Speaking as a Black woman, I have absolutely had it with the sheer ignorance that is the light skin vs. dark skin debate!
For as long as I can remember, there has always been a subtle divide among most Black people based on the tone of our skin. Some believe that being lighter than a paper bag is the only way to count as beautiful; others argue that if you’re not at least sepia, then you’re simply not Black enough.
It’s bull! Whatever skin tone you were born with is absolutely gorgeous and suited to you. Love it! Embrace it! Celebrate it! But don’t use it as a litmus test for what makes you better than someone else.
Everybody knows that the root of this comes from the days of slavery where your standard of living was based solely on how close you look to being White. Although we were legally emancipated 150 years ago, somehow, we’ve continued to buy into this destructive mentality. Worse yet, we use it against each other as a way to set ourselves apart in assumed superiority.
It permeates the culture–most especially in hip-hop, where you’re hard pressed to find a video girl as dark as the rappers themselves. Most recently, Consequence called out on Monday’s “Love & Hip Hop” that “light skin is the right skin” during a studio session with Lore’l. I honestly can’t blame her for being a bit offended by his lyrics, but consider the source of the line. Consequence is a man that is dating a White woman…who has said that she’s more likely to get a radio job because she’s White.
But that’s not the reason his comment rubbed me waaay the wrong way. It’s that he’s holding up one skin tone as better than another, and he clearly does not meet his own standard! What kind of backwards mess is that?! How can any rational adult tout a quality that they themselves do not possess as being superior above all? What does that say about their mentality and self esteem?
While I understand that everyone has a preference in what they find physically attractive, one’s appreciation of a given trait does not have to come along with a direct comparison and contrast. It’s just not necessary. I’m a light-skinned woman, and I’m sick of it. If I hear one more Black man hollering at me based on skin tone, I’m going to scream. When being complimented by a prospective suitor, it just throws off the whole vibe of the conversation for me.
Smart? I’ll take that. Beautiful smile? Why thank you. Funny? Aww, how sweet. But there is no bigger turn off for me than when a Black man rounds off his list of good things about me with “and you’re so light!” Record scratch. Side eye. Table flip. DENIED!
What I really don’t get is why it’s always the darkest men that say this! If being light is really where it’s at, then by their logic, they would have no shot with me or any other woman of a certain shade. This is precisely why men need stop shouting out skin tone like it’s a compliment or makes one person any better than another. And women need to stop falling for it! It’s irritating and ignorant. If I got a tan, then I guess those same men would have a huge problem! (Coincidentally, I look fabulous with a nice golden glow and I can’t wait to soak up some sun this summer!)
Unbelievable as it may seem, I have even had someone ask me “what breed are you”? After the initial shock that anyone (especially an African man) could fix their mouth to say such a thing to anyone, I had to ask him exactly what he meant. Once he’d rattled off a list of nationalities that are not in my genetic background (as far as I know), I bluntly had to inform him, “I’m Black and more Black.”
And that’s the point that a lot of us seem to be forgetting. We come in every shade from buttery pecan to deep, rich ebony–and it’s all beautiful! So what if someone falls on the lighter end of the spectrum than somebody else?! How does shade alone make someone any more or less desirable?
But I’m not just proselytizing on my soap box in a show of unaffected solidarity. Some will claim the complexion competition is not that deep, and I’m not so sure that I agree. When things like #TeamLightSkin and #TeamDarkSkin are common hashtags on Twitter, we have a huge problem that too few are fighting to correct! This shows me that kids and young adults are internalizing the notion that skin tone = beauty. This has got to stop!
To tell you about my family makeup, my phenomenal mother is a chocolate. And she’s beautiful (in every sense of the word). Period. So, for someone to say that I look good because of my complexion makes me think that they would deem my mother (and her mother) unattractive because of hers. And they could not be more wrong.
Growing up in a mostly White town, my mom did everything she could to make sure that I knew I was beautiful too. Many couldn’t understand why she only bought me Black dolls–some even ridiculed me for it–but it was something she’d learned from her mother. There’s nothing that can express how grateful I am to the women that came before me for doing this. It was a very subtle, subliminal way to help me appreciate my own features even if I didn’t look like the majority of my classmates. Why aren’t more parents following her example? (My mama’s the blueprint, folks!)
And here’s something else to think about: Whether light or dark, we’re all Black people. Whether for good or bad, to those outside of our community there is no difference between us no matter how light or dark we may be.