From The Grio — The Dark Girls documentary that premiered on OWN last week ripped the lid off of colorism in a way that made some black people in America intensely uncomfortable. For over one hour, dark-skinned black women and girls shared their feelings of rejection, sexual objectification and marginalization in a nation where white supremacy is often perpetuated by a black community.
For generations, we have been beaten – figuratively and literally – into conflating whiteness with superiority and their heart-wrenching stories of existence at the dark end of the color spectrum held whispers of deep-seated feelings of inferiority and fierce resilience in spite of it all.
Mixed reactions to ‘Dark Girls’
The documentary itself met with mixed reviews – primarily for a perceived India.Arie-inspired “I am not my skin” cry for colorblind acceptance as opposed to an “I am my skin and you will deal” confidence.
There were also appearances by two white men, speaking from lofty positions of global access and privilege, who have no place at all in a dark girl’s narrative – unless it is to admit that white supremacy is not only the root of colorism, but the poisonous sustenance that feeds its damaged blooms.
It also received steep criticism for heavy reliance on heterosexual male validation, insinuating that if only dark-skinned women felt as desired by black men as their lighter counter-parts, all this pesky colorism talk would dissipate.
A missed opportunity?
Depending on the lens through which it is viewed, Dark Girls is either a long-overdue public acknowledgment of internalized pain or a missed opportunity. The passionate debates and commentary that followed, however, clearly exposed a continuing House/Field pathology that weakens our community along the fault lines of empathy and privilege.
Writing for Clutch Magazine, Dr. Yaba Blay eloquently states:
Some light-skinned women feel overlooked, their experiences seldom recognized as if their lightness somehow protects them from any pain. But if any of them dare say so, they are quickly and effectively dismissed if not silenced. Brown-skinned sisters who aren’t so light but aren’t that dark are somehow made to reflect on their own skin color as much lighter or much darker than it actually is, just so they can be a part of the conversation. Either that or they watch from the sidelines and remind us every now and again that we continue to push them to the sidelines.
We needed the voice of the light-skinned sister to tell us what it’s like to walk into a room and have women who know nothing about her throw daggers with their eyes, or the light-skinned sister who stays in the sun and has either loc’ed her hair or cut it very close because she’s down for her people and doesn’t want anything about her presence to cause the browner-skinned women she considers her sisters to question their value. We needed that balance, if in fact the purpose of the dialogue is healing.
And in Blay’s insightful passage, there is my voice. I am that light-skinned woman, who used to be the light-skinned girl in Mississippi, who has been judged on sight my entire life as “uppity,” self-entitled and arrogant. I couldn’t possibly know the struggle, because my privilege ensures that I can dodge it if I so choose – or so I’m told.