The GrioFrom The Grio — The Dark Girls documentary that premiered on OWN last week ripped the lid off of colorism in a way that made some black people in America intensely uncomfortable. For over one hour, dark-skinned black women and girls shared their feelings of rejection, sexual objectification and marginalization in a nation where white supremacy is often perpetuated by a black community.

For generations, we have been beaten – figuratively and literally –  into conflating whiteness with superiority and their heart-wrenching stories of existence at the dark end of the color spectrum held whispers of deep-seated feelings of inferiority and fierce resilience in spite of it all.

Mixed reactions to ‘Dark Girls’

The documentary itself met with mixed reviews – primarily for a perceived India.Arie-inspired “I am not my skin” cry for colorblind acceptance as opposed to an “I am my skin and you will deal” confidence.

There were also appearances by two white men, speaking from lofty positions of global access and privilege, who have no place at all in a dark girl’s narrative – unless it is to admit that white supremacy is not only the root of colorism, but the poisonous sustenance that feeds its damaged blooms.

It also received steep criticism for heavy reliance on heterosexual male validation, insinuating that if only dark-skinned women felt as desired by black men as their lighter counter-parts, all this pesky colorism talk would dissipate.

A missed opportunity?

Depending on the lens through which it is viewed, Dark Girls is either a long-overdue public acknowledgment of internalized pain or a missed opportunity. The passionate debates and commentary that followed, however, clearly exposed a continuing House/Field pathology that weakens our community along the fault lines of empathy and privilege.

Writing for Clutch Magazine, Dr. Yaba Blay eloquently states:

Some light-skinned women feel overlooked, their experiences seldom recognized as if their lightness somehow protects them from any pain. But if any of them dare say so, they are quickly and effectively dismissed if not silenced. Brown-skinned sisters who aren’t so light but aren’t that dark are somehow made to reflect on their own skin color as much lighter or much darker than it actually is, just so they can be a part of the conversation. Either that or they watch from the sidelines and remind us every now and again that we continue to push them to the sidelines.


We needed the voice of the light-skinned sister to tell us what it’s like to walk into a room and have women who know nothing about her throw daggers with their eyes, or the light-skinned sister who stays in the sun and has either loc’ed her hair or cut it very close because she’s down for her people and doesn’t want anything about her presence to cause the browner-skinned women she considers her sisters to question their value. We needed that balance, if in fact the purpose of the dialogue is healing.

And in Blay’s insightful passage, there is my voice. I am that light-skinned woman, who used to be the light-skinned girl in Mississippi, who has been judged on sight my entire life as “uppity,” self-entitled and arrogant. I couldn’t possibly know the struggle, because my privilege ensures that I can dodge it if I so choose – or so I’m told.

(Continue Reading @ The Grio…)

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  • Anon

    Jeez! Some of ya’ll are obsessed with the word “raped”, “house slave”, “field negro”, etc… . I mean really. I have NEVER known folks who knew more than 3-4 generations of family history throw those terms around so much. Geez, catch a clue. As a black woman back then, it was harder to be lighter in a lot of instances, esp. if white women were threatened by your looks. You got WATCHED. By errrrbody on de’ plantation (or small farm as most of them were). “Mammy in the kitchen” is a stereotype for a reason… you think a white woman back then would have been all “good in the hood” with a good looking light-skinned black woman in the nearby vicinity all of the time?

    And yes, light skinned women get to have a say about this, esp. b/c the jealousy issue always gets ignored. You think it is EASY being lighter around a whole bunch of angry and upset dark skinned women? Chicks will stress you out over your HAIR alone. I ain’t heard of the hood story where a light black girl was trying to razor blade a darker black girl b/c a boy liked her instead.

  • Anon

    And trust and believe, your comment will be put on quiet. If you’re above a certain shade with longer hair (esp. growing up), then 9/10 you’ve got stories of either having to fight, or threaten to be able to get into one with a dark-skinned woman/girl who would also REFUSE to see that she was angry due to lack of male attention.

    Why do folks think the “natural” hair community went “to battle”? B/c before 2009, most who did it were aware of their hair texture and did it anyway, culturally had support, or for medical reasons (I miss pre “Good Hair” natural communities). As soon as “shame” came with perming, jealousy over hair types flew out. Colorism needed to be documented. NONE OF THIS IS NEW. Rosa PARKS was even chosen as the face of the bus boycott due to her skin tone making her more palatable. I’m waiting on the argument that “She wasn’t really black anyways”.

  • Anon

    Ding Ding Ding! I grew up in the south, and while it is getting better now, even my grandmother said that some things in her life would have been easier if she was darker. Basically, white women saw her as a threat when she walked through a door, and THAT was dangerous. I can attest to the same. I don’t think some of these commenters understand being able to “play” into the beauty card but with a MUCH weaker hand. You’ll be thrown out faster than chicks who are able to fly under the radar. We don’t get crazy from just darker skinned black women, we get it from EVERYONE. And if you don’t think most lighter women have to realize how tenuous that “coveted” spot is, you have no idea.

    This is like older women in an office (with senior positions) being jealous of the new young hot receptionist. Ole’ girl is WELL aware that her job is dependent on you not feeling threatened.

  • carole dearmon

    How about this. For years things happened that I did not understand. Fights; being chased home and worse by overweight dark girls. Of course having my hair pulled. The plain villainous hate experienced by me and my family because our skin is lighter than others gives rise to feelings of total disgust. So I think I will avail myself of some of that light-skin privelege I am supposed to have and say I do not care about you pain. I have always identified as a black woman, but I think I feel a weight lifted when I admit that your pain ain’t my pain.