Recently a video of Erica Campbell’s daughter speaking about the hardships she has faced as a dark-skinned black girl went viral on Twitter. Many voiced their support of the young girl, while others were disappointed in Erica’s response of disbelief towards her daughter’s difficult story. As black people, we need to get real about colorism instead of dismissing the voices of dark-skinned black women and girls.
Colorism: At a Glance
Colorism in the black community claims darker complexions as masculine and lighter ones as feminine. Dating back to slave times, black people still subscribe to these notions.
In an episode of their family reality show, Krista, famed gospel singer Erica Campbell‘s daughter, opened up to her mother about the bullying she was enduring due to her skin color. She mentioned aspects of her experience that are often faced by many other women who are darker-skinned. She states how she is not seen as pretty and noticed that black men don’t usually date darker-skinned women, especially the men in her family. She also acknowledges the differences in the way light-skinned women are treated versus women with a darker skin tone.
Another story that came out was about Gabrielle Union, who discussed colorism with her young boys. They showed a preference for light-skinned women and when asked if they knew any beautiful dark-skinned women, they claimed there were none.
Erica’s confused response to her daughter’s truth showed the disconnect between light-skinned and dark-skinned women and girls and how each view and experience colorism. Erica, being light-skinned herself, was convinced Krista’s experience was all in her head. Many dark-skinned female celebrities and everyday women chimed in to give their experiences and support to the young girl. Unfortunately, many of them saw themselves in Krista, emphasizing the validity of how darker black girls are treated by their own community.
Responses to Colorism Experiences
Erica’s reaction is very symbolic of the misconception of what dark-skinned black women face from light-skinned women. Light-skinned women often counter the experiences that dark-skinned women choose to express by saying things like what Erica said: “are you sure it isn’t in your head?” They also mimic the reverse racism claim with claims of “reverse colorism”.
“Reverse colorism” operates in the same way “reverse racism” does. Many light-skinned black people, men and women, will try to change the conversation by stating that “we are all black” in the eyes of white people, insinuating that there is only one struggle associated with being black. This, however, is disingenuous because of the root of colorism in slavery. Whites back then definitely saw a difference between dark and light-skinned black people and divided them in the house and in the field. This argument tries to deflect the issue of how colorism has been internalized by black folk, to the point where we divide amongst ourselves.
What These Stories Tell Us
These stories each highlight how dark-skinned women and girls are not held up to the same beauty standards as their lighter counterparts. It also highlights how the mistreatment is deeply rooted in “misogynoir”, meaning that beauty is being linked to skin color, targeting the beautiful dark-skinned women of the black community and making them feel less than their lighter peers.
These common stories, that went viral, show the importance of addressing the topic of colorism. It takes a lot for someone to share their stories when many others will discredit and invalidate them. There also has to be a distinction made, among the black community that light-skin privilege exists, but that doesn’t mean they don’t get discriminated against for being black. It means darker women are just seen as lesser because they don’t have the femininity associated with light skin.
We need to start to examine within ourselves about why we may view a dark-skinned woman as less attractive, more aggressive, and less feminine and be truthful about the lasting effects colorism has had on the black community and our society as a whole. As far as the black community, we need to be more open to listening in order to understand dark-skinned women when they speak about their experience. In doing so, we can address that colorism is a real thing and reevaluate what we see as beauty. Being beautiful does not need to have a close proximity to whiteness. Being beautiful can also be as black as possible. Black is, of course, beautiful in all shades, but we should not be blind to the shades that have been given preference for hundreds of years.
Image Attribute: Pixabay