This is a pretty challenging topic that I have wanted to do for awhile. I use quotes around the word black because many people don’t acknowledge or recognize many light skin people as black. This topic goes as far back as slavery, which when you think about it, really wasn’t that long ago…
Growing up black, I had to learn all the social issues tied with race and ethnicity. One of the upmost being the fact that in many situations, I won’t be treated equally simply because of the color of my skin.
I didn’t hear the terms “light skin” and “dark skin” until I reached middle school. Maybe because no one really knew what to say about it in elementary school or maybe because I just lived under a rock (which is usually the case). Well, I don’t know about you, but I heard them around me a lot, even if it wasn’t necessarily directed at me. For example, the infamous, “you’re so dark, you look like an unlocked cartoon character.” It’s a “harmless” joke made from one friend to another (at times), but is in reality, so very wrong and cruel. The mere fact that it is meant as a joke is a problem. Why would you joke about their skin color, when you can make a joke about literally any other thing that won’t offend them?
Now, some people are probably reading this thinking, “it ain’t that deep, my G.” Well, my G, it is. Simply because saying that to a young person can alter the way they think. This and many other jokes lead many people to believe that the color of your skin is okay to be the butt of a joke.
And the same applies to light skin people. A common joke seems to be the same question over and over “are you even black?” (I’m just talking about non-mixed, light skin black people) It’s crazy that they have to be questioned if they are black just because they are a different shade than you! Then, of course, comes the discourse over whether they can wear black hairstyles, “act black”, or say the n-word. Newsflash people, black people can be light skin!
Notice how all these problems stem back to colorism in the black community. A lot of black people don’t except that colorism is a real thing for whatever reason, but I assure you, it is. This dates all the way back to slavery when slave masters would try to separate Africans based on how light or dark their skin was. The light skin people would go in the house and the dark skin people would stay in the fields. This led to many years of hostility between light skin and dark skin black people. The effects can still be felt today.
This can be seen by the low-key notion that “the lighter, the better.” Which is why dark skin people are rarely represented. Whether it’s in TV and movies or modeling, it doesn’t really matter. And when you ask people, what dark skin models or actresses do you know? And they can only name a handful of women. Because guess what? For some reason, there are people who don’t think that dark skin women are beautiful. And the same applies to dark skin men. In some countries, people bleach their own skin just to be lighter. It’s ridiculous.
I never saw the problem with dark skin. It’s beautiful. It’s like this really rich color that absolutely pops with any color.
Above is Nyakim Gatwech, the “Queen of the Dark.” She is undeniably gorgeous, and yet, was told to bleach her skin by her uber driver. Well, sucks for them because she didn’t listen and is now a model who advocates for diversity in the fashion industry. It just sickens me to know that there are so many people who hate dark skin.
I’m pretty sure I heard that way back in the day, Europeans thought that African skin was dirty and that they tried to wash repeatedly to get it off. On the other hand, maybe that’s just a rumor. But, it’s not impossible to believe that they did do that….
Also, don’t get me started on the paper brown test. If you don’t know what it is, it was used to discriminate against dark skin people. It’s quite simple, if you were the same skin tone or lighter than the paper bag, you were allowed into whatever it was, and if you were dark skin, you weren’t.
These are just a few instances on just how bad colorism is and is so very embedded in our society and for a lot of people, they have to deal with it in their day-to-day lives. As a community, we need to acknowledge that this is very much real and was used to divide us, so for one, we need to stop using the terms light skin and dark skin. We are all black. Some people will go around and tell people that black people come in all shades, but turn around and discriminate against each other! Stop doing that and learn to not make the small jokes because it could get under someone’s skin (no pun intended) and really hurt them. Watch what you say next time…