Light Skin Privilege
There is this belief within some communities, that light skinned black people are “better” or “more attractive” than those with dark skin. Black men and women with light skin are fetishised by people not only within the black community, but also outside of these groups. These same people who fetishise light skinned individuals, vilify those with dark skin. During my childhood, I always admired those with light skin, and refrained from sitting in the sun for too long, in case my skin became too dark. Though I have overcome this fear of the sun, the preference for light skin has been intensified by the popular use of Instagram and Twitter.
The preference for light skin not only occurs in the black community, but also in South Asia and other communities. This preference has led to those with dark skin, being discriminated against and facing prejudice. This is known as colourism. Those with light skin receive certain privileges that dark skinned individuals do not receive. They are less likely to be racially profiled, more likely to get a job and more likely to be accepted by other racial groups.
However, this isn’t a recent trend. The preference for light skin in the black community, stems from slavery. Though all slaves were exploited, dehumanised and violated, those with light skin were treated favourably. Slaves with light skin were forced to work in the slave master’s house, whilst slaves with dark skin were relegated to the cotton fields.
Even though black people have broken away from the chains and shackles of slavery, the belief that light skin is “better,” still exists and continues to breed envy and hatred within communities. Darker skin is seen by some as less attractive, not exotic enough, or just plain ugly.
London nightclubs such as DSTRKT, have been accused by partygoers of denying dark skin women entry, whilst allowing their light skin counterparts entry. Others have taken to Twitter to share their experiences of racist door policies at nightclubs.
Nonetheless, nightclubs aren’t the only organisations who have been accused of favouring light skin. Magazines like InStyle and Elle, have been accused of white-washing black women, in an attempt to make them appear lighter. In white-washing images of black women, magazines are in fact perpetuating the notion that dark skin is less desirable, and doesn’t appeal to the masses.
People have taken to social media to combat the shaming of dark skin. Various Instagram pages have been created in order to celebrate dark skin. Hashtags such as #darkskinwomen and #unfairandlovely, have received thousands of posts in hopes of readdressing the stigma attached to dark skin. These pages not only instil confidence in those with dark skin, they also reaffirm the fact that dark skin has always been beautiful.
Written by Adesuwa O.
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