In 2011, documentarist Bill Dukes’ “Dark Girls” caused an uproar of repressed emotions and experiences. This documentary aimed to discuss the colorism issues within the black community; as a black woman, I enjoyed the concept of this documentary. The concept that “light is right” spans cultures, this is not native and characteristic of the American blacks. You see these thought processes in India, China, Japan, Jamaican, all over the Caribbean, Hispanic cultures. On January 19, 2015, he debuted “Light Girls”; his first movie, “Dark Girls”, discussed the ugliness that darker skinned women have experienced from their own race, images in the media, familial reinforcement, et cetera. “Light Girls” aim was to share the pain from the other side of the spectrum, show that fairer skinned women of color did face discrimination from their own people.
“Dark Girls” lacked true intellectual and academic depth. I was hopeful that “Light Girls” would give important historical backstories but I also was cynical; let me offer some insight about me. I’m brown-skinned. Some people have called me light and sometimes I have lighter-skinned tendencies but overall, I am a solid brown-skinned girl. I’ve never been told I’m pretty for a dark-skinned girl [have been told I’m pretty for a black girl], I have experienced rejection and not as courteous of treatment because I’m not lighter-skinned. However in the colorism department, I have no issues of that magazine. I was cynical about “Light Girls” because there is such thing as light-skinned privilege. This documentary was going to derail the [slipshod] work that “Dark Girls” created.
I tuned into “Light Girls” and I was expectedly disappointed, angered, and disgusted for a plethora of reasons; shallow reasons, first; Iyanla and the phrase “cellular memory”, the psychologist who attempted to dissect the limbic system and discuss the amygdala. The segment of the men, their misogyny, their unnecessary, lack of constructive comments. Then, the deeper reasons; firstly, there were too many girls who were brown-skinned, beautiful girls, who wanted so badly to identify as light-skinned, they created fairer skinned problems. Secondly, this documentary did not explicitly call women out on their privilege. Thirdly, this too lacked intellectual thought, it was all over the place with no focus. Lastly, the comments on twitter enraged me. I saw an inundation of fairer skinned women crying about “their pain” and “their struggle” that they suffer too.
It’s an extremely horrible feeling to have your looks eviscerated by others; it is human nature to want care, affection, love, validation. It would be callous and remiss of me to deny that there are fairer skinned women who received flack because of their looks, who were called “not fully black”, et cetera. But there were women who denied their privilege and their purposeful lack of awareness was the most egregious of all. It is human nature to be attracted to what looks like you; which is why it is no surprise that white supremacy promotes lighter skin tones for PoC. We live in a society that has always told PoC that in order to be beautiful we must be lighter; this stems from slavery, when the master would rape a slave woman, she would bear his child, and he would have a fit of paternal affection and treat the mulatto child better because they looked like him. This also was a calculated, manipulative way to create discordance between slaves and prevent a collective uprising.
Fairer skinned black women are treated with more respect in the black community; black men objectify and look at them as trophies because White America endorses black women with Eurocentric features. When White America endorses a black woman with darker skin/more afrocentric features, it is never for long, it is just a faze to be amazed by her “unconventional beauty.” I was disgusted and hurt to see my fairer skinned sisters skim over that point, to show where they were victimized.
Newsflash: you saying that “I was hurt too” is the same as screaming “All Lives Matter” when protesting the deaths of the many black individuals who are killed by the police.
We know that lighter skinned black women are beautiful, much like how we know curls and ringlets on a black woman’s hair is beautiful. Society does not teach us that darker skinned women are beautiful, that coarser hair is beautiful, that features that are undeniably, unequivocally black are to be venerated and deified and adored, that we are a conventional type of beauty. So no, “Light Girls”, your pain is not the same and please do not derail the issue from colorism.
I don’t know where we go from here; there are so many ideas on how we can dismantle colorism, how we can prevent qualifiers “you’re pretty for a dark-skinned girl”. I do know that the denial of “color” and saying we mustn’t categorize ourselves in shades is not the answer; there isn’t anything wrong with acknowledging that black individuals are the color gradient. There is something wrong with denying your privilege and asking/demanding your right to live your privilege and not understand how wielding it can marginalize others.
Much like its predecessor, “Light Girls” missed the mark, but it did spark some necessary dialogue. Maybe we will have a documentary about the in-between girls, the brown girls who tend to be forgotten in theses discourses.