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I am a dark skinned Black woman. Or at least I think I am.

Not that I often define myself as such, nor do I’ve ever remember being defined thus. Which is to say I try not to think about it. I was never teased for not being particularly light, nor is my skin so obviously dark that it is ‘blue-black’ like my younger brother, my father, or the complexion of my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins on my dad’s side. Theirs is skin with a gloss finish, it sucks in all surrounding light and sends it back out as a flat glow, mine is a much plainer, matte. I know that by popular standards of beauty and in the unwritten rules of women invited to grace the covers of magazines, dance in music videos and appear as love interests in general releases I am dark. Which is to say, the ladies that regularly occupy those roles are usually much lighter than me and if I ever found myself in a room with them I would know for sure I was the dark one.

I don’t care that Kevin Hart likes to make ‘jokes’ that women the same colour as me have bad credit. Just as I didn’t care that Lil’ Wayne mused in ‘Right Above It’ that a certain black woman would ‘look better red.’ I don’t care for Young Berg’s pool test. Or that Tyrese believes going with the best means omitting black women. Or that Ne-Yo thinks “all the prettiest kids are light skinned anyway.” Taken individually these slights seem too ridiculous to consider. I don’t take them personally; I tut at them; I brush them off.

But when I think about what these single ideas add up to, of course, I care. How could I not?

I’m crushed by caring. Because they perpetuate an understanding that to be a dark skinned woman is to be less. These ideas build themselves into assumptions and ways of treating women with as much melanin as me. I care because I already know dark skinned women are likely to receive longer prison sentences and less likely to get jobs when qualifications are equal. I care because too often our bodies are used as backdrops or props (i.e. Bella Padilla on the cover of FHM, ‘emerging from the shadows’). Think of how often you see women the same colour as me as surly, head rolling, loud-talking, finger-snapping comic relief (think Pam from Martin). I care because grotesque representations like Makode Aj Linde’s cake/performance art seem to be the only consistent representations of dark skinned black women. I also care about light skinned black women, who are women of colour too, and I do not want to continually feel set against them.

I think of all the dark skinned women I know. I think of how regularly they are excluded, insulted, mistreated. I see them all suspended in a place that isn’t a place, stranded it seems. I’m eager to watch Bill Duke and D. Channsin Berry’s Dark Girls documentary, and I’m holding out for its kinship.

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  1. chike

    i am a fair skinned african, with what maybe foolishly called european features, without a trace of “massa’s blood”. i never thought of the skin colour ish until i came to russia. the funny thing is that the africans around have this feeling that am “accepted” hence am always pushed to the side when race issues are brought up-it hurts cos i spend every quart of my strength trying not to live of up to russian stereotypes of black pips(which is the worst so far). am called uppity on both sides. refusal to attend an african party earns me uppity, refusal to the b embarrassed by russians earns me uppity. am so miserable around here. if i werent a government student i would b home by now.

    • .
      @ Chike:
      It’s interesting that you refer to those of us
      who are non-Africans by the term of “massa”.
      Also interesting is that — you apparently have so little
      respect for yourself that you would willingly submit
      to viewing yourself as a ‘slave’ (the proof of which
      is your reference to us by the term of “massa”).
      ALSO — while there are many “fair skinned
      Africans” (ex. actress, Charlize Theron /
      socialite, Therese Heinz / etc.) — THERE
      IS NO SUCH THING AS A so-called
      ‘FAIR SKINNED BLACK’ African.
      Thus — unless you are an ‘African’ who is either of
      ‘European’ or of ‘Asian’ Ancestry — the only way
      that you could have a “Fair Skinned” complexion
      is that you are a person who of Mixed-Race (either
      FGM-Mixed or MGM-Mixed) Lineage (i.e. ‘Coloured’).
      Also — it may come as a surprise to you to discover
      that the definition of “light” skin and “fair” skin used
      by MOST ‘Black’ Africans — is NOT seen as such by
      the rest of the world (ex. India, Pakistan, Brazil, etc.)
      — AP Gifts
      [soaptalk AT hotmail DOT com]

  2. This Black man loves Dark /CHOCOLATE GIRLS always have.. always will..!

  3. Gansiete

    @AllPeople (AP) Gifts [soaptalk AT hotmail DOT com] – Your comments show that you are VERY ignorant, and they are getting on my nerves. You sound like one of those people who doesn’t know anything about any country in Africa (you even sound like one of those who thinks of Africa as a monolith).

    YES Africa (just like Europe) is made up of different countries, and in those countries are different types of people. Chike is correct.THERE ARE light skinned Black Africans in existence, who DO NOT have any lineage from white people. My parents are from Nigeria, and my mother is light skinned. If you knew about the Igbo tribe of Nigeria, many of them are also fair skinned. Also, human civlization began in Africa, so everything (genetics) originated from there. Don’t be one of those fools who thinks everyone who is a “true African” is dark skinned with kinky hair, wide nose, and full lips. Africans have many different physical characteristics which WERE NOT derived or passed to them from any other kinds of people.

    So, instead of spouting off BS, please do some actual research on the topic. Just because you haven’t met any one from any country in Africa who is light skinned doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

    • What you said may be true but what he stated pertains to AMERICA. Not Africa. There is some truth to what he is saying because in slavery so many mulattos where created and so on and so on. America has its own history and you have to respect it.

  4. apple

    Uh oh *grabs popcorn*

    • mahogany

      Do you mind sharing the popcorn. This is going to be interesting.

    • MsQuita

      Exactly what I was thinking.

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