I was eight years old and my two sisters and I where “helping” my mom do her weekly grocery shopping. You know, how eight year old’s “help” by sneaking biased- candy-based-food products into the cart and hoping mom doesn’t notice until the cashier swipes it at check-out. Well we were in the isle with all the cereal and such, and we passed by a lovely dark skinned woman that seemed quite excited to see us. She stopped my mom and her eyes brightened as she gleamed,
“You have such beautiful little girls!”
My sisters and I puffed up until the woman continued,
“Are you all mixed with something? Especially the young one she is very light.So pretty.”
Stop right there. It was as if the woman implied that my light-skinned sister was the prettiest because she was lighter than my sister and me. It was as if she only complimented us in the first place because we might have been mixed with something other than black.As if the non-black part of ourselves was what made us so pretty. Light-skinned, a term thrown around the black community quite often with usually positive undertones. It is the sad, sad light-skinned/dark-skinned dichotomy that the new film “Dark Girls” builds itself.
Dark Girls originally premiered at the Toronto Film Festival and after great reviews and grapevine chatter, made it’s way to OWN. The dark-skinned/ light skinned dichotomy is an issue that stems all the way back to the slavery, where the light-skinned slaves where deemed “good enough” to work in the house while the dark-skinned slaves were left to tend the fields. Over four hundred years later, the black community is still dealing with the backlash of this value system, and Dark Girls takes on the the difficult job of introducing this struggle to a nation that doesn’t seem to notice this is even a thing.We live in a society where black skin is scientifically the most unattractive of all the races, a society where an all American girl is quickly presumed to be blonde and blue. Of course it’s not surprising young girls of the darker persuasion feel like outsiders.
I was one of those girls. As a preteen I remember searching online for ways to lighten my skin. I saved up my well-earned allowance to buy skin lightening creams meant for dark, under eye circles or minor discolorations. I would wish and dream and hope for the day I could be just a few shades lighter. I wasn’t bullied because of my skin color and it wasn’t even mentioned or discussed. No, it was the subliminal messages of our society, those little tiny signs in our everyday lives that tell us that white is better. The “nude” colored stockings meant for alabaster complexions, black rappers with their music videos in which they only include fairer-skinned black women as their “dime pieces” (while offensive in many other ways, still a low blow to dark-skinned women), those damned “skin tone” band aids that forever clash against my dark brown, paper-cut ridden fingers. Our society is white-centric, and as Dark Girls mentioned, this is not just a black issue. There are far too many non-white societies of our world that face this desire to be more and more pale.
The United States are the monarch of media for all of the world and as such, we have a responsibility to stop with the Euro-centric representations of beauty. Yes, it’s too ambitious to assume that the U.S. has the power to completely alter the world’s ideas of beauty. Many of our concepts of beauty are biological and therefore innate. However, let’s be mindful of the power of media. Subliminal messaging is a real thing. Dark skinned,young black girls that don’t even know the term “subliminal messaging” know to pick the white doll over the black one. That, my friends, is not innate, that is learned.
So call me greedy but I found myself wanting more of this. Dark Girls began a conversation our nation should have started a while ago and we should use it as a catalyst for more discussion. I do feel the black community is quite aware of shade preferences, and I’m extremely thankful for this film for bringing it to the attention of non-black people that may have been in the dark, so to speak. I must say, I am proud of my skin now. I’m beyond the wish of being white because I feel special and different in this skin now, rather than an unattractive outsider. But there are many young girls out there that are nowhere near as comfortable. We’ve gotta help them out. I wonder, were you aware of the dark-skinned dilemma before learning about this film? I’d love to know your thoughts!