I have light-skinned privilege. I am a Black woman who for years has avoided the term “light-skinned,” because I hated the history and the privilege that came attached to the title. I have avoided calling myself light-skinned and instead adopted terms like “brown,” or “caramel,” because I so hate what is associated with light-skin. But, calling myself other names, doesn’t negate the fact that I have light-skin privilege within the Black community.
I haven’t had to ever hear “you’re pretty for a dark girl.” I have the privilege of seeing images of women like Beyonce, Rihanna and Halle Berry (whose skin color is closer to mine than Angela Bassett’s) represented as beautiful on the big screen. I’ve not had to deal with not finding make up in my shade because the make up that is marketed at Black women is really only made for light-skinned Black women.
Even though, I’ve faced discrimination for being a Black woman, I’ve never had to face extra discrimination within the Black community for being dark. As I got older, it sickened me to see movies like Norbit, which portrayed light-skinned women as the ideal, while portraying dark-skinned Black women as asexual and unattractive. It sickened me and I had to confront my light-skinned privilege.
So here is what bothers me. When light-skinned Black women don’t speak up about colorism, they are perpetuating it. It annoys me that when ever a dark-skinned Black woman speaks about colorism, she is shut down or portrayed as “hating,” on light-skinned women or jealous of light-skinned women. It’s sickening, but when a negative comment is made about light-skinned women, people never say that light-skinned women are hating on dark-skinned women by defending themselves. These are all things that dark-skinned women have said over and over again, but they always get shut down…What is up with that hypocrisy and why is it so easy to dismiss the legitimate concerns about colorism from dark-skinned Black women, but people take the identity crisis issues and light-skinned complaints seriously??
I have had incidents where I haven’t spoken up about colorism, like when I was younger and I went to buy make up and I was told that I wasn’t “too dark,” I should have asked what did she mean when she said “too dark…” and there shouldn’t be such a thing as “too dark.” But, I was silent.
As I’ve gotten older and I’ve started being more aware of colorism and light-skinned privilege, I’ve tried to speak up more. When I’m online and I see negative comments about dark-skinned Black women, I speak up against the comments, and I get messages back from people saying things like “you must be a dark-skinned Black woman,” or “jealous of light-skinned women,” when I’m not any of those things and even if I were dark-skinned, why would that make my comments about colorism any less valid?
People are too quick to shut dark-skinned Black women down by calling them haters or jealous when they speak about colorism.
Another thing that annoys me is when some light-skinned Black women complain about being called some names and try to equate their experience with that of dark-skinned Black women. I’ve been called “oreo,” “mellow yellow,” before, but that doesn’t negate the privilege of being represented in the Black community and that doesn’t compare to the experience of dark-skinned Black women who often have to hear their whole life negative comments about their skin tone.
In the movie “dark girls,” some people were complaining that light-skinned girls didn’t get a chance to talk, but the movie wasn’t about light-skin Black women, it was about Dark-skinned Black women…everything isn’t always about light-skinned Black women.
I hate that in movies, the light-skinned woman is always portrayed positively like in Coming to America and the dark-skinned woman negatively. I hate that in the movie Half of a Yellow Sun, which is based on a book of the same title by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie , they replaced the protagonist, who was described in the book as a beautiful Igbo woman with dark-skin and a curvy body, with Thandie Newton who is a light-skinned, thin Black woman. We have so many roles for light-skinned Black women, why take away a role that was really for a dark-skinned Black woman?? I hate it so much and if other light-skinned black women really wanted solidarity with dark-skinned black women, then we would speak up and stop accepting these roles that discriminate against darker-skinned Black women.
There are so many beautiful, gorgeous, shapely dark-skinned, luscious Black women, so many and I think that Black women, dark-skinned Black women, deserve to see these images. I think dark-skinned Black women deserve to be nourished with these beautiful images and portrayed as desirable, sexy and posh the same way other women are. There is no such thing as “pretty for a dark-skinned girl.” Without “dark girls,” light girls wouldn’t exist. All shades of people ultimately come from Dark skinned Black women.
The bottom line is, the majority of black women are dark-skinned, so to degrade dark-skinned black women or allow others to degrade dark-skinned Black women is to degrade the Black race. If you don’t care about dark-skinned Black women, you don’t care about the Black race and above all, no woman wants to be made to feel undesirable just because of skin color.
It’s hypocritical to complain about white privilege and nothing bothers me more than when I try to explain white privilege to white people and they deny that it exists…so why deny that colorism exist within the Black community?? It’s hypocritical to do the same thing to dark-skinned Black women that white people do to Black people.
Yes, it’s true we’re all Black at the end of the day, we all face discrimination, I am not denying that, but colorism is a real issue and colorism and white supremacy are undeniably linked together and until we as Black folks eliminate colorism, white supremacy will never be eliminated.
I just hate these privileges and I hate being associated with them, but I can’t ignore them. I have to address them…and still have much more to learn.