Light skinned vs. Dark skinned.
Good hair vs Nappy
Natural vs Permed
Brown Paper Bag Test
All of the above have been tools used to judge Black women and measure our beauty/worth whether we ourselves were doing the judging or being judged by others.
A few days ago “Dark Girls” premiered on OWN, a documentary highlighting the social pitfalls that dark-skinned Black women face in this country, addressing preference among men, stereotypes etc.
Although I haven’t seen the documentary (alas I don’t have cable) I have read a few blog posts and articles and Facebook status updates on it and I see one argument t reoccurring: Dark skinned women aren’t the only ones who have been teased because of their skin tone. Light-skinned women have also been laughed at, teased, and grappled with their own esteem issues.
I have seen people on both sides get defensive and or try to mitigate what their sister has gone through. “Oh, so you’re light-skinned..boo hoo, I had it way worse than you did.” or “Oh, so you think because you’re dark, you are the only one who’s been picked on.?”
Let me start by saying I think it’s counter-productive to compare struggles as if we are in a competition to see who has had it worse. There are no winners. I don’ t think anyone’s amount of suffering is greater than the other no matter how “easy” they seemingly might have had it. I think it’s important to realize that we as Black women have all had to overcome some form of ignorance/opposition when it comes to our bodies and physical appearances. We are all dealing with and processing the ways in which racism and sexism combined have shaped our images of ourselves. Even if your issue wasn’t a complexion thing, you more than likely have had to deal with body type or hair type issues.
That being said, I think it’s of the utmost importance to let people just tell their stories and for us as the viewer to hear and acknowledge these stories and experiences. We have to continue to create a space for different perspectives but we can’t do this if we are too busy playing defense and yelling “Wait, what about my struggle?”.
To my light-skinned sistas, yes I know that you too have also grappled with complexion issues. But this particular documentary is about Dark Girls, and this story is imperative in an atmosphere that has told us over and over again that the darker you are, the more undesirable you are and you are inherently inferior. I think it does a great disservice to not let a group tell their story and then mitigate it by comparing struggles. This is the equivalent of shutting them down or making their stories and testimonies less important.
In an idealistic world, there would be a platform and forum for all of us to share our experiences. One of my Facebook friends suggested that a documentary be done on light-skinned girls. I would love to see a documentary on how being light-skinned, bi-racial, or multicultural has shaped self-esteem, body image, and outside perspective. But for now, let’s continue to keep the dialogue open and address the issues being mentioned in the documentary.