I was on Twitter recently (surprising, salve I know) and came across an unsettling exchange—ft. a beautiful clapback—between @dopelike_mimi and another user who said, diagnosis in a nutshell, that while she is beautiful her dark color is not, that she would be infinitely more attractive if she were of a lighter skin color. I quickly noticed other men coming to the defence of the initial tweeter—comments like “It’s not like he said he doesn’t like black women” or “It’s just a preference, if I said the same thing about hair color nobody would bat an eye” stood out among others.
While her response and the positive feedback was uplifting (and acclaimed by Buzzfeed and other publications quickly after), the concept as a whole is nothing new; within the black community and beyond, lighter is better and thus more positively received and praised.
It might be subconscious for some (I in no way mean to imply that everyone thinks or feels this way) but the evidence is overwhelming; lighter skinned or overall more “European” (long hair, slender bodies) looking girls are featured more prominently in leading roles on television, in commercials, in the fashion industry and in magazines—Beyoncé’s beauty acknowledged more than Brandy’s, Halle Berry over Lupita Nyong’o. Then you have Lil Kim, who has grown to hate her color because of the negativity she received—from the men and from the public—because of it.
It’s a societal issue at its core; “white is right” they say—and as black women we’ll never be white, but we can try our best to get close. And those who aren’t close are criticized ruthlessly, called ugly and berated for something we both cannot control and choose to embrace. Meanwhile people like the above tweeters don’t recognize that there is racism in saying a woman is ugly if she isn’t a particular shade, like saying Race X in general are uglier than Race Y—just because he likes black women doesn’t mean he isn’t being hateful towards a certain type of woman.
That’s not to say lightskin people don’t have struggle too, all black people do; how many times have you heard jokes like “You text like a lightskin” or “Lightskin boys are _____” negatively? My overall point is that even within the black community we have created a divide; for example, with the release of Kendrick Lamar’s somewhat controversial track ‘Humble’, he was attacked for wanting women to embrace their natural qualities with many being quick to criticize him for being married to a lightskin mixed woman—i.e. people were delegitimizing his wife’s blackness because she didn’t fall onto the spectrum of black enough. Since when did we become “different types” of black rather than one unified people working together against the system of white privilege in our country?
I acknowledge the man’s right to be attracted to a certain type of person same as there are white women who only date black men—but his comment, as a man of color to a woman of color, only shed light on a larger issue; by spreading hate within, are we any better than our oppressors? Are we doing anything but put down each other as others outside of our race do notoriously?
It is an issue that we as a community need to eliminate by supporting one another, by appreciating the beauty in all of our brothers and sisters regardless of the color of our skin. We have enough oppression and criticism from the outside; welcoming it by degrading one another makes us weaker as a whole and fuels insensitivity further.
Written by Ashley Johnson