o-DARK-GIRLS-MOVIE-facebookAfter over a year of teasers and online chatter, Bill Duke’s Dark Girls will be making it’s debut on OWN on this Sunday. While some folks are eagerly awaiting the documentary, a good number of folks in my personal networks have let it be known that they are oh-so-tired of talking skin color.

Theoretically, it’s hard to blame them. While one would be foolish to suggest that the color complex doesn’t exist anymore, the conversations about it often hit the same notes over and over again. You’ve got the references to the NOT ACTUALLY REAL Willie Lynch letter. The person who equates preferences for light skin to preference around height or body type.  The summarily dismissed evidence that complexion bias is real and does have a negative impact on people’s lives. The people who swear they don’t think in terms of skin color and have never experienced the color problem and, thus, it must not exist/exist anymore. Those folks who, as some do when it comes to racism, suggest that talking about light and dark skin is what’s keeping us divided—the conversation is the real culprit.

But more often than not, you also have the voices of those who say “This has hurt me.” The anecdotes about women being told “You’re pretty for a dark-skinned girl,” or feeling invisible/overlooked in the presence of “fairer” skin. You’ve got those people who can attest to the pain they have experienced because so much of our world (not just our community and our country) favors light skin, particularly in women. And until that is no more, until one can pick up a magazine or watch a movie or block of music videos without seeing an obvious over-indexing of light-skinned/mixed-race women…suck it up. We must continue talking about color until we are over color.

I am a paler-colored Black girl (insert the oft-repeated “Why are light-skinned people so militant” retort here) and I can attest to being treated favorably for no other reason but being tall, tan and not-so-terrific so much as I’m just, well, light. I don’t need any pity, but I don’t deserve any privilege.  I’m not going to Tim Wise the game (that is, assert myself as a person of privilege as the ultimate authority to speak on bias), but I feel that I must call it out when I see it and encourage others to get past the fatigue of talking about color and continue confronting our issues with it.

Growing up, I was a wild child. Marginal grades, bad temper, messy hair and clothes. My younger sister was a model student and model child—poised, accomplished and a delight to be around. Yet my grandmother paid her dust and fussed over me at every turn. It wasn’t hard to understand why, as her subtle jabs about our complexions were rarely subtle. My sister’s hair was her “saving grace,” but she was wise to avoid the sun. Thank God she was smart, because who was going to marry her? Meanwhile, I was a bum by the age of 12 and couldn’t be bothered to comb my curls or do much of anything on the other side of mischief. Guess who was told she’d be a prized wife someday?  I was born in the North in the late 1980s, mind you.

As a kindergarten teacher, I’ve witnessed these same issues play out over and over again. Don’t believe the famed “doll test”? I’ve seen it with my own eyes many times before. Brown eyes brimming with tears over the availability of a blonde haired Barbie that some other student has claimed—“I want the pretty one!”  Children who repeat the things their moms and aunts say about color verbatim: “She think she cute ‘cause she yellow!” The obsession with people who don’t look like them.

All that to say…suck it up. We discuss far more insignificant things regularly. And from what I’ve heard about Dark Girls, it’s a smart, well-done film (not the sad “WOE IS ME, FOR BEING DARK IS A TRAGEDY” cry fest some had feared). If color is not the issue that has caused you pain or frustration, great! But until others can say the same, it isn’t for you to write it off.

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  • Perspective

    “Why are light skin people so militant?”

    Because too often – other groups feel comfortable around them and their less than overt blackness and sometime FORGET that they’re black and say foul things about black people. Its easy to forget when the persons skin color is anything less than brown.

    Many light skin people KNOW that fence jumping ain’t an option and what the OTHER groups REALLY think about black people, e.g. – their pro blackness

    On the point about dark skin

    Black women are dark skin women IN GENERAL – are not valued because BLACK MEN aren’t building or passing anything on. i.e. as would be under a true black patriarchy, which I know women on this site don’t like.

    White women are the facilitators of the white system because they make white babies, therefore they are valued.

    Black men don’t have a community that they are trying to establish and maintain that is BLACK, therefore the value of the black woman’s WOMB and her blackness is not there.

    Combine this with the fact that women in a patriarchy are taken care of, promoted, and afforded the luxury to BE feminine, unfortunately because black men don’t have a structure like that – they believe black women to be inherently unfeminine and unattractive which is a result of their collective social condition (not every black woman) but I think it’s a little unfair to compare BECKY FROM THE VALLEY with there $5000 wardrobe to a sista from the Bronx with no father and no supporting patriarchy where black men control their version of the media to promote the beauty of the women who are necessary for them to maintain their black patriarchy

    • KimO

      ‘Femininity’. Now there is a starting point for societal conditioning and the transmitting and imparting of a mindset designed to control and divert people from that which is real and organic and irrevocable.

      Womanhood and being a female do not have definitions limited enough to be constrained under ideas of femininity. Womanhood and one’s place there and value therein cannot bother to consider the cost of the wardrobe or the fabric of the outfit.

      Let us consider the impact of patriarchy, yes. Let us make that another talking point. But ‘femininity’?

    • Santi

      You are spot on with this!!! Unfortunately, many women will not here you because they will see this as sexist, misogynistic talk.

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  • Esined

    Watched it last night. Very soul-stirring. When people say things like “we shouldn’t discuss things like this anymore”, I compare it to white people saying we should be “over slavery” and should move on. I disagree with both, for many of us know how it feels (NOW, not 148 years ago) to be made to feel a certain way because of our complexion. BTW, I cringed at some the stories and some of the Brothas’ reasoning for their preference of light-skinned women. Love who you love without attempting to make the rest of us feel as though we are less-than.

    • http://gravatar.com/honeydose01 honeydose01

      I agree with you. I must admit that I was upset with many of the statements by the black men on light skinned sistah’s versus dark sistah’s (I despise the politically correct light skin versus dark skin reference) as those men were of different black tones. I do not like to call myself light skin, but honey instead. As a child growing up in the 80’s I can remember white kids and spanish kids touching my hair, but not in a bad way. They would tell me that they loved how curly my hair was, but my own people told me that I needed to perm it, or hot comb it. I love being black, but I believe that so many black people will say other wise. Honestly, people will begin to heal once issues on slavery are discussed and not that “roots movie” version, but from Africa to America and the many issues that have caused so much confusion for every man and woman.

  • cabugs

    Anyone know where I can watch the Dark Girls documentary for free online? Please someone, post some links for me please. I do not have the OWN network among my tv channels.

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