I was watching a documentary by Obehi Peter Ewanfoh titled Pan-Africanism: Testing Ideas on Reality when a Nigerian-Cameroonian artist named Dencia came on the screen. Dencia has created her own skin-enhancing line called “Whitenicious”. She said, “White means pure. It doesn’t mean white skin, but white in general means pure." Dencia is 32-years old.
My close friend sent a message to a group chat that I am in with my friends who are originally from Detroit and go to Howard with me. She explained to us how her nephew said that she was “too dark” the other night. Her nephew is 13-years old.
Last summer, I went to Senegal. I stayed with family, I met new friends and I traveled across the country. One day, as I was sitting in a relative’s home, I had noticed the color of their hands were different from the color of their neck and face. I asked my relative, “Why do women over here bleach their skin?” She replied and said, “They do it for their husbands Fatou. Their husbands (who tend to be of a darker skin complexion) want them to be lighter.”
So, what’s really the problem?
From colorism, stems hate and discrimination. Well, doesn’t that sound quite familiar? Out of racism, stemmed colorism. Thus, linking everything back together which is an even bigger issue. But the main problem is the idea that white or something that is relatively close to being white i.e. lighter skin is better.
When I transferred to my middle school, Bates Academy, I remember having a dark-skinned friend who said he would never marry a woman with dark skin. I also remember asking him why and he said that he would never want his child to come out as dark as him, so he needs a lighter skin wife to help balance out the skin tone of his future child. What do you see when you look in the mirror?
As a young black girl with darker skin, I was teased growing up. And no matter how many times my mother called me her “brown sugar” or how many times she said my skin was beautiful, I still had internal struggles to face. Surrounded by a multitude of stigmas and positive attributes, however, I seemed to always revert back to love. To love the skin that I was in made me proud, because the same people who made jokes about me ended up being the same people who in high school complimented me.
Later on in life, I plan on doing more extensive research on colorism. I want to focus heavily on the African diaspora, since I’ve come in contact with the issue first-hand on the continent. Nonetheless, before I fully dive into this work, I want to leave some advice:
Never feel like you are less than anyone else who is different from yourself. Love your skin and embrace others who surround you. Spread positive energy. And if you can’t say something nice, don’t say it at all. Your skin, beautiful black boy and girl, is gorgeous, radiant and aesthetically filled with melanin.
Check out The Color Complex by Kathy Russell and Dark Girls by D. Channsin Berry and Bill Duke for more insight on colorism.