Full disclosure: When I was first asked to participate in this compilation post, I was very (VERY) reluctant. Why? Because when I have conversations about colorism, it’s like I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t. If I deny any light skin privilege, I’m called ignorant, and if I admit it (even if I don’t like it), I’m told that I’m acting like I’m better. So usually, when it comes to these conversations, I’m like:
But I’m over it, so here it goes. Growing up, I felt fine about being light skinned. It wasn’t negative or positive, it was just the color of my skin. I tanned in the summer at the pool, but hell, I was on the swim team and everyone tanned — it wasn’t as if I felt like I needed to tan because my skin wasn’t dark enough.
However, I was always made fun of because of my skin color – the “cute” little names were endless – “Light Bright”, “Snickerdoodle”, “Powder”, “Michael Jackson, “Hilary Banks” – I could go on. Not to mention people always thinking I’m biracial or even better, sick (“You look so pale, are you okay?”), because of the color of my skin. But even then, I didn’t really attribute it to any kind of colorism or issue with my skin, I just thought they were assholes. And trust me, I fired right back. I didn’t quite understand the concept of colorism until I was an adult, as it was never something that my family emphasized or favored on either side of the spectrum. While I’m lighter than my immediate family (I remember coming home crying once when I was little, because kids said I was adopted since I wasn’t the same color as my parents), my extended family is just about every shade of skin color. No one ever treated me like I was better or worse due to the color of my skin – in fact, I can’t even remember people in my family commenting on it at all.
Today, I pretty much feel the same way about my skin color. It’s just that, the color of my skin. And while I better understand the concept of colorism, it’s pretty much something I avoid, as I don’t think I perpetuate it in my life or with my peers. People still say “off” things to me sometimes and now I have a better understanding of where it comes from, but to me, they’re still those same assholes. I remember one time someone accused me of changing the lighting on my videos to make my skin look lighter, and I literally laughed out loud, being that I need no help in that department and I LOVE bronzer, and still go tanning sometimes (I know, I know – it’s bad for me but it feels so good! It’s like being in a little oven all nice and comfy.). No one should be judged by the color of their skin, period. If I could speak to my younger self, I would explain different concepts and perceptions to myself so I wasn’t so naive. But outside of that, I just had to shake it off and focus on more important things in life. Call me a dreamer, but I yearn for the day that the hashtags #teamlightskin and #teamdarkskin cease to exist.
As for light skin privilege, I think I’ve experienced it in subtle ways, but nothing major that’s overt. Some people have said things to me that make me raise my eyebrow, but it’s also never really been said in a way that makes it obvious that they prefer lighter skin. Could it spill over to more serious behavior? Possibly, but I think that most people aren’t blatantly outright about it.
Do you think there’s a divide in the black community based on skin tone? Do you find that light skinned and dark skinned people segregate themselves?
So this is one of the inflammatory aspects of colorism that I’m always wary about commenting on. First, I think it depends on the individuals, not necessarily whether they are dark/light skinned. Some people love to segregate themselves in one way or another – if it wasn’t skintone, it would be something else. But at the same time, if I’m having issues with a darker skinned woman, the sentiment that I “think I’m better because I’m light” usually comes out when I highly doubt that I express myself in that matter. I don’t even think of it until they say something. Similarly, I’ve rejected darker skinned men and they often respond with, “Oh, I guess I’m not light enough for you.” What? All that is in your head, not mine. But again, this is on a case by case basis – I wouldn’t generalize.