The other day I watched a controversial, yet thought provoking documentary called “Dark Girls” which explored the issue of Colorism and showed the harsh reality that some dark skinned Black women have had to face and endure for decades and continue to face to this day. In all fairness, while this documentary does not speak for all Black women/men, for me it accomplished one thing if nothing else: it made me think again about a subject no one likes to talk about.
Colorism is a practice of discrimination by which those with lighter skin are treated more favorably than those with darker skin. For example, in the Black community, there’s the “paper bag” test. If you were lighter than the standard paper lunch bag you were allowed entry into fraternities, sororities and other realms of black upper class life, while dark-skinned blacks were excluded. A great depiction of this ignorant mindset is shown in Spike Lee’s movie “School Daze” is an exploration of colorism.
Now, while the “paper bag” test has been tossed away into the proverbial closet, unfortunately thanks to the poisonous conditioning set in place from the days of slavery, the mindset is still present. It has created a divide from within and it’s based on superficial attributes & assumptions either stemming from deep jealousy or shame.
Some people would prefer to believe that that this issue does not exist anymore and to some extent there has been a breakdown of those prejudices surrounding dark skin vs light skin, but it is not gone completely. It is still there, festering and destroying our mental and spiritual health. Most of us have heard phrases like, “light skin people are stuck up”, “light skin people have “good hair””, or “she’s pretty for a dark skin girl.” And sad to say but there are still some people who simply think that lighter skin people are more attractive than darker skin folks.
And yes, folks are still bleaching their skin in the hopes of attaining the “perfect” complexion which seems to be revered by people of all races- that being light but with a tinge of color. Hence why so many non Black women who have fair skin flock to the tanning booths. There are light skin Black people who will only date and marry other light skin people. There are also dark skin people who would prefer to date and marry someone light in the hopes that their children will have lighter complexions. All of these are examples of the ignorant conditioning that is almost inherent in some folks, and the more we ignore it and act like it doesn’t really exist, the more prevalent this mindset will become.
Stereotypes such as Light Skin Vs. Dark Skin within the Black community are cancerous, dangerous, and shape how we view ourselves and our people. Let’s end this ignorance! I think one way that we can begin to heal and find a way to solve this problem is by having men and women from all generations come together to really talk about this and mentally reshape how we’ve been trained to think and treat one another. This of course is in no way the “end all be all” cure, but hey, it’s a start, right?