Recently, we received an email from one of our readers questioning the images we use on the site, and specifically, the complexion of the women in them. Apparently, this sister felt that we use images of light-skin women to accompany the majority of our articles.
“I have noticed that Clutch very rarely uses pictures of dark-skinned black women. I find this interesting since some of the questions on the survey dealt with the media’s uneven representation of black women. In any stock photo showing relationships, the women is always much lighter than the man.”
Although we go out of our way to feature a multitude of beautiful women—because after all, black women come in all hues—this reader felt we failed to capture the diversity of black women. In the end, she felt we were trying to play both sides of the fence—be empowering to black women, while still reinforcing that light is always right meme. She wrote, “I just find it hypocritical that you mention or highlight these issues, but perpetrate them yourselves.”
While I found this sister’s critique to be a little hyper-sensitive because we make every effort to feature ALL sorts of black women—from café au lait to deep mahogany, relaxed to natural—one question kept running through my mind while reading her email:
When did light skin sisters become the enemy?
I know, the history of colorism and discrimination is deep. But without rehashing the painful history of slavery, passing, and varying treatments people received based on skin color, you’d think that in 2011—more than 40 years after James Brown’s “I’m Black and I’m Proud” and two years after a multi-hued family moved into the White House—we’d at least be on the road to accepting that ALL black people are beautiful…no matter the skin tone.
And yet, I’ve seen it happen time and time again. If we highlight a commercial or new film that happens to feature a lighter-skinned black woman (or what some FEEL is a lighter-skinned woman), inevitably someone will chime in with, “Why did they make her so light?” or, “Why didn’t they choose a dark-skin woman?” As if light-skin black women aren’t black at all. (And before you claim my light-skin privilege is showing, kill the noise. I’d fail the paper bag test.)
So what is it? We cannot not on one hand be happy when dark skin black women get props, but have a problem when our light skin sisters are in the spotlight as well. Can we? Or are we only “empowering” black women when we showcase darker-skinned sisters?
What do you think Clutchettes and Gents? Are we doing a good job highlighting all types of black women or are we missing the mark? Sound off!