For as long as I can remember I’ve heard these remarks from Black women.
- Stay out of the sun.
- Coffee will make you Black.
- Don’t you want to go inside?
- Girl . . . I don’t need to get any darker!
Over the years, my grandmothers, friends, students, and even my own mother, have uttered a variation of these words no matter how dark or light their skin may have been.
For centuries, people of color have been told we are inferior to Whites. Our country, and even our world, has been set up within a system of White supremacy. Europeans have traveled the globe colonizing nations and instilling their values, preferences, and standards on those they conquered, but this is 2010. Slavery ended over a hundred years ago, and it’s been fifty years since the revolution that was the civil rights movement. People of color have broken barriers, integrated society, and have proven their worth time and time again. We have a Black couple in the White House, so things should be different, right? Wrong.
No matter how much progress we’ve made, it seems as though we cannot escape issues of race and color. Despite President Obama’s history making election, I’ve heard people wonder aloud if he would have been elected if he were a dark skinned Black man. While others praise him for marrying Michelle because she’s darker skinned, and somehow perceived to be more authentically Black.
As a community of women, we struggle with the color issue all the time. Women who possess more European features—lighter skin, smaller features, straight hair—are often held up as beautiful. While women who do not fit that standard of beauty are sometimes made to feel inadequate.
Recently, I saw a documentary that explores the way in which people in the same ethnic groups can sometimes be divided along color lines. “Shadeism,” a documentary by a Nayani Thiyagarajah, explores the complex issues of colorism with the African, Caribbean, and South Asian diasporas. It was eye opening, and hopefully will spark a frank discussion about why some of us still are so caught up on how light/dark we are.