Earlier tonight on the OWN Network (Oprah’s network), there was a documentary that aired called “Dark Girls” that addressed the issue of colorism mostly within the black community, while briefly addressing the issue in other communities such as Asian communities and the tanning phenomenon amongst the white community. Throughout the documentary, I experienced an array of emotions from sad to amused to grateful:
Sad: It really broke my heart to hear those women’s testimonies about how they truly hated themselves at a young age, and over something as superficial as skin color. Although I describe skin color as “superficial” I am not belittling it because even though it shouldn’t be a big deal, I know that it is. Children are impressionable and vulnerable and to hear women saying that as children they would ask their mom to put bleach in their bath water just…troubled my spirit to say the least. Self-love is one of the most important things you can learn in this lifetime and it is imperative that the foundation is instilled into children. So to hear and see that young, beautiful little girls were wanting and willing to harm themselves just to lighten their skin is a disgusting representation of just how far we have to go as a community. There is a deep rooted history that was touched upon in this documentary, unfortuantely they barely scratched the surface. [For one example of colorism at work in literature see “Plum Bum” by Jessie Fauset]
Amused: The black men that were interviewed in the documentary describing their “preferences” toward either light-skinned women or dark-skinned women or both slightly amused me. I understand that a huge part of black women dealing with this color issue is the fact that black men will diminish darker skinned women. Often times via twitter I come across dark-skinned women hate that generalizes them as ugly and undesirable by anyone, and I know that is not true. What I found amusing were the bogus reasoning behind it: “They’re argumentative.” “They have lower self esteem (I wonder why)” “They would look weird next to me (says a dark skinned male)” There is nothing wrong with having a preference in who you are attracted to. Honestly, when it comes to men on television and movies I have a huge preference and attraction to white men (Hey Ryan Gosling 😉 ). However, why is it that it seems with black men they rebuke dating black women (specifically darker skinned women) at the expense of those women. I can love me some good looking white men…withOUT bashing my fellow black men, why can’t black men do the same? Also, another thing I found amusing was that I felt that by having the constant back and forth focus between what black men desire in women it portrayed an unnecessary message to those watching: that how others, particularly males, see you is very important when it comes to how you see yourself. I am not denying the importance of feeling wanted and desired by another, especially someone you may be attracted to, however, it gave me the impression that as a black woman, a big part of how I see myself is determined by how men see me, and I don’t think they made it clear enough in the documentary that what is most important and what truly matters is how one sees herself. The significance placed on the males who were describing their physical feature desires was a little over done in my opinion and should have been combated with more stories of discovering self-love without the justification from someone else, especially a male.
Grateful: This documentary also made me feel very grateful that I grew up in an environment where I did not have instances early in childhood that made me come home and wish I were lighter or anything other than what I was. It wasn’t until I got older that I even discovered that amongst my peers and generation people still cared about what shade of black they were. It baffled me. I learned to love myself at a young age because I was surrounded by people who loved me and showed me they loved me for me, while my skin color was never a factor. In being grateful, I want to spread this same environment to younger children I come in contact with. I want it so by the time they do come across colorism they already are so sure of themselves that it is a concept and not something they are battling with. I am grateful that I was able to slip beneath the cracks of feeling ashamed of my darker skintone, and to show my gratitude, it is my duty to make sure more darker skinned girls do the same. Everyone should know that they are beautiful, and to those people who do not think you are beautiful because of the color of your skin: fuck you. Those people are not anyone you would want in your life regardless.
Those are my thoughts on the documentary. I felt it was a good conversation starter because in order for these problems to be remedied, they need to be discussed.