Why Acknowledging your Light Skin Privilege Isn't Enough (and What You Can Do to Actively Fight Racism)

With light skin comes an unimaginable and powerful amount of privilege. 

This privilege that white and biracial people have - myself included - started in the age of slavery, when our black ancestors experienced unimaginable suffering. It is in this historical period, over 400 years ago, that ideas like “light skin is more attractive” and “light skin is better than dark” were consolidated into society and the minds of descendants. This is a watered-down version of how white privilege started, but to this day racism is still real, and it is still rampant.

Enough is enough, we must change it.

It is a known fact that many biracial people don't understand and acknowledge the privilege that accompanies them through their lives. However, it is undeniable that we experience blatant preferential treatment, and are widely seen as more approachable than our dark-skinned counterparts. We are more likely to be hired for jobs than those with darker complexions just because of our skin tone, we don't face many injustices when dealing with the health care system, and we don't experience rude and racist comments on a daily basis. 

So when will we, as a collective, finally decide to acknowledge that we are better off than our dark-skinned friends and relatives in the world of systemic white supremacy?

However, let me be clear: simply acknowledging our privilege is not enough. In light of the recent murder of George Floyd (and the murders of countless other black Americans by the police), we need to do more than just know we are privileged.

By sitting back and remaining silent to the obvious struggle that black people are subject to, not only in the US but worldwide, we become complicit and as guilty as those perpetrating the violence.

Here’s what you can do to properly and effectively use your light skin privilege, in times of need like now, and in your day to day life. 

Black Lives Matter - George Floyd

Credit Photo: Logan Weaver on Unsplash.com

Be an ally

Be an ally to people with skin darker than your own. When they are talking about their struggles and points of view, do not speak over them or interrupt them. In a world where the black voice has been politically, culturally and historically suppressed, let those who have never been given the opportunity to express themselves without judgement speak first. Ask how you can help the cause and where you should look for helpful information. 

Use your platform

You don’t have to have 10k Instagram followers to “have a platform”. Everyone with a social media account and a following – no matter how big or small – has a platform. And also, just by having lighter skin, you are already in a position to make yourself heard and be taken seriously. So use your platform to spread knowledge, share petitions and the GoFundMe appeals, support the activists in the comments, and retweet their tweets. Make it known that you hear the dark skin struggle, and you want to do everything in your power to help and support those who need it. Show your white friends and family the videos and photos that are hard yet absolutely necessary to see. Call on others who benefit from your privilege (and other types of privilege) to speak out. Amplify black voices and say their names.

Support and donate to the causes 

Support those who are on the streets protesting for their right to live. For example, you can donate directly to the Minnesota Freedom Fund,  a non-profit organisation that is using the donations to bail out protestors in Minneapolis. Instead of buying a low-quality dress from brands who continue to profit off of black designers and blackfishing, yet stay silent on black issues, use that money to make a real difference to someone. Don’t forget to share and encourage others to donate/raise money, any amount is welcome and always appreciated. 

Below are more places you can donate and petitions you can sign:

You can ensure your donation is split among several bail funds on the ActBlue website. These 37 bail funds include the Philadelphia Bail Fund, the LGBTQ Freedom Fund, the Community Justice Exchange National Bail Fund Network and the Mississippi Bail Fund Collective. https://secure.actblue.com/donate/bail_funds_george_floyd

Color of Change https://colorofchange.org

NAACP Legal Defense Fund, https://www.naacpldf.org

Reclaim the Block, https://www.reclaimtheblock.org/home

Communities Against Police Brutality, https://www.cuapb.org/who_we_are

Change.org justice for George Floyd petition click here

Change.org justice for Belly Mujinga petition click here

*if you sign one petition on change.org you can sign others with just one click*

Don’t make it all about you

Obviously, biracial people – specifically those who are black biracial – face their own set of struggles; being hypersexualised and fetishized for one. However, look outside of yourself and toward the bigger picture; you can be both marginalised and benefit from privilege. Are you being murdered by the police for being mixed? Are you being denied jobs because you are mixed? Are you isolated in the beauty industry for being mixed? Stop expecting to be accommodated in conversations if all you are doing is making them about you.

Own your privilege

Come to terms with the fact that you benefit from some kind of privilege only by being biracial or having light skin. Use the fact that society is willing to hear your voices to continue the fight for black lives, whether you’re in the US, UK or elsewhere.

You hold more power than you may think – use it accordingly.


Written by Sophie Victoria Brown

Follow Sophie on Twitter and Instagram


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