The lasting effects of colorism are here to stay and it's something I get riled up about.
I saw this photo and my first thought was look at this power and look at this love. It was comforting. It reminded me of how my husband and I fight so hard to show people that you can indeed go for your dreams and love someone. That you can support one another and be a part of each other’s narratives while writing your own. And then the internet perverted all of that for me.
No sooner than I was encouraged by the photo, I was discouraged by all the comments about the women in the photo being of a certain hue. There was a sentiment of “all these powerful men” chose women that are either light, bi-racial or white. If you’re unfamiliar, this is a thing in the black community.
From the time that we are young, you as well as I, can probably remember aunties chatting about their disdain for black men who seemingly date out of their race. Often times never knowing exactly what drew that person to their significant other, but assuming that somehow it is all based in self-hatred and worshipping the ground that women of other races walk on. These issues are very real. I would never ever take away from that. I am also fully aware that I speak from the place of privilege as a fairer skinned African-American woman. But I like to think that we are just as much a part of the conversation as white folks are a part of the current conversation on police brutality. My silence will not make the issue go away and so I decided to share my thoughts.
I come from a family of various different hues. So it never even occurred to me that my lighter skin was a thing. I felt like other girls would make a bigger thing about my hair and skin color than I ever cared about. (Let me clarify here, my hair is kinky as jax, but it was long, so that was a thing. :-/) In my house we were all black and no one really made distinctions over what was better or worse. My dad is a deep brown man whom was always my first love. Many of his brothers and sisters are also dark brown and some of them are light. And they of course grew up in a time where sometimes those distinctions were made unfairly. But in our house. There was no tolerance for that type of behavior. It was about grades and what was inside your head not the color of your skin.
I know that doesn’t take away from the challenges that darker African Americans have faced. Especially as women. As black people as a whole we have had struggles in finding representations of beauty in mainstream media. And so as much as I understand the argument people may have about the photo and the issues surrounding it, it also leaves me unsettled. This conversation about the post VMA picture reminds me of the reason I started a panel series called Bold, Brown & Beautiful after watching the documentary film “Dark Girls.”
It was troubling to me. Troubling that these beautiful black women didn’t feel pretty because people that were ugly on the inside made them feel less than. But I saw an opportunity for us to come together. An opportunity for myself as a light skin woman to embrace my sisters and let them know that they are not alone. Why do we continue to perpetuate the division of darker and lighter hues when that was the original intent for us to be pitted against one another?
I am all for dark skin women lifting up other dark skin women, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of your lighter sisters who are battling insecurities just as well. I have not met a woman yet, black, white or indifferent that has not struggled with insecurity. And YES, all of our struggles are very different and deserve their just due, but that understanding of womanhood as a whole is extremely powerful.
I’m not going “all lives matter” here. I am just going, “raise each other up but not on the backs of those that never deemed themselves privileged.” I remember watching an episode of “Underground” and one of the field slaves was envious of those that worked in the house. The house slave’s reply? “Ain’t none of us free.” Each of them were fighting their own battles. And in the moment when they came together was when true rebellion and revolution was able to happen.
I also find it interesting that in this narrative about powerful men marrying women outside their race or the beige folks in their race, we seem to ignore the powerful men that are married to black or brown women. EVEN P. Diddy who is pictured above with Cassie had dark skin girlfriends and baby mommas. Hello? Kim Porter was brown and GORGEOUS!!!! Look at his children. They’re all different hues and I am certain he loves them no different. How is it that we leave the Lebrons and Dwayne Wades, Chris Pauls, Samuel Jacksons, Denzel Washingtons and the Barack Obamas out of these conversations?
And do you understand how offensive it is to assume that someone selected their wife solely based on her skin color? Like dude. You can’t tell me, my husband doesn’t love me past the fact that I am “light skin.”
Does that mean that there aren’t some men that have some very real issues with their community and loving black women or darker women? Of course there are. But I can't help but be annoyed by our assumptions. If you have never had a conversation with someone about why they chose their mate, how dare we assume?
All I’m saying is, I am sick of the divisiveness. Yes we have a long way to go in representation as black women and especially black women that have darker skin. But you know what I have also learned at 30? I’m done waiting for anyone to tell me how beautiful I am. It’s up to us! We can look at one another and give each other compliments and create our own content and images of beauty. This country’s idea of beauty may not change any time soon, so what are we going to do about it? What are we going to do in a way that lifts us up, without trying to make others in our own race feel inferior?
And … if we really think that love is love, then how are we even still having this conversation? Love is love includes interracial love right? It includes light skin and dark skin folks. It includes dark women that marry light men as well right?
There are plenty of issues in society in regard to color and esteem, but to project them unfairly on others in my opinion is a misstep. And denying the validity of love based on skin color in my estimation is just another form of prejudice which we are supposed to be fighting against.
It’s imperative that we get a grasp on this because our daughters are at stake. They will be looking to us to see how we think about ourselves to know how they should move. Teach them that our confidence does not come from man but from God and that beauty exists in all forms. It’s up to us as a community, it’s up to us to always stand together, not still peering out of the windows of an old slave mentality.