I was conditioned from an early age to believe everything about me was beautiful by both my parents but more so by my father. I was a lighter skinned chubby little girl and believed that to be beautiful. My eldest sister was a dark skinned beanpole and I believed her to equally be beautiful because my father said she was. There was never a one size fits all policy when it came to beauty in my parents’ house and as an adult that view has not changed.
I never believed I was any more special than someone else but I was acutely aware that society placed value in my skin color. Remarks were often made by my relatives and strangers alike that it was extremely surprising that a very dark skinned woman like my mother could have a ‘brown’ child (nevermind the fact that my father was light skinned and I looked like a female version of him). Brown in Kenya where I grew up, meant lighter skinned which meant good as opposed to black which meant dark skinned and which society perceived as less than good.
I never heard anyone say anything derogatory about my skin color. I did hear the sideways compliment that, ‘oh you are pretty because your skin is lighter, but if you were your size and dark skinned, it would be different.’
I believe that there is such a thing as a light skin privilege hence the comment that my size would be unacceptable if my skin was darker. I do have to say that in my experience, the privilege tends to be from an aesthetic viewpoint of the small minded. My mother being a dark skinned woman excelled in her education and professionally. Her skin colour did not affect her hard work and ambition to be successful. I believe that she did have to be stalwart of her own beauty due to the persistent view even within Africa that her dark skin was not as beautiful.
Yes some people do self segregate and it is absurd to me. I use the word self-segregate because your friendships are truly of your own making and your own choice. I do not think there is a necessity to pursue a friendship based on skin color, it is a ridiculous thing. For me, friendships are based on common interests, ability to laugh at each other and the ability for the other person to take my no-nonsense sharp tongue which is here to stay. I do believe that there are people who think that their common interest is their skin colour or even where they come from (e.g UK has a large Nigerian minority population and you will find that many will somehow form friendships that exclude not just other races but even Nigerians who were born in UK or other Africans who are not Nigerian). I do not think that there is a necessity to colour code your friendships. I actually think people who racially balance their friendships (and I have met one person who did!) are actively racist. You do not need to have a light skinned friend, a dark skinned friend, a white friend and an Asian friend, it is absurd to me. In the end, your friends are selected from the people who you interact with and if the first thing you see is the skin colour of the person, then that says a whole lot about you.
Ladies, whose story do you relate to most? What has been your experience with colorism and light skinned privilege?