Monday, June 17, 2013

Are We Still Talking About Dark vs Light Skin?

 Happy Monday lovelies! I hope you all had a wonderful Father's Day weekend. I love my dad so much and I am so happy and blessed to have him in my life:) Earlier during the weekend I came across the TV preview for a controversial documentary, "Dark Girls", airing soon on the OWN network. The documentary is about the difficulties and prejudices that dark-skinned girls/women face across the globe including classism, racism, and lack of self-esteem, from America to cultures in other corners of the world.

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!


  1. Girl, no, I don't think you're giving it more credit than due. This issue is quite important to me too. But where to start? At home where parents need to instill self-worth? The media who need to be less biased? The whole thing is just one big mess. At the same time, if people talk about it and don't sweep it under the carpet then that's at least moving forward in the right direction.
    It's just like the whole 'natural' vs 'relaxed' hair debate. I know a lot of people say that it's just making a big deal out of nothing and that it's nothing more than the latest, 'hip' trend to sport natural hair as a kind of political statement, but frankly, it's all linked. If you can't even see the beauty in your own God-given hair (and this is a matter of mind-set, because I think it's possible to have relaxed hair for convenience sake but still not look down on natural hair)then of course you'll start picking holes in skin tone.
    I'll be checking out the 'Dark Girls' documentary when it's out. Thanks for the post

    1. You're welcome Vegan! For me it definitely does start at home with your parents. They are the first ones responsible for teaching you how to see/value yourself. Because society and the media bombard young girls with words and visuals that promote negative self-imagery, it is important to have that constant reinforcement from home reminding them that they are beautiful and special just the way they are created. It's really sad that many kids don't have that.

      The hair debacle goes right along with it girl. We are all entitled to our preferences but we definitely shouldn't dispute the beauty in our natural hair. I hope one day we can collectively, as a black community, love and appreciate our "natural" makeup (hair, skin tone, physical features, etc). The documentary comes on OWN tomorrow evening...I'm not sure of the time though.

    2. Brilliant, I'll be watching it this coming weekend after my busy week of work is over. By the by, have you read Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's latest novel 'Americanah'? I think you'll find find it particularly interesting and relevant with regards to this topic. I'd also love to hear your thoughts on it if you get a chance. I have about a hundred pages left to go and already in love with the book.
      Have a great week!

    3. No I haven't read Chimamanda's book yet but I am definitely going to because you are about the third or fourth person that has recommended it. I better hurry and get it before everyone reads it and I'm the only one left! lol...I'll definitely share my thoughts on it once I do, thanks for the recommendation girl. Have a great week too!:)

  2. I'm blogging about this most of the week. It's something I experienced personally in Nigeria. Too bad it's even worse here in the US.

    1. Wow, when I was growing up in Nigeria I never experienced such discrimination but I don't know what to say about current times...I constantly hear about our growing bleaching cream industry and that is more than a little unnerving. I'll definitely be checking out your posts to get your take on the matter.