This week it was announced that LisaRaye McCoy’s Independent film Skinned has been picked up by TV One and will make its debut on the network next year. Skinned, which, according to Essence, was nominated in November as one of the best independent films at Atlanta’s Bronze Lens Film Festival, tells the story of a woman named Jolie, described on the movie’s website as a “complex character.”
“Though she’s dark, beautiful, and appears confident at times, her self-esteem is extremely low. This stems from the fact that she’s the object of childhood and adulthood cruelty concerning the darkness of her skin. Throughout her life, she has had nothing but put downs in this regard. Worse of all, her other two sisters are lighter in complexion and always considered the prettier ones. They are all socialites and have lots of guys beating down their door. Jolie on the other hand has never been on a single date. However, when she gets to college and falls head over heels in love with a light-skinned college swim star, things take an unforeseen turn.”
In recent years, we’ve finally seen darker complected black women being given a space to openly and honestly talk about what many would like to pretend is no longer an issue in our community: colorism. Documentaries like Dark Girls put that topic right on front street and sparked lively debate online, but what we’ve yet to see in all of these discussions are concrete solutions for getting past light-skinned versus dark-skinned jokes, “you’re pretty for a dark-skinned girl” (non) compliments, and ogling over fairer complected women for their European features.
Hollywood and their race and colorism issues aside, the people largely responsible for the prevalence of shame handed down to darker complected girls and boys are us. Most times the problem starts right at home when you begin to notice how often your light-skinned cousin is told she’s pretty and you’ve yet to hear it once, or any compliment you’re given are expressed with your skin being a caveat to that attractiveness. Or even as we’ll see with the fictional character in LisaRaye’s project, someone suggests you bleach your skin if you want to get ahead. The question is, will the buck stop with us?
An extension of the natural hair movement has been learning to embrace everything about our natural selves that makes us beautiful, including our skin tone. Black women are more awake to their beauty and the importance of instilling that same pride in future generations of black girls more than ever, but when, in 2015, movies like Skinned still have to be made (or do they?) it makes us wonder what keeps some of us clinging to the oppressive paper bag regime that has scarred all of us in some way — because light or dark, all white people see is black. So is talking about it enough? Or are there some concrete things we all need to commit to — to ensure the next generation of “dark girls” never has to hear that they’re pretty for anything, they’re simply beautiful?