Every now and then my eyes “cry” when I watch something and it seems that the tears are triggered by something that is happening in my soul that my mind is not connected to… These videos about Dark Girls and Light Girls did that to me. When I hear these stories, the little girl in me still remembers being called “Blackie” during a time and in spaces where there *were* preferences toward those with lighter skin.
If there is any area of cognitive dissonance within me, it is brought on by this topic and having to acknowledge the harm that has been done to ALL humans that have been led to believe that their value is based on some external characteristics like complexion, eye color, hair texture, lips fullness or nose width. I won’t go into the historical aspects of those origins, but I will admit how effective it has been at keeping folks divided.
Even in my home I have had to learn to navigate it. Besides people not thinking my children belong to me, when the guys were little, they would compare their skin to mine and ask why mine was so dark. I told them because I had been kissed so much by the sun. They thought that was funny and would laugh and we would make jokes about it. And then one day one of my little ones said, “Mommy, why won’t the sun kiss me like that?” Geez…
I will be honest, I have not always been able to empathize with individuals that talked about their challenges with having lighter complexions. I did not see how it could possibly work against them in a larger societal context as I had seen with people with darker skin that didn’t pass the “paper bag” test. I have always appreciated my mahogany complexion and never wanted to be any lighter, but I also never felt sympathy for others who said they had experienced challenges because they were… Not even my husband when we first started hanging out 20+ years ago and he tried to tell me how people viewed him a certain way. I would just wave him off and say, “Oh, please… I don’t wanna hear it. I don’t understand how folks expect sympathy for that…” especially if it seemed to “work” for them.
What Iyanla Vanzant said in the video about it leaving “scars” is true. Divisive stereotypes and expectations that people of African descent attribute to one another hurt everyone involved. The origins of these characterizations may have been imposed from the outside with the systems like the “one drop rule” or those that separated based on skin tone, but at this point, it is perpetuated from within. We can’t do anything about what has happened, but we can control the part we individually play in how we move into the future.