Light Skin vs. Dark Skin: Why is This Still a Thing?

By Jenise Jackson
Blog Content Contributor

To me, Black History Month is an exceptional reminder of black excellence. The black community coming together to celebrate each other is a wonderful thing. Yet, with the celebration I feel like it is a prime time to bring up an issue that still unfortunately lies within the community, especially among black females. That issue is colorism.

As a female who has a darker complexion, I am all too familiar with the light skin versus dark skin dilemma. But this battle has been a thing since way before I was born. To sum up all these years of the battle of colorism, light skinned individuals have been seen as more attractive and delicate compared to dark skinned individuals, who have been labeled as less attractive and resilient. However, this issue has been kind of swept under the rug because no one really ever wants to discuss colorism. Of course as different forms of media advanced and emerged, these stereotypes against light skin and dark skin individuals have only tried to be fortified. In fact, one of the first times I actually saw the issue being commented on was in Spike Lee’s School Daze. Even though it was released back in 1988, I think School Daze could still be considered relevant today due to the way it portrayed the issue of colorism out on screen. There is one scene in particular that involves one group of light skinned women and one group of dark skinned women exchanging derogatory words as they argue in a salon about who has better hair. The light skinned women were portrayed as uppity, while the dark skinned women were portrayed as aggressive. Although I was a bit younger when I first watched this movie, I couldn’t help but think that the stereotypes held against both light skin and dark skin individuals was completely unnecessary and hurtful to the progression of society.

School Daze Clip: “Good or Bad Hair” on Vimeo.

I have a deep appreciation for the skin I am in, but it took a while for me to have that appreciation. I grew up being told that since I was not light skin, I would not be considered pretty and everyone expected me to be loud and aggressive. I did not really believe I was ugly, and I was actually quite shy and reserved. I was also surrounded by a lot of people who had lighter skin than me. Those were the individuals that most people were attracted to. And I could agree they were attractive, but there were the ones that didn’t fit the sensitive stereotype. They were tough and could hold their own with no problem. My point with stating this is that a skin tone should not determine a person’s beauty or their demeanor. And once I realized that, I learned to love myself and my complexion, as well as appreciate all other skin tones. I think if society stopped trying to praise one skin tone over the other and started celebrating all tones present in the human spectrum, we may be able to start solving the problem of colorism.

There’s no doubt that I feel strongly about this. The fact that skin tones are still associated ridiculous, preconceived ideas in the year 2018 is truly irritating. I’ve always believed that the color of a person’s skin, no matter how light or how dark, should not be a judgement upon their character. And I also believe anyone can be beautiful, skin tone should not determine whether you are or not. Your complexion is just what it is. What you make of yourself, how you treat others and your aspirations is what should matter, not your skin tone.

Featured image by Jenise Jackson.

Kaitlin Stubbs

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