Although the producers of the upcoming documentary, Dark Girls, are hoping it starts a dialogue that will heal, they also want the movie to empower those who’re tired of discrimination based on skin tone.
“Whatever you blame, you empower,” director Bill Duke told Sister 2 Sister. "If it’s the White man’s fault… if it’s somebody else’s fault, we have to wait for the solution. If it’s your fault, then you have the responsibility to change. We’re waiting for someone, force or individual to take responsibility for things we should take responsibility for. That’s why people laugh at us as a culture. Who do we think is coming?”
So, when it comes to changing how people perceive women of color who are blessed with more melanin than mainstream society has learned to appreciate, Bill said changing people’s minds starts at home.
“We deal with it from parents’ perceptions of their children and what they say to their children," said Bill, who referenced a scene in the film in which a woman recalls her mother gushing about her daughter’s beauty, before mentioning her darker tone as the one thing about her that was unattractive.
“If you went to this parent and you said, ‘What in the name of God are you doing?’ she would have no idea what you’re talking about. Until that mother understands the impact the words have on her child, nothing is going to change. We’re not suggesting that society, the government, the state or the school has a responsibility for the raising of our children and giving them self–esteem,” explained Bill.
While Bill hopes the dialogue surrounding the film will help heal and educate, it’s not as though “colorism,” as he referred to it, is anything new. It’s something that’s been discussed even before W.E.B. DuBois’ 1903 book The Souls of Black Folk, in which he declared “the problem of the 20th century is the problem in the color line.”
So, how does one film attempt to take on the Herculean task of solving the problem? Bill doesn’t claim to have the answer, but he’s not intimidated by the task.
“If Dr. King, Malcolm X, Medgar Evers, Gandhi and all the people who have made a difference had allowed the impossibility of the task to stop them, we would not have had a Civil Rights movement. It’s not the size of the issue; it’s our lack of action,” Bill said.
“We have an obligation as individuals to do something. It’s not going to happen on a movement level. You’re the movement and so am I.”
—Tracy L. Scott
‘Dark Girls’ confronts America’s color complex