I am a light skinned African American Black woman. It has been very difficult existing in a “middle space” where as Black woman I am told to be proud of my Blackness, but I am constantly reminded of my light skinned privilege. I of course, do not deny that light skinned privilege exists. I have been present and witnessed several situations, where my dark skinned father and sister were treated differently and more poorly than I. What I will say however, is that no person, White or Black, Light or Dark or Medium complected, gets to select their color at birth.
It is true that skin color can be altered, no matter how controversial skin altering is considered. Skin color can and does change over time for some people. However it is quite the balancing act to have pride in my blackness, but feel that I can only have limited or even silent pride in my light skinned-ness. If I say that I am proud of my skin, and if I specify that I am proud of my light skinned complexion; that will be taken as an insult and a degradation of those who are dark skinned. I understand why this is, due to the mass amounts of cruel colorism. At the same time, to assume and state that light skinned black people are not degraded for their skin as well, is untrue.
My own mother who is Black but fairer (peach colored) than my cinnamon toned skin has been told that he skin represents the “rape” of “our people.” It’s as if she was being blamed and held responsible for that historical tragedy. Any child who was a product of that certainly was not at fault but still had to suffer the visual stigma of wearing a complexion that reminds both sides what occurred for that individual to be brought into existence. That statement also assumes that all Africans are only dark skinned and that there are no naturally fair or medium complected Africans. What bothers me so much about some sects of the Black Pride movement are the sects that claim the 100% pure Black African blood with no mix involved. The purists if you will, shame anything mixed, anything not naturally kinky, dark, wide nosed, big lipped, big butted or voluptuous. No black girl or woman should be shamed for her choice of hair, or slim figure with a small derriere, or mixed heritage. Every Black woman is not the embodiment or fantasy fetish of a Nubian Goddess.
I am also a person of Creole descent. I would not identify myself as Creole, but I do have Creole heritage, of which, I am proud of. I recall a dark skinned girl, showing disgust and disapproval in my claiming pride of that heritage. I can understand that there are people who do not like other people tooting their horns about their mixed heritage. Some people hold pride in that because they believe that they are superior due to that mixed heritage, but when I say I am proud of my Creole heritage, I am stating that I am simply proud of my culture. I am not celebrating those who thought themselves superior. Those Creoles who did think themselves superior had a messed up psyche, and the class system that separated Creoles from non-Creoles was a major injustice. I condemn those kinds of hierarchies. Pride in one thing does not mean shame in another. If someone insists on questioning, why I do not show just as much pride in my African heritage? I would respond in this way.
I am closer to my Creole heritage. I have been to New Orleans, Louisiana four times. I have living, breathing family there that I can meet, embrace and converse with. My African heritage is seven generations behind me from Sierra Leone. I feel more connected to my Creole heritage because I can physically taste, smell, see, feel and hear Creole food, music, dance, and culture. It is true that I could visit Sierra Leone one day, but I have not felt much of a drive too, and it is so far removed from me what would it mean to me? Perhaps I am mistaken, perhaps I would go and suddenly feel an ancestral nostalgia, but considering the fact that I would have no Sierra Leone relatives I could visit and that the food, music, dance and culture would be completely foreign to me, I imagine that I would just feel like a stranger in a foreign land.
I wish that some African Americans would stop giving other African Americans so much heat for not desiring to go to the “homeland” and I say “homeland” in quotations because if you are the child of a slave of a slave of a slave of a slave, or the child of a free POC of a free POC of a free POC of a free POC born on non-African land, there is a lot of degrees of separation from Africa. For this reason, I also don’t really resonate with the term African American. To me, a true African American is an African who gained citizenship in the United States and became an American citizen. A true African American could also be the American born child of African parents, because that is a direct link to the continent. Even African American children, second generation kids, struggle with culture clash and cultural identity.
As for me I am the child of a child of a child of a child of a child of a child of a child from Sierra Leone, Africa. Take that kind of distance in for a minute. Really analyze just how far back we are talking. Past grandparents, and in some few cases great grandparents who are still alive, family that is past that is only a memory or a story we are told but they are strangers that we never have or ever will meet.
In later blogs I will discuss some of the trials and tribulations of being light skinned within the black community and issues that come from people outside of the black community. In this short blog, I just simply wanted to discuss some personal opinions that I have shared, and found to be quite unpopular among my black peers, at least when I attended an HBCU. I think that everyone’s voice counts, and we shouldn’t come to assumptions about people’s perceived “superiority” simply due to them having pride in a certain aspect of themselves. If that aspect has anything even remotely related to Eurocentric standards of beauty, then all of the sudden someone is self hating. A girl who paid buku bucks to get her hair laid has the right to be proud. Her hair looks good, it doesn’t have to mean kinky is bad. A girl who wanted to try out some funky color contacts, God forbid they be blue, green or gray wants to show off a new look, it’s not a crime. A girl who loves her body, slim as a rail and flat as a pancake, isn’t shaming fat people just because she loves her body shape. This would especially be significant in the Black community considering that the majority preference is big, round, voluptuous and big-butted.
I have had this light skin my whole life. Not to mention, it’s not the smoothest skin, it’s scarred and I have acne as an adult; I didn’t loose it in my teens. People will say that acne is an entirely different issue because it can be taken away with the right medicine or diet. That is not true for everyone and some people have life-long conditions. I will probably have it for the rest of my life and I have come to peace with it. There will be blogs to follow on that issue too as well. I will say that to think that I have not suffered or that people have not thought or called my skin ugly, simply because I’m light skinned, is a farce. Everyone is not in love with my skin, there are people who do not like it. In fact, believe it or not, I dated a Black guy who told me that he preferred dark skinned girls. I was not insulted, just surprised, because I so often hear the opposite.
Me personally, I think having a complexion preference in dating is silly and stupid. People will say that you can’t help what you like but I think skin preferences are highly influenced by society. I don’t really have one. I like deep pigment whether someone is light, medium or dark. I like deep pigment in my art too, it’s not just about people’s skin, I just like colors that stand out. People who are of a more ashy, gray, pale color just don’t pop out to me, but I wouldn’t deny someone a date due to not having a deep pigment, that’s ridiculous to me! I will never say that dark skinned girls’ struggles are less than that of light skinned girls’ struggles, but I think that it definitely ought to be noted that both parties struggle uniquely, and that as a light skinned girl, I don’t want to be silenced about my unique struggle of the balancing act between Black Pride and the pressure to lower and silence my light skinned struggles.