Whenever I enter into discussions about race, money, politics, religion or gender, I feel apprehensive, guarded and cautious. These discussions are always sure to get intense and often people are left feeling some kinda way, especially when they have opposing views. Though we may be open to what others have to say, deep down, we are focused on promoting our own perspective. Language is imprecise and in this age of social media, emails and text messages, many times, what we say is misinterpreted and misunderstood. Even when we are speaking with someone face to face, what we intend to say does not come across that way because of our tone of voice and body language.
So, with the premiere of the Light Girls documentary, I found myself on high alert. I knew that like its predecessor, Dark Girls, the response was going to break the internet and ignite some serious convos. Naturally, since I’m a light girl, I was eager to see it. Honestly, I was just as eager to see Dark Girls when it came out back in 2011. I was intrigued and excited that director, Bill Duke and his team had taken the initiative to explore the issue of Colorism. However, I also wondered why it wasn’t done by a director who’s a woman, since the focus was centered on women’s experiences with Colorism. But, I’m not going to get caught up on that minor detail, I’m just glad that he had the courage and the support to put it out here. Some people were surprised at my enthusiasm to watch Dark Girls. But, my race, my complexion and my status as viewed in society, have never stopped me from showing my curiosity about others. Being raised by a mother who’s a Registered Nurse, helped me to learn early in life that the world has all types of people in it. My curiosity was fed even more during my college years; I met people from parts of the world that I had never even heard of. One of my greatest lessons from those years, is that though we have many differences, we also share many similarities; and this is also what I got from watching Dark Girls and Lights Girls. Though we are on two separate ends of the color spectrum, we’re still all women who share much more than we like to admit. As I watched, I felt compassion for the women as they talked about their pain and suffering. I also felt disgust for those who had inflicted the pain and suffering. I appreciated the educational parts of each documentary, that provided a brief history on Colorism and its evolution.
Yes, I know and I admit that I’m part of a group that has been given special treatment for countless years. I know that not only in the Black community but, around the world, people of lighter hues are put on a proverbial pedestal. I know that the images in the media favor and promote people of lighter hues. I know that many of us take advantage of these dynamics. I also know, that just like the Dark Girls did not choose to be born Dark; I didn’t choose to be born Light! It’s not my fault that I’m a light girl! My father is what I consider to be medium brown complected, however God made the decision to give me my mother’s lighter complexion. Though, I can never perp like I understand what it’s like to be a Dark Girl, my human nature tells me that it’s wrong for them to be mistreated because of their complexion; the same goes for Light Girls. I don’t accept responsibility for being a light girl. What I do accept responsibility for, is letting others know that I am not one of those who supports the Colorism hierarchy. I thank my mother for exposing me to people of different races and cultures early in my life, because it taught me that no matter what or who we are, we all eat, sleep, and bleed because, we’re all human.There are too many people out there who feed into the team light-skinned, team dark-skinned bullshit and I’m sick of it. It only perpetuates the divisions that have plagued the Black community for too long. Unfortunately, I’m not sure if the Colorism issue will ever be resolved because we’re too focused on measuring the problem and trading stories about who got hurt the most, instead of brainstorming on how to come together and stop this madness!
We have been programmed to fight amongst and against each other for so long, that it’s natural for us to blame and shame each other for our complexions. A seed of separation was planted and we have cultivated and harvested that seed. I too have my stories about feeling as if I had to prove my “blackness” and being targeted with snide remarks because of my light complexion. Even when I’ve tried to be humble about my light skin, I’ve been told that what I’ve experienced is not a big deal because it’s not as bad for me. I guess us Light Girls should have NOTHING to complain about because the mistreatment and bitterness that we’ve been subjected to is NOT AS BAD as it is for Dark Girls. Well guess what?? My pain is not like yours but, to me it still hurts! The negative attitudes still affect me! No, I’m not looking for sympathy or empathy, just recognize that we are all striving to overcome something. We all have struggles that affect us.
Already, I’ve had conversations with my 11 year-old daughter about her light complexion and what it means in this biased world. I’ve tried to let her know that even though she’s a light girl, she’s still Black and being Black has its consequences. With her being a Black girl who is growing into a Black woman, she will face multiple challenges. As Black women, we face obstacles that White women will never have to deal with. Even light complected women have to worry about fitting into how society wants us to look. We get nose jobs, breast augmentations and weaves while busting our asses in the gym, so that we can be viewed as beautiful and desirable. It sickens and disturbs me that my daughter goes through phases where she wishes she was a white girl–which by the way, is one of the names that she has been called by classmates when they are beefing. I often have to tell her that she’s beautiful and I try to show her through example that she has to love herself first no matter how she looks. It’s an ongoing struggle teaching her that she should take care of and pride in her outward appearance but, not to get too caught up in that because, what truly matters is her character and personality.
So, here’s my solution, I’m going to continue letting others know that this light girl loves and appreciates the various shades of our Black community. I’m going to remain humble about my light complexion. I’m proud to be a Black woman and I won’t let someone diminish my “blackness” just because I’m not dark; being Black goes far beyond our skin tone. I won’t dismiss the experiences of those who are darker than me, I will encourage them to share their experiences in a constructive instead of destructive manner. If our common goal is to come together and erase the division, I suggest that we stop being victims and martyrs about our experiences. We need to stop playing tit for tat and acknowledge that as Black people, we are only helping those who hate us when we get into these drawn out discussions about whose pain is the worst. Sometimes, I think about how those who are not light or dark feel about this pseudo competition. One well-known, writer asked if there will be a Brown Girls documentary. Probably not anytime soon because we thrive off of being polarized; it’s either Light or Dark, in between is usually ignored. And, what about the men? My husband, who is light complected, said that he’s had some experiences with mistreatment because of his skin tone. Though, I strongly believe that they help to create and perpetuate the environment in which women are pressured to alter their appearance, I do think that dark and light men’s issues are worth exploring. To take it even further, I would also like to see a documentary done on the longstanding issues between Black girls and White girls; I’m sure that one will bring about some raw discussions.