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Light skin vs. dark skin: colourism in the black community

Light Skin vs. Dark Skin: Colourism in the Black Community

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    Sep 09, 2015   Author : admin

Posted in: OPINION

“Black women have been cultured to compare, not connect.” - Michaela Angela Davis

The controversial 2011 documentary Dark Girls caused a lot of women to do some emotional unpacking of the painful baggage they had collected as people of colour.  It showed women the extent to which they have deeply internalised and sometimes unknowingly propagated colourism, and how that internalisation and emphasis on “appealing” appearance can still rip their self-esteem and self-image even today. It made women discover wounds they never knew they had. In Dark Girls, we learnt that “everyone wants to be black except black people” (Michael Caylor). However, we need instead to take to heart the words of Bruno Mars: “Girl, you’re amazing just the way you are.”

In his part two sequel, Light Girls, Bill Duke explored the effects of colourism on light-skinned black women.  Many praised this examination of the other side of colourism, but the documentary was met with some criticism.  Some said that light girls are still not victims of colourism because of their race privilege.  Others alleged that the wrong conversation was being had.  

According to colourism scholar Dr Yaba Blay,  “Others have rightly criticised the documentary. And so for better or for worse, like it or not, both of these documentaries have put us in a position to continue to talk about colourism, have put colourism at the forefront of our public dialogue which is an excellent, excellent thing. And so I don’t want to take away from that.  But as a scholar, somebody who studies global skin colour politics, there are some positives and there are some negatives. And for me, the biggest critique that I have of Dark Girls, Light Girls is really not much different than my critique of Good Hair. I think that when you don’t properly contextualise this conversation within the system of white supremacy, then you render black women pathological. It just seems that we have issues and we don’t know any better and we just keep fighting each other.”

No matter where people stand on the issue of colourism, perhaps at the very least both Dark Girls and Light Girls attained their aim – they got people of all hues talking about the barriers we erect between ourselves.


Image: | MYC Writer: Simone M. Samuels

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