as Dark Girls pointed out. According to a study conducted in 2006, approximately 45% of American black women never get married compared to 23% of American white women—a stark difference. What’s more, the wage gap hits black women the hardest. Women earn $0.77 for every dollar a man makes; but black women earn $0.70 for every dollar her counterpart earns. There’s more, but can we all now agree that we need to prioritize which issues get all of our attention?
It’s understood that universally, having paler skin (and straighter hair) is upheld as an ideal beauty standard. Black women have brown skin and tightly coiled hair, making it difficult to feel gorgeous in a world where the opposite of our very features are deemed pretty. But we have the power to reaffirm our own beauty standards and exude confidence. It starts with black women.
When black women as a whole are faced with such calamities, why are we still beefing over light and dark complexions?
Powered by Facebook Comments