By: Millie Monyo
Photo credit: www.modiva.tumblr.com
While I was perusing my monthly fashion mags, I kept seeing advertisements that said “Love the skin you’re in” “Black is beautiful” and India Aire’s song “Brown Skin” kept popping into my head.
I absolutely adore my chocolaty cocoa milo complexion and feel even more obligated to make that known as I have my 11 year old sister Maya looking up to me… but I do remember an awkward time in my life around junior high when I wished I was in anything but the skin I was in.
This led me to ponder some questions… Do you truly love the skin you’re in? Are you happy about it? The late Curtis Mayfield wrote in a song, “if you had a choice of colors, which one would you choose to be right.” I remember lines like, “the blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice," and “If you’re White, you’re all right. If you’re brown, stick around, but if you’re Black, get back."
Has this situation changed pertaining to how we date each other, or who we marry? Did the "Black is Beautiful" revolution change our perceptions on the color of our skin? Is skin color, still an issue in Black America today?
Skin color for the most part may no longer be the issue it was at the beginning of the 20th century, but it is still a hidden and dangerous issue that is whispered softly in clubs and social settings, at Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts, at church fellowship and funeral repasts, and with the lot of us who still have those notions described above. It is the family secret that won’t go away–the hushed murmurings of high-yellow and redbone, high-brown, medium-brown and blue-black, the inner language of skin color, shade and variation.
I’ve always wanted to ask specific questions to this ‘skin thang’ and get the type of answers that would be conducive to how perception can screw up the best intent in how people view from the outside looking in. We come in all shades and hues but are we truly accepting of them all?
Colorism in the United States is a practice that began in times of slavery due to white slave-owners’ assertion that any person black (African) or associated with blackness was inferior or lowly. Common practices of the time were to allow the slaves with the lighter complexion (more commonly the offspring of the slave masters and their slaves) to engage in less strenuous usually domesticated duties, while the darker, more African looking slaves participated in hard labor, which was more than likely outdoors.
It never ceased to amaze me how people seem to connote skin color with certain mindsets good and bad. I always wondered why light-skinned blacks have the reputation they have, and why darker skinned folk were looked down on, which made the ‘white is right and black is back’ syndrome bigger than life!
I consider myself beautiful beyond stereotypical notion and dared anyone to say otherwise. But as I ventured down south to college past the Mason Dixon line (shout out to My Terps!) I began to realize that the “You’re pretty for a dark skin girl…,” comment wasn’t a phenomenon but a norm in the south. What truly bothered me about this statement was not the fact that the individual who said it to me thought it was perfectly ok to say but rather the fact that he believed this statement was a great compliment and that I should Thank him!!??
I’ve done an impromptu survey and was able to gauge that most of the darker women and men preferred lighter skinned partners, and likewise lighter skinned people would only defer to anybody darker than they. Why is this? I asked one of my survee’s this question, and here is how she responded: “I never liked light men because they were too ‘pretty’. Most of them were conceited and full of themselves. That was always a turn off to me.” Could it be that she just invented that because she is the opposite skin color?
I honestly feel that color differentiation is a product of insecurity, a product of a slave mentality. Just as slave masters showed favor with our forebears based on the color of their skin, so have we also shown favor with color when it comes to each other.
We really need to get over the issues of lightness vs. darkness and love each other without conditions…we can’t change our skin color…(that bleach causes damage people!!!) but we definitely can change how we perceive each other as equals. We are all African/Black people no matter what hue, and we need to start to look at ourselves as a collective body ready to form coalitions as opposed to trying to find ways to divide ourselves. And I’ll choose to keep my chocolate completed self in NY! Lol