Updated: Dec 3, 2021
Not even five years ago, when you googled the word beauty, it was not until the fourth or so page that images of Black women began to appear. Today, when googling images of beauty, it is now speckled with images of Black women of all shades, different types of hair, but still limited in the range of body size, and disability. More than ever, we are calling out colorism for what it is. Many of these conversations have come to the Twitter floor. From Black-ish creator, Kenya Barris casting a majority of lighter-complexioned people in all of his shows to conversations about Blackfishing and being a non-Black "yellow bone."
Colorism, according to Merriam-Webster dictionary is prejudice or discrimination especially within a racial or ethnic group favoring people with lighter skin over those with darker skin. Colorism can display itself in who represents us in the media, in marketing, and in the types of jobs and housing a person can get. Darker-skinned Black women and girls have always been the subject of hypersexualization, increased rates of violence, and often used as "background" players despite large contributions. So, it is very interesting to watch people like Kim K become a huge figure for having "Black features", tanning her skin even when those same features are constantly changing and ours are talked down on, criticized, and even ridiculed. Past that, she and her family never give credit to the Black folks they steal from.
Yes, it is that deeply entrenched into our practices as a society, that our complexion can determine the way that we are treated. The history is deep. Here in the States, many Black folks can trace this practice back to the plantation, where lighter-skinned folks were deemed "house niggas" and seen as softer, while darker-skinned folks were deemed "field niggas" and were told they could tolerate more pain. It can be traced to the time where social elites performed the brown paper bag test, to determine what privileges would be extended to you, read more about the test here.
Daryl-Marie, a For Black Girls Who Have A Lot to Say, Brand Ambassador shares her experience.
It’s the fall of 2020 and I am having a conversation with my mom about random things happening in the media as of recent. Somehow, our conversation leads to Oprah’s documentary titled Dark Girls; now before I go any further, my mother is a fair-skinned woman with a dark-skinned daughter and a lighter-skinned daughter (me). So as we are sharing our thoughts about the documentary, she says how intrigued she was with the documentary and how elated she is that attention has been brought to such a quieted conversation throughout history, and even in her own life.
We continue to talk and my mother makes one of the most light-skinned, cliché comments ever and all I can think is “here we go.” She says “Well, as a lighter-skinned woman, I feel as though I have experienced colorism with other Black women because many have made the assumption that I think I am better than them.” Of course, I let my mother finish but I could not wait to school her lmao. As soon as she finishes, I look at her and say, "First and foremost, you, a fair-skinned woman, cannot experience colorism. Secondly, and respectfully, would you not rather be thought of as arrogant or conceited than violent, masculine or ghetto?” She looked at me more perplexed than ever, yet let me go on to explain, (which I LOVE about her). I explained to my mother that her argument was identical to uneducated whites who take Black pride, protests, and movements such as Black Lives Matter, personal when the issue historically rooted, not surface level. I went on to explain that because lighter-skinned women have always been desired, liked, and displayed in the media more than darker-skinned women have, you simply have no place to put your experiences up against one another because they simply do not compare. She agreed, and we continued to talk more.
Stories such as these reflect a deeper problem within our community that we do not always want to address because it puts us in a place where we must be transparent with ourselves. I can confidently and shamefully say that because of my complexion, I have received what men thought were compliments like listing things they like about me and mentioning my complexion as it were a hobby or personality trait. I have been treated differently and better than my counterparts who were at times more “fit” for positions than I was. The bottom line is that darker-skinned women (and men) are running the same race but in a different lane. You do not need to refer to a dark-skinned woman as a piece of chocolate after reading this, you don’t need to go tweet “I love dark-skinned women” and you definitely don’t need to beat yourself up for your ignorance prior to knowing what you know now. You simply need to see colorism for the problem it is and make sure that you do not contribute to it!
"You have always been the blueprint!"
As of lately, social media has been a circus where colorism is the main event. I want to remind every dark-skinned Black girl that you don’t have to be compared to a Hershey to have your beauty recognized, you didn’t need songs to validate what we already know: you have always been the blueprint! It’s no secret that people want your features, but without your complexion, people want your voice, but without its tone and they want our strength, but without the experience.
Dark-skinned girls don’t need love, too; they need love, period.
D.Marie (She/Her) is a daughter, a sister, a student, and a Black Girl Who Has A Lot to Say.
Stay connected with Daryl-Marie on Instagram @dbarkleyy.
With lots of Black Love,
1. Ongig Article on Colorism