This past weekend, CNN’s Soledad O’ Brien took a deeper approach with the In America series by exploring the complex ideologies behind colorism within the African-American community for “Black in America 5”. Among the many individuals she spoke to – posing the question ‘who is black America?’ – commentary about the difficulties that blacks still face, no matter how light or dark their skin is, seemed to surface in several conversations.

Slam poets Hiwot Adilow, Telia Allmond, and Kai Davis explored the theme of color and identity through artistic expression for CNN. The young women from the Philadelphia Youth Poetry Movement performed “Team Lightskinned”, a poem that explores both the negative and positive experiences that light-skinned black women face growing up in America.

The poem opens with the lines, “Your worth a little more if your golden, yellow enough to remind them of precious metals.”

Imbued with deep reflections and colorful language, the poem recalls the historic struggle of colorism within the black race– for light skin women can “past the paper bag test in the dark…can dodge handcuffs without paying a fine”, unlike their darker brothers and sisters.

It also expresses their desire for darker beauties to accept themselves, despite how society may currently demean them: “black might be beautiful but right skin might be the light skin.”

Speaking of society, the poets negate popular belief: “it doesn’t occur to them that them that some of the most gorgeous stones are obsidian, opal, onyx.”

What are your thoughts on the poem? Can you relate?

  • Yb

    I could’ve sworn that the black community has identified what having light skin looks like, that ain’t it.

    But I must say it was a great poem. A poem that recognising the realities of what having light skin affords one in this society. At first glance I thought it would be one of those “mean darkies pick on me, cause I’m lighter and better” spiels but thankfully it was not.

  • simplyme

    Thats why I think the whole concept is kind of funny. If you had a room full of Black people and you were told to split them down the middle into “light skinned” and “dark skinned” no two Black people would do it the same. Everyone has a different concept of what that means. Add to that depending on the seasons…the lighting…. how long they’ve been in the sun etc. etc. many of us take on different shades. We’re like a bell curve of brown shades…. the majority just hovering between some middle brown colors…

  • lol

    to all the lighter-skinned ladies who understand and fight colorism thanks a lot! really appreciated! hopefully darker-skinned ladies can learn to appreciate the fact that life isn’t a walk in the park for you guys either.

  • Santi

    Please stick to the post. Your comment has nothing to do with nothing.

  • nona

    Yep, this is true. I am dark skin, and my mother is that middle of the road color that sunburns easily. Yet when talking about dark skin, my mother held up a PAPER BAG to prove to me I was not chocolate and that’s a title left to her man, Tyreese.

    I also commented on a friend’s facebook status when he was going on about how “dark people” shouldn’t wear bright colors. After I stood up for dark skin people and my love of the color orange and pink, he simply responded with, “you aren’t that dark though.” Overall, people look at me and see a dark skinned woman, but yeah, people love to justify who and what isn’t dark or light based on their own arbitrary reasons.

More in colorism