*Before you read on, being insulting or unnecessarily cruel in your comments won’t be tolerated, regardless of your hue.*
When I heard about a new documentary as a sequel response to Dark Girls, a pretty groundbreaking and honestly painful look at how dark-skinned women are treated in the black community and shed light on the colorist African American caste system, I rolled my eyes. It was hard to muster up sympathy for a group of women who are systematically chosen as romantic partners over dark girls, get songs written in homage to their lightness, have historically been chosen to be wives for the most elite and successful black men (church pastors, athletes, actors, professionals, musicians erry’body) which has been statistically proven; get lighter prison sentences, etc. In decades passed, lighter skinned women who passed the “paper bag test” were allowed in the elite sororities and private clubs, got hired in jobs sooner than their darker counterparts, and elevated and prized by their friends and family. At a predominately black party or club, it doesn’t matter how beautiful the dark girl is next to a more homely light skinned girl, chances are the lighter one will get asked to dance over the dark one. There’s a rabid You Tuber who regularly preaches that dark-skinned black women are ugly, unfit for relationships, and behave like beasts. Oh. And he’s a black man.
Let’s not even discuss how our sisters in other countries are literally poisoning themselves for lighter skin, desperate to benefit from the lifestyle upgrades they get for slapping the black off of themselves.
Knowing all this, I’m supposed to muster up sympathy for a group of women who, in one way or another, my community told me I was inferior to? It’s hard. It really is.
And I’ll admit that bias. And I can acknowledge their pain, too. Because I remember being about five years old in kindergarten, when I partook in the teasing of a biracial girl with long, sandy brown pigtails. I and two other girls surrounded her and I remember her yelling, “I AM black!” and none of us believed her. We all thought she was white. I was born in Los Angeles in the 70’s. She was literally the only biracial child I had ever seen in my short life, and, combined with the straightness and lightness of her hair and skin, my limited worldview labeled her as white. It hurt her deeply. I remember her crying. To this day, I feel like a complete asshole about it. At five years old, I didn’t think about how desperately this child needed to be accepted by us, because as the byproduct of someone white, and just off the heels of the Civil Rights Movement, I’m sure that side of her family rejected her.
In a colorist caste system, being light has its privileges. The privilege observed by the underprivileged breeds resentment, but this mess wasn’t created by light-skinned women, nor is it necessarily perpetuated by them. I need to listen to their side. But I have to confess it won’t be easy.