To Those Who Would Tell Me I'm 'Pretty For A Dark-Skinned Girl'

Colorism: You're Cute To Be Dark

There was a time in my life when I didn't lovingly embrace my dark skin. During my adolescent years, I was under the impression that lighter meant better. To me, lighter skin equaled automatic beauty and popularity. It wasn't until I was much older that I realized one's skin tone doesn't define a person -- character does. Furthermore, beauty comes in all shapes, colors, ages and sizes -- it is not synonymous with one group.

I haven't been able to pinpoint what caused the distorted view of myself and skin tones in general. Could it be that I didn't receive enough affirmation as a child? I also wonder if it was because I didn't see darker-skinned Black women glamourized when I was younger. Or could it possibly be something much deeper? Could being aware of Black history have an effect on how some of us view ourselves within our race?

For an example; if I had been alive during slavery, I would have been in the field picking cotton and chopping down tobacco -- I would not have been working in the master's house away from the brunt of the weather. I can only imagine the impact that had on darker-skinned Blacks. I would think the separation within our race based on skin tone created a sense of inferiority in darker-skinned Blacks and possibly a sense of superiority in fairer skinned Blacks. And I wonder if that mindset was inadvertently passed onto future generations because our ancestors were conditioned to segregation amongst themselves. The fact of the matter is, slavery existed several decades ago, but we as Black people are still fighting the remnants of it -- colorism being one of them.

There were two occasions in my life when I was told by two different males that I was "cute to be dark." At the time, I didn't argue with them or even question their statement, but it obviously stuck in my mind. The incident is mind-boggling for several reasons; one being the fact that I encountered two different Black males who, at the time, didn't necessarily believe dark-skinned women could be attractive.

Furthermore, one of the individuals is darker than me, and his mother and sister are dark-skinned as well. How did he view his mother and sister? What caused this belief? Don't get me wrong, I understand there are people who have preferences but telling me, "You're cute to be dark," goes beyond preference. And what about the lighter-skinned guy? What had he been conditioned to for him to make the same statement? And I am very confident in saying I am not the only dark-skinned Black woman to be told, "You're a pretty dark-skinned girl." Huh? -- is that supposed to be an oxymoron or something?

I remember watching the movie School Daze when I was 12. I admit that I didn't get the message of the movie back then, but it addresses some interesting details in regards to skin tone among Blacks. One of the things that stood out the most to me is the actresses in the "Good and Bad Hair" scene. The women who played the" jigaboos" were mostly dark-skinned and depicted as wallflower-ish. But, the "wannabes" were mostly light-skinned and glamour-ish looking. I discovered something interesting about myself when I watched the aforementioned scene while researching this topic - there are dark-skinned women depicted as "wannabes" and light-skinned women depicted as "jigaboos" - I hadn't noticed that before. Was I that blinded by my distorted belief? Am I the only one who didn't notice?

Now I realize the importance of loving and embracing myself as I am. I also recognize the idiocy behind wishing I was someone else or even slightly different from who I am. Mainly because God doesn't make mistakes, but in addition to that, we don't know what it takes to be the person whose life we covet.

So, what do we do? What can we do? Is this behavior breakable?

I think it is ridiculous to complain about the lack of respect and acceptance from other races when we are divided within our own. I think we should teach and demonstrate self-acceptance and love in conjunction with embracing the differences we see in others within our race. We should spend our energy embracing and appreciating the beauty of our differences.

The truth of the matter is, no one is better than anyone else. Lighter isn't better than darker or vice versa. Let's teach and practice seeing each other in our simplest form -- human. We're all just dust anyway.