The issue of colorism in the Black community is once again raised. This time, it is by the upcoming documentary “Dark Girls” by Bill Duke and D. Channsin Berry. This film deals with how dark-skinned women are at times less valued then lighter complected women, and how that can play itself out in various forms. Be it the latest music video, or what is considered beautiful, these sort of appraisals can shatter the self-esteem of those deemed “less than.” Though it is a difficult conversation to have, I look forward to seeing this documentary and how these intra-racial divisions will be addressed.
However, I do have something to add to this conversation. There is a tendency that I have noticed, that when dealing with issues of colorism, you would think that this issue does not affect Black men. While I can tell you from first hand experience that it does, I definitely understand why some Black men choose not to engage the topic.
For those of us who were and still are to some extent impacted by colorism, it represents something you are just supposed to “go through” as a child and “get over it.” Not exactly in a rush to violate the high ideals of being emotionally impervious, some Black men prefer to not talk about the ways in which they have been judged and mis-judged for being “the wrong shade” In fact, I read an interesting post about it this weekend. On filmmaker Olu Gittens blog she also talks about the upcoming documentary, and makes great points about what is often overlooked.
Instead of looking “bitter” this is one issue that we tend to clam up on. Self included, honestly. I won’t re-tell to you some of the spiteful things that have been said to me as a dark-skinned fellow, because I don’t want to empower those mis-educated voices. I did have issues with self-perception due to my complexion, but thankfully I shed them as I got older. I have cut everybody loose who made me feel less than for the simple reason of what shade I am. That’s how I dealt with it. But I can tell you that it was no cake-walk being my hue back in the day.
When you are regarded as more “dangerous” and menacing because of your skin shade, that ain’t a good feeling. It makes you at times go overboard to put people at ease around you. If you have ever had someone tell you that you don’t seem “approachable” well, thats something that can stick with you for more than a lil bit.
There is another reason why this is not a topic of comfort. We do it to one another. Yes, colorism comes from slavery, but much like the preview video to Dark Girls says, we keep it going. This is one issue that remains exclusively at our feet. We can write all the books and make all the films we want, but if we do not stop this grade by shade nonsense, it will be pointless. I would encourage us to drop this “Our Kind of People” way of thinking, but it has to reach far beyond just those of us who are aware of these things. It would take a complete change in values of the Black community to uproot this notion. Only then would our darker brothers and sisters begin to feel comfortable in their own skin, literally.
What do you think? Sound off in this latest poll, and the comments section as well.
Marc W. Polite
The Heavy Hued Harlemite