Monday, June 17, 2013
Are We Still Talking About Dark vs Light Skin?
I was somewhat irritated when I saw it because it was a disappointing reminder of just how prejudicial and discriminatory people still are towards others based on race and skin tone. As a young girl, I lived in different countries and was exposed to a diversity of communities and cultures. I had neighbors and friends that were white, black, dark, and light-skinned. I never thought of their skin tone as important or anything to see as advantageous or not.
The first real time I felt labeled by my skin tone was when I came to New Orleans, LA for college. I remember I was at the Atlanta airport waiting at the gate terminal for my connecting flight to New Orleans when the elderly, light-skinned, black lady sitting close by struck up a conversation with me. She asked me where I was headed and when I told her New Orleans she smiled at me and said, "now New Orleans is a wonderful city full of great history and culture but you gotta be prepared because they are racist against their own girl." Being the naive girl I was I asked what she meant by that. She went on to tell me that I was a pretty dark-skinned girl but a lot of black people in New Orleans discriminated against their dark-skinned counterparts and devalued them in comparison to lighter-skinned folks. Now I wasn't sure how to take what she said and didn't think much of it until my first encounters with guys on campus.
It was shocking! I remember guys trying to "holla" at me with lines like "damn girl, you're so pretty...for a dark girl". What? They couldn't possibly think I would see that as a compliment. I couldn't believe it when I heard guys on campus try to get a girls attention by yelling out "say black!" or "say red!" I remember asking someone what that meant and a friend telling me that dark-skinned people were sometimes called "black" and light-skinned people "yellow" or "red". I thought it was the most ridiculous thing I had ever heard. The most unbelievable part to me was that it was always African-Americans saying this to one another. Never Caucasians, Latinos, or any other race. Only Blacks.
Later on I was informed by friends of the dissension amongst the female sororities. Aka's were the "pretty" sorority, with mainly light-skinned members and the Zeta's were known by many as the "ugly" sorority, with mostly dark-skinned members. Really? Then what blew my mind was when I found out that many young women in the city had slept with fair-skinned men in the area for the sole purpose of having "fair, pretty-eyed, good-hair babies". It all seemed like one big joke to me but the sad truth is that this "color system" still remains a relevant part of many parts of America, mainly in the South, and in many places around the world.
My heart goes out to the children born into such communities; it's bad enough that you are susceptible to racism from other races but to be discriminated by your own race simply because of your skin color is heartbreaking. I believe as young women, black women especially, we have a communal duty to help instill self-worth and value in the young girls coming up. It is important that we remind all young girls (our sisters, daughters, goddaughters, nieces, neighborhood girls, students, etc) how beautiful and special they are, irrespective of their skin tone, and how to love and respect everyone else equally.
It is important not to parade little fair-skinned girls as pretty dolls or trophies while neglecting darker-skinned girls. I've been to many children's events where African-American adults are "ooh-ing" and "aahh-ing" over the light-skinned children and completely disregarding the dark-skinned kids. All these seemingly innocent, minor acts have a huge impact on the young, impressionable minds of little girls. As mature young women, we should have zero tolerance for such discrimination and should make that evident in our daily lives and encounters with people. The fact that this is still such a huge issue and that millions of young girls are still battling this type of discrimination tells me that not enough people are concerned about it and that is one sad pill to swallow.
So lovely readers, what are your thoughts on the matter? Do you agree that this is an issue we should all actively address or do you think I am giving it more credit than due? Do you have any personal experiences of discrimination that you would like to share? Please leave your comments below. I would love to know what you think!