Were you always comfortable with your skin color?
Pretty much, I didn’t even understand the concept of “colorism” until I reached middle school. My magnet elementary school was all-black, save maybe 1 or 2 students and I never had to deal with issues of skin color. Now, my choice to dress like Clueless characters was a different story.
Did you view it as something negative or positive?
I didn’t think about it in either context until the 6th grade. I felt as if I was pretty confident in my skin color until I turned on the radio.
Were you bullied?
Yes. I had an ex-best friend from elementary school who shared the same crush as me in middle school. After, it was later discovered said crush liked me back, I went through endless taunting from her. She would say things like, “He don’t want you. He wants something caramel, like a Twix-bar. You’re dark chocolate.” Silly me, I’d try to compare myself to candy bars as a 6th grader and reply, “Well I’m more of a Snickers bar.” Ugh. That experience coupled with songs that made exhausting “caramel references” were often things that made me question my melanin content.
Was there a standard upheld by family members/peers that you felt you needed to live up to?
Not really. There were a couple of times where I would go to cheerleading camp in the summer and my mom would advise that I wear sunscreen because I came back darker from the previous trip. This also could’ve been genuine concern to keep me from frying my skin like an egg because I foolishly believed black people didn’t need sunscreen at the age of 13.
How do you feel about your skin color today?
A-OK. I don’t really go for a lot of pale, pastel lipsticks, however.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Tell that big-headed girl to shut up.
Some people feel that certain skin colors come with privilege and others with a lack of privilege. Have you experienced light skinned privilege or a dark skinned deficit (ugh, for lack of a better phrase!) in your life time?
Of course. Some of the most popular rap songs referenced wanting “bad a** yellow bones” and “red bones” Yes, Boosie, I’m talking about you. Yung berg’s comments about not liking “dark butts” was a thing. I remember being on set of a music video where dark skin models walked off set because they were being treated as extras and the main love interest had light skin. The hierarchy of skin tone was blatant.
This series was prompted by an essay by HuffPo writer Kim Lute about how she didn’t have any black female friends because she was light skinned. What has been your experience interacting with black men and women of other skin colors? Do you think there’s a divide based on skin tone? Do you find that light skinned and dark skinned people still segregate themselves?
I don’t know how to answer this for fear of looking like Raven Symone on the View. (No tea, no shade, no pink lemonade.) I find there is some division. My friends are of all colors and races and beautiful as all in the universe. I’ve always identified myself as dark skin. Which now I’m learning is completely subjective, as some people would argue that I’m “brown skin.” I even remember the #mediumbrowns tag on twitter a few years ago for folks that were in between the dark and light spectrum. Traditionally, of course, it’s always been light or dark and I’m nowhere near Robert Ri’Chard’s color so I just identified with the path of least resistance, which was “dark.” Ironically, this self-identification is now being challenged. So I just don’t know anymore.