I wish I could pinpoint the day Twitter began to explode with the hashtags #teamlightskinned and #teamdarkskinned. Maybe it was happening all along, and I just never noticed it — I’m usually blind to the Trending topics of the days. But it rapidly became something I could no longer ignore. Black women were dividing themselves proudly based on skin tone. There were the arguments that said you were not attractive if you were darker, or you were undesirable if you were lighter and vice versa. The amount of colorism and hatred between black women made my chest ache. I wanted nothing to do with it.
I am the biological product of two black people. My father’s skin is dark – rich like chocolate – while my mother is lightly olive skinned – prone to sunburn. I personally don’t think I look like either of them, but it’s evident that they make up my skin: caramel skinned and a probable victim of the sun if I’m not careful.
Growing up in the school district as I did, I was surrounded by people of all shades and different backgrounds. I never knew any different. I wasn’t even slightly aware that not many years later (while trying to adjust to awkward limbs and skipping training bras) that my skin tone would be something else I could be ridiculed for. My black-girl friends had to shun me because I wasn’t “black enough”. My skin wasn’t dark and I spoke “white.” I didn’t dress like they did, and this all made me less black than they were. And this would all make me resent myself.
On the whole, I’m now proud to be a black woman. I’m proud of what I am and where both of my parents’ ancestry lies. I had to address my own ignorance and anger before I was able to understand I should be proud. More importantly, I also had to understand that my skin tone comes with a privilege from outside of our race that I can’t ignore. That same privilege that white Hollywood likes to exploit, so that Zoë Saldana gets to play Nina Simone in her biopic, and has to be made up to look darker, but not Viola Davis. Becoming a proud black woman doesn’t mean pretending this doesn’t exist, or pretending to “not see color” – it is acknowledging that it’s wrong and not playing into it.
What makes this twitter trend worse for me is that a lot of these opinions are based around male preference, and how it must be the general consensus. It expanded to not just being about looks, but about personality traits that either group were stereotyped to have. Black guys don’t like dark skinned girls because of their temperament, or they don’t like light skinned girls that aren’t “easy” because they’re supposed to be. We were no longer black women as a whole. We were separated almost by species, based on the validation we thought we were owed by black men.
A$AP Rocky, a black rapper, recently stepped out and spoke about how much he dislikes when dark skinned girls wear red lipstick, and I shuddered at the thought of how many girls actually listened to him. It’s bad enough that we’re conditioned to wear make-up not because it makes us feel good about ourselves, but because some man at one point said to us “I only like when girls wear make-up,” or even “Girls that wear too much make-up are trashy.” Now, only girls with this skin tone can wear make up? We’re gonna play to that level of misogyny and colorism too? We’re gonna let black men divide us?
Ladies of all shades, we are black women. Colorism needs to stop from the inside, from within us, because all we’re doing is giving the world we live in another platform to judge us on. Racism is a war we’re all fighting, but how can we win when we’re still battling one another? Always love yourself, and love your sisters.