“Dear black boy your beautiful, you look just like me, but that image sometimes doesn’t reflect in your mind. All things are beautiful but it’s worrying that you see an ugliness in me, in our blackness, in yourself.”
Dear all, summer is officially among us and as some are preparing to bask in the warm June weather, for others, this time of year ignites a distinct over-awareness of the colour of their skin. While some will spend hours sprawled bare bodied in back gardens, lathered with baby oil, others – already discontent with the warm hue of their skin – will be doing everything in their power to avoid becoming darker. Today’s post will be exploring the reasons why black people and in particular black men have an obsession with lighter skin and looser curls. Is this ingrained anti-blackness or simply preference?
Favouring lighter skin in the black community is far from a new phenomenon, the roots of colourism can be traced as far back as slavery. Darker bodies, regardless of whether they were women or men, were put out in the fields essentially out of sight, and were expected to do the jobs which required the most labour. Lighter skinned black people, commonly referred to as “house niggers”, though still seen undeniably as black were also looked at as being closer than their darker counterparts, to the white ideal. Fast forward a few centuries and the media makes it very apparent that lighter skinned people are still the most favourable. Looking at depictions of black female characters in mainstream media you will often find binary stereotypes. Black women are commonly portrayed as being darskinned/ghetto/ugly/overweight, or lightskinned/boujee/attractive/desired, darker skinned characters are often the rude undesirable sidekick to the beautiful lighter skinned lead. Think about any of your favourite black shows from childhood and the pattern will become apparent, from “Martin” to the “Fresh prince of Bel-Air” you will be hard pressed to find a fictional family in which the mother is the same colour or darker than the father. But how do these stereotypes translate in the real world?
If asked the question of why so many black males prefer lighter skinned women my immediate reply would be femininity. Feminine is not a label usually ascribed to black women in general but it cannot be denied that the darker your skin the less able you are to be seen as womanly. As described above, darker skinned females in the days of slavery were seen less as women and more as mules, confined to manual labour the general consensus was that black women and in particular darker skinned black women were too strong to be womanly. The attributes of femininity and what it takes for a woman to be desired is almost in complete contrast to the stereotypical dark skinned black woman, to be feminine means to be dainty, fragile, soft, light, dependent. If this is the standard of what black men desire than the depiction of darker skinned women as strong, outspoken, brazen, independent beings doesn’t exactly bode well. To be feminine is to be compliant but being dark skinned is an act of defiance in itself, how dare you woman be darker than me, stronger than me, independent of me. Black is synonymous with strength so would it be a reach to suggest that in the sub-conscious minds of black people, both female and male alike that the expectation in a relationship is that the man should be the darker of the sexes?
When conversations about preference are brought up what always baffles me is hearing dark skinned black boys praise the beauty of lighter skinned women whilst tearing down the image of women who are closer in likeness to themselves. This is not to say that people should be attracted to and only to people of the same race or skin tone as themselves, however it does beg the question of whether some black boys preference of lighter skinned women points to a deeper insecurity. What is it about my dark skin, my wide nostrils, my kinky hair that translates as undesirable in me, a woman yet perfectly acceptable in you, a man. Are our features, our skin tone, our attitude seen as unattractive in me because I am female or are you chasing a lighter mate to cleanse us of these traits because these traits are unattractive in us all? How is it possible to find my colour unattractive or less preferable, without simultaneously finding distaste in the colour of your own skin?
This part of the post is addressed to those who will read this and still conclude that this is all still to do with preference. There is nothing wrong with having a preference, who people decide to be with and who they find attractive is the prerogative of the person in question. However, I believe that we should be able to take a deeper look into what fuels these preferences without being looked at as bitter or jealous of our fairer sisters. Nothing is immune to societal pressures and expectations, so it would be naive to believe that a preference for lighter skin is independent of the notion of beauty being something fundamentally white. How attractive someone seems is usually coupled with their proximity to whiteness and how euro-centric their features are. From long hair, to fairer skin to coloured eyes we have always been told what is beautiful, preference is not without bias.
Well I think what I’m trying to say is that there are definitely more discussions to be had on the topic of colourism. Detrimental in more ways than one colourism is just yet another tool of division within the black community. To be light is to be more palatable, lighter skinned women and even men have an undeniable privilege not just within the black community but within film, television the music industry and society as a whole. We are far too quick to dismiss darker skinned women as “bitter” or “jealous” within these discussions or simply reducing everything down to preference, when what we should be doing is working on ways to combat stereotypical views on what it means to be a light skinned or dark skinned woman.
Argumentative, Outspoken and unaplogetically Jaydee x