Uplifting Shades of Blackness: ‘Dark Girls’ Rocks!

2013/06/23

When I hear the term “fair-skinned,” passed from white people — who also use that term among whites who are a far cry from “olive” — to Us through the centuries, I want to emit a primal scream. What are We predominantly brown-complexioned Black people? Unfair-skinned? I don’t have the energy to tackle subliminal racism in the English language — from phrases such as black comedy to words such as blackmail — because I need to do my part in eradicating the perpetual self-hatred that We as Black people express each time We utter a colorist remark.

Congrats to OWN for airing, tonight, the excellent, poignant and wonderfully controversial film documentary titled Dark Girls,
produced and directed by Bill Duke and D. Channsin Berry. Two hours didn’t seem enough time to delve into the history of color bias and the contemporary issues, but the filmmakers deserve the highest praise for addressing the unfair treatment of darker-brown-complexioned people and for examining how some Black (non-Latino and Latino) men select women based on their shades of Blackness. Profiles aren’t only among academics; everyday people are shown voicing their perceptions and experiences. Often it’s painful to listen to how horrible Our ebony women were and are treated by other Black women and by Black men, but listen We must.

Nearly four centuries after slavery washed ashore in what is now the U.S.A., We as Black people (Black as signified politically, socially, psychically and existentially) continue to extol the positives of being on the lighter end of the color spectrum, and especially when the natural hair texture is soft and wavy or straight. Don’t even get me started with the whole hypocritical argument about weaves — that is, pitted against relaxers. (Sistas, chill. White females and other non-Blacks wear weaves, clip-ons, wigs, and many of them relax and perm their hair, too. If they’re self-hating, they’re not trashing each other in front of Us.)

We still identify one another in conversation according to color — for example, “You know the girl, the one with Alicia Keys’ complexion,” “Yeah, that dark-skinned dude,” etc., ad nauseam. Tougher to fight against will be stopping each other from teasing the Black classmate or co-worker who “talks like a white girl,” or “is too proper.” Helloooo, it’s called sounding educated. Got a problem with that? Then stay in school, and You too will have more-important issues to examine. Education is a tool, a weapon, and this Black woman — no matter how Eurocentric my education was, from grammar school to college, and no matter where I choose to travel, and no matter how many times I change my hair texture — is a fuckin’ warrior. I am free.

Also, however, I am quite concerned about future generations of Black children of all sexes where, among many issues, positive self-image is concerned. As for the current generation of young Black women everywhere in this world, I have great empathy for the poisonous tendrils of colorism that sting their human connections — especially during dating rituals. It would torture my soul if one of my younger female relatives were to tell me that some dude told her she was too dark to introduce to his parents/parent. That shit happened to me years ago; dude knew me biblically but said I couldn’t meet his momma because, to paraphrase him: She only likes “light-skinned” girlfriends that previously he had presented to her. It was a contemporary version of the paper bag test. Hmmm, it was summertime; I must’ve tanned. What a shame that he didn’t expose his inherited colorism soon after we were introduced; it was like I had been sleeping with the enemy for a year.

Black men deal with the colorist nonsense too; above I’m just giving a Black female POV — not the only one. However, some young Black men play their own negative roles in perpetuating colorism. For example, as several Black men in the 21-35 age demographic revealed in Dark Girls, they believe that selecting a mate by her color/shade of Blackness — aside from behavior and personality traits — will determine their children’s colors/shades of Blackness. What a shame that they (and Black women with the exact or similar beliefs) don’t understand that all of both parents’ genes come to the pool party. While biologically it’s rare for, say, two ebony parents to produce a baby that could be mistaken for white, it can happen. On the other hand, there are many instances of two café au lait parents producing a baby whose complexion can range from theirs to ebony. Don’t believe me, think I’m shittin’ you? Take a look at Grandma or Grandpa (or both) — or photos if they’ve passed on — and if You have photos or other kinds of renderings of more-distant ancestors, such as great-grandparents, great-grand aunts and great-grand uncles, etc., examine them.

Unfortunately, many of Us have no physical images of — let alone documents about or from — extremely distant ancestors, to the ridiculousness (no-thanks to the Trans-Atlantic slave trade) of not knowing which countries constitute the first part of the appellation African American. Thus the Africa-centric brotha, though well-intentioned, who desires to sire some blue-black babies might not get them even if he were to mate with an obsidian-hued Maasai sista on a striped kanga under a Serengeti sunset.

So before We get upset every time a white person who has a Black grandchild or nephew, niece, etc., says, “He [She] is so gorgeous, with that olive complexion,” ignore his or her lack of consciousness about Your Blackness and dig Yourself. Remember: An olive tree may grow in Mediterranean soil that’s an echo’s distance from the African Continent, but an olive is still a damned fruit.

Back to the truth-time film documentary on OWN …

I really absorbed the messages in Dark Girls tonight. No little Black child should think that being Black signifies dirtiness, negativity, etc. Now will somebody write a film documentary about self-proclaimed U.S. Creoles who are Black? I don’t give three fucks that that L’Oreal ad claims Beyoncé is African American, French and Native American. To borrow from Loretta Devine’s character in Jumping the Broom, going tête-à-tête with Angela Bassett’s “Creole” character: “You’re Blaaaack! You’re Blaaaack!”

To quote the Godfather of Soul, James Brown, from a record I kept in heavy rotation as a very young girl: “Say it loud: I’mBlackandI’mproud!!!”

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