Before I proceed with my actual article I want to ask a serious question.
Before Lupita Nyong’o, did you not know you were beautiful?
It’s a shame that we live in a world whereby black women feel like they have to draw strength from Lupita and not from an inner confidence. It’s a shame that because Lupita is celebrated, many women only now feel validated.Quite frankly, I’m tired of the quotations telling women to love the skin you’re in with Lupita Nyong’ o in the background as if to say that Lupita embodies the several beautiful tones that make up the black woman.
I feel as though Lupita’s emergence has reignited the dark v light dichotomy. A dark skinned woman has been thrust into the spotlight and all we have been talking about is how dark her skin is instead of the talent that landed her a role in the highly acclaimed film and an Oscar. Do we not understand that by constantly feeding the debate we overlook other prevalent issues in our society e.g mental health? Even the focus on “light” and “dark” neglects those that are neither “light” or “dark”, so how is this discussion a proper reflection of the black race? Moreover, the debate always berates those who couldn’t care less about the subject of complexion thus creating further unnecessary gulfs within our community.
I wrote this article in 2013 and ever since then I’ve been looking for the perfect time to put my spin on the light skin, dark skin debate and I believe I have found it. I was weary of the reception it would receive given the weight of the topic and so I held back. However, I’m now ready to share.
Light Skin is the Right Skin?
I’m assuming that the title is the reason why you are here and this was the very objective. In fact when deciding on the best way to present the article, I concluded that a controversial title would generate more interest and coax inquisitive minds into clicking the link.
The crux of this article is race and I have to thank “black twitter” for inspiring me because before twitter I had never heard such obscene views on race from the (cyber) mouths of young black people. I would often ignore the remarks on twitter for I have always held the view that those who react to what they have read or read are those who the statement was referring to and so I chose to ignore because I didn’t see how someone else’s 140 characters could represent me. I would still engage in discussions about race however, in my opinion twitter was the worst platform to discuss such weighty issues because often the heart of the argument is lost when you are trying to say it all in 140 characters or less. However, it wasn’t until reading “light skin is the right skin” that I decided to react. I reacted not because I was offended at the fact that my brown skin was being condemned because it did not bother me that people that I would never meet held such warped opinions; I reacted because I knew an impressionable mind who has not learned to love themselves would read that tweet and believe it.
It would be naive of me to say that such thinking amongst black people is novel. It is not. It would also be erroneous of me to class twitter as the sole reason behind such thinking because as it were twitter just marked its 7th year anniversary and issues surrounding race have existed far longer than seven years. I shouldn’t even brand twitter as the problem but I do believe that twitter has helped to point out the problem. The problem is black people. The problem with black people is black people. The problem with “light skin is the right skin” is that it is a thinking that has been adopted within the black community. There are light skinned people screaming it at the top of their lungs and there are dark skinned people literally living out the concept by bleaching their skin.
The question remains, where did we go wrong?
It has almost become routine to link our colour complexes to slavery. Well documented in imperial/colonial history is the fact that lighter skinned Africans were treated more humane than darker skinned Africans. Lighter skinned Africans were given less work to do and the darker slaves were treated in a far more barbaric way. The “black” psyche is said to have been conditioned by slavery and thus colourism amongst the black community was birthed. Colourism refers to a form of prejudice where people are treated differently because of their skin colour. It is ironic that slavery ended a war with our white counterparts yet ignited a war amongst us.
Even if colourism is a remnant of slavery, how can we explain its continued existence so many years after the fight against slavery had been won? There are exquisite black men who are pursuing white females because they believe that is the only way to “even” their colour out. There are beautiful dark skinned women bleaching their skins in order to appear more attractive not to anyone in particular but to themselves. There are darker skinned children, young adults scrubbing their beautiful skin to remove the “black”. I am not embellishing anything, I am only presenting in written form what I know exists.
Light skin is the right skin is definitely a way to divide a people. The concept breaks our power and prevents black people from collaborating and edifying each other in the ways we should. Imagine the influence we could exert in various spheres of government and industry if we moved past the ever regressive concept. The maxim “divide and rule” used by white colonialists during the exploitation of Africa and other countries that formed the British empire, bears a resemblance to the colourism that we have adopted. They broke us apart in order to exert control and then left us broken; we break each other apart with derogatory concepts like “like skin is the right skin”.
Can we stop deprecating each other and move on to commandeer industries?
P.S Light skin. Brown skin. Dark skin. All the skins are beautiful.