Being a woman has its challenges especially when it comes to the ridiculous expectations society has set for us over the years. We tend to get pinned against each other as females; from our body size, skin color to our hair texture. The topics on body size and hair texture have been discussed quite a lot. Now, the discussion is reigning in on our skin tones. This is usually a fight for colored women, as black women we have found an unfortunate way to be our own enemy.
Cue in colourism
Colourism is prejudice against people who have a darker skin tone – and/or the preferential treatment of those who are of the same race but lighter-skinned. Here’s what we need to understand about black women’s skin tones. There are different tones of the black woman, melanin pops in more than one shade. Let me give you a reference that could make the description a bit easy to comprehend. We have Beyoncé, Kelly Rowland, Lupita Nyong’o, Alicia Keys, Taraji P Henson and Nyadak “Duckie”Thot. These women do not represent all the shades of melanin out there. However, they are women with different skin tones from the same race.
What makes you too black or not black enough? This is a question we might have asked ourselves a couple of times over the years. If you happen to be mixed race then at one time you might have been told that you are not black enough. On the other hand, if you have that rich dark complexion you might have heard the phrase that you are too black.
The worst part is that members of our own race at times spur these hateful comments upon us.
We are meant to be united as a race but we have always found ways to separate and divide ourselves within our own race. Back in high school, I remember boys saying that light skin girls were the only pretty girls. As a dark skin girl, those comments would make me feel less than my light skin peers. If boys didn’t approach me, I would always think my skin tone was the issue and I happen to be plus size and we all know the stereotype on that. As a teenager being dark didn’t exactly bother me but it put me in a box that denied me the ability to see beauty in my individuality. I didn’t get teased but I have heard tragic stories of young girls who have been bullied their whole lives. I have heard of girls being given horrible names because their skin was too dark to be considered beautiful.
You know what the worst part is? When women conform to the facade of colourism against their fellow women. They divide themselves by isolating girls who might look a little different from them because of their skin tone. You might think that light skin girls always have it easy but they don’t. Did you know that as a little girl growing up in Huston Texas, Beyoncé was bullied for being too light and of the soft texture of her hair. She is not the only one! Girls who are mixed race and happen to have black mothers would always be told that their mothers were the white man’s whore. Why would anyone ever think that saying such hurtful words to a child or to anyone would ever be appropriate?
As Tieranee Sturdivant tweeted, “It is one thing for black women to deal with racism, but it is even worse when dealing with colourism in your own community.”
Colourism has been an issue in Hollywood for black women. You were either too black for the role or not black enough for the role. If an issue goes as far as affecting your mental health as well as your ability to make money, shouldn’t the issue be dealt with? Young girls go as far as bleaching their skin and at worse committing suicide. All because they feel too ugly to exist in their God-given skin.
Actress Adele Oni plays a photographer in upcoming British film No Shade – which is all about colourism and love.
and she says colourism is a “story we don’t talk about“.
She says: “We are all aware how inherent it is in our society, the concept of colourism and the concept of growing up and understanding if you’re fairer skinned you’re prettier in the eyes of men – and we accept it. We never actually shine a light on it and it’s fascinating how much of a problem it is.”
“Colourism is a story we don’t talk about.”
Comparison kills happiness in more ways than one. As a race we need to acknowledge that we have given life to light skin privilege just like the white privilege that we try so hard to fight. If we find it impossible to fix the issues within ourselves as a race, we will never be able to solve the issues that drown us as a race.
Black is beautiful and it comes in more than one shade. Learn to see the beauty in another woman without forgetting to acknowledge your own beauty. Each one of us is beautiful in their own way. Raise your daughters to see beauty in themselves so that they may never seek acceptance from the world. Raise your sons to be kind with their words and to see beyond the superficial. Black women, we are the most oppressed individuals but we can rewrite history. We can pave the way for the future when we stand together. Empower one another and embrace what makes us powerful. You have to believe that we have what it takes to be the ultimate black girl magic. May the color of your skin never determine your beauty or your worth on this earth.
Featured image courtesy of Isaac West’s Instagram