In the wake of this new momentum, I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge all the work that we’re doing in protesting for black lives, voting for change, and donating to funds for the lives that were taken and the betterment of the community. At the same time, we’re still fighting a battle within our own communities. And to be quite honest, fighting racism alone isn’t going to bring the TRUE change we need.
We know that colorism and prejudice in black communities is a result of white supremacy in America, but we can’t continue to put the blame only on that. It’s unfortunate, but there’s still degradation directed at brown/dark skin women.
Beginning in middle school, I was exposed to colorism from my own community. I didn’t have the language I do now, but I felt it. It’s interesting how there are very specific things and moments that stay with us from our childhood. You’re pretty, but you’re just too dark. Raise your hand if you’ve heard that comment before. You’re pretty for a dark skin girl. Can’t count how many times I’ve been complimented in that way.
After a while – in my case, it just takes a toll on you. You unknowingly start to feel inadequate, self-conscious and ultimately overcompensating to overcome that feeling. In my case, I allowed someone who “liked” me, to hide their relationship with me because I was viewed as too dark. Every conversation was held in private and was treated as if I didn’t exist during normal school hours. It felt wrong, but did I stop? No.
Then high school came around. I was emotionally distant from my family and I had just lost my grandmother (someone who I was extremely close with). I met a boy who gave me the kind of affection I wasn’t familiar with. Holding hands, occasionally kissing, talking about my feelings – that was all new to me. But all of that also came with dictating how I should dress more provocatively, wear my hair down more, and using bleaching cream. He ACTUALLY bought me bleaching cream!
And this is where I began to realize there was a problem. This boy was literally one shade lighter than me and of South American descent. Not only did he give me bleaching cream but he, himself was bleaching to the point where each time he stopped, he experienced inflammation and thinning of his skin. Gross AF. To be quite honest, this was the brain washing of white supremacy showing its ass.
During slavery, slave masters raped black women to produce mixed race children that would become superior to their darker counterparts. This led to a color caste system that dehumanized darker skin slaves and gave privilege to light-skin, mixed race slaves. This essentially created a division between slaves and self-hatred of dark skin that would maintain white patriarchal power.
Growing up in America and realizing that your value is solely based on your complexion is dehumanizing in itself. I didn’t realize how influenced I was until my mother noticed that my standard of beauty was light skinned women, and I remember her telling me lighter skin women aren’t only beautiful. I took some time to process that.
Black, brown and dark skin women need love. Love expressed in protection, defending, advocating. And I say this because there’s this superficial love for dark skin women when they’re photographed and glazed in oil.
I say this because society and the black community have the same obsession with fetishizing mixed-race babies as white slave masters did. You know how often black women in interracial relationships are pressured to have babies because of this obsession with “exotic” facial features and olive skin? Sorry to break to you but that’s not always the case. I’ve been asked out on dates by non-black people for the sole purpose of exploring what it feels like to be with a black woman. I’ve even had white colleagues express their desire for me to have a baby with their siblings to produce mixed race kids.
I say this because I don’t want to be called “blacky” by Hispanics and think that it’s okay. That’s a f*cking slur and very offensive.
I say this because dark skin women are constantly gaslighted for their experience in this country. I recall dating this Ecuadorian and black woman who I attempted to have a conversation about my experiences with colorism and the history behind it, and she presumed to gaslight me; telling me that I’m being dramatic and that black women do tend to be angrier and more aggressive.
First off, if we’re angry it’s for a damn good reason. Two – for a black person to have the audacity to have that response is part of the problem. Needless to say, we’re no longer together.
And again, I SAY THIS because it is time for our community to love black women unconditionally, not just when it’s convenient. I understand that white supremacy is the cause of this – but we need to hold ourselves accountable and be a part of the solution. It is our responsibility to educate ourselves, heal ourselves, love each other – not only when one of us dies. We all have preferences, but it should never be to the point where we’re pitting black women against each other based on complexion.
Love is not just represented in intimacy, but also represented in acknowledging our experiences. Love is not just holding white supremacy responsible but taking accountability for our anti-blackness in ourselves and others. Love is changing the narratives of black women only being depicted as sexual beings and represented in undesirable ways in the media. Can you recall the last time you saw a true, healthy depiction of black women or a black family in the media?
As much as Tyler Perry has done for the community, 90% of his movies represent black women as hypersexual beings, alcoholics/drug abusers, victims and black families as unstable and broken. Look at Scandal; a black intelligent woman who has all this power is only to be remembered as the (white) president’s mistress. How to Get Away with Murder; another black, intelligent woman who has a drinking problem – in addition to all of the other issues, was with a white man.
This is not to say that these narratives are untrue, however it’s the ONLY depiction of black people I frequently see and the one’s we’re so quick to support. This is how stereotypes are created and enforced. We need to create spaces that amplify positive black voices, promote healing and unity. Spaces that are collaborative, accepting, and addresses the micro-aggressions that take place. The change begins with US.