#TeamLightSkin vs #TeamDarkSkin seems like a cute hashtag to throw out on your Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook accounts. But is this necessary? It is interesting that OWN has been doing documentaries focusing on Colorism within the black community. The term Colorism may sound "new" because we attached a word to define it but this has been around for decades. The idea that within our own culture we create a separatism dates back to slavery. It seems to be a deep seeded subconscious issue that travels with us from generation to generation. Some even question, "Is this still necessary to talk about?" "These women who feel some kind of way about their skin color have issues." And really the list of questions and comments can go on and on.
I have to say, at first I was turned off by the idea of both documentaries until I watched them. I first saw Dark Girls when it aired sometime last year. I felt sad to hear the stories my sisters who felt less than and dealt with the name calling through their years growing up. As a mother and a woman I know that those types of words can change you as a person. Words of determinism is what I would call it. When someone continues to tell you who you are, what you are or aren't, etc can somehow change your thoughts and if you are beat down low enough it can DETERMINE who you become. I have always felt that a females need to have the highest level of self esteem and self love simply because we are the giving birth to a nation. Women are the strongest and take on so many things in life. To even think that we as African Americans, Black Americans, or whatever you want to title us, are already considered less than in society get ran through another cycle within our own communities.
As a "lighter skinned" African-American, it hurt me just as much as it hurt me to hear the stories of the "LightGirls" explain their own struggle. I think that the hurt goes both ways. I myself have never felt that I fit in. Not because I had an issue with my brown sisters it's that they seemed to have an issue with me. It sometimes was obvious, sometimes it just slipped out. Whether it was deliberate or in a joke, it hurt. I seemed to always take it in stride but when I heard these stories it made me think of all those times and how on some level it affected me.
I can remember going to a cookout many years ago and meeting my husbands coworkers and their spouses. I was so excited to meet new people and was having a nice time chatting with the few ladies that were there until the next round of couples strolled in. I remember being bubbly almost too the point where I probably looked like I needed friends lol but I remember that the ladies looked at me like I was a walking disease. I pulled my husband aside and told him I felt uncomfortable and they seemed to change the atmosphere. He said, "Oh you women can't ever get along, just try and get to know them." Well, I went back in the living room with my tail between my legs feeling as though he didn't get what I was saying. Well, somewhere along the lines we got to talking about hair, this was many, many, years before the natural hair movement. I was relaxed then and so were the rest of the ladies. All I know was it turned into, "you will never understand, you have good hair" "you are lighter than a brown paper bag so you don't get it"...etc etc etc. It went on and on to the point I shrunk little by little. I was about 20 yrs old or so---I was not on my "grown woman" level because I wish someone would try me now! Anyway, my husband had been walking in and out and apparently he caught the shade that was being thrown and saw how they looked at me. I remember him pulling me aside and said are you ready to go. He felt so bad for me and couldn't understand how grown women still acted like that. These women were 5 to 10 years older than me too.
When I saw #DarkGirls, it made me think of them. I can understand that they had their own scares and as wrong as it was to treat me horribly, thats all they knew. But the #LightGirls had the issue of not being white enough or black enough leaving them stuck in the middle. Worst, being acceptable toward white people and feeling like a token. I can't count how many times other cultures come to me as though they don't feel threatened and just say the most random, rude, racist things to me as if I am not black. I often feel like I have to pump my fist higher, scream "I'm Black and I'm Proud" louder. Its disgusting to me to have to keep hearing "what are you?" Fuck you mean, what am I! I cringe and cuss on the inside but keep that smile so they don't know that God gave me patience and just saved their ass.
I also had a group of friends who always joked that I was too yellow or white. I was always that "yellow person" and I laughed it off until I realized here I was again being separated. The feeling of not being "black enough" echoed louder and louder. Eventually when I said something about it, I was told I was being "sensitive" that it was just a "joke". They did stop and apologized in the end for it. It was strange because it took a while before it really made me feel different and I didn't like that. It was something I always had to live with. In middle school I remember standing in the front of the cafeteria trying to decide where to sit. Do I sit at the "black table"--nope them girls don't like me. Do I sit with the "white kids"--nope I'm too brown. Do I sit with the "puerto rican kids"--maybe. In the end, I sat alone or with my brother until he kicked me from his table. LOL
That brings me to living in Germany....I remember being in the store and a young lady said "Oh your hair is beautiful. Is that all yours? Its naturally that curly?" I was irritated but smiled and said "Yes, its mine and this is my natural curl." She then said "What are you?" Again, the words I want to burn, but I continued to be polite and said "I am black." She said, "Oh no you aren't all black. Their hair can't do that." Mind you, I had my 13 yr old daughter with me who is a darker than I, hair texture is different (she is relaxed), and she was in total disgust. I politely said "Thats not true, hair texture isn't based on color" blah blah blah.....not matter what I said to defend my people she kept going. I eventually excused myself for fear of jail time. I wanted to beat her ass, no lie. When we walked away my child said "Wow, then I guess I am black because my hair is different then yours. I guess thats a bad thing." Um, hell no! I had to correct her and let her know that ALL textures, ALL shades are beautiful and one ignorant person should never change how you view yourself.
All I can say is, the documentaries are necessary to break the walls down and understand that we all have the same struggle. It may be in different forms but its the same. So can we stop doing this to each other?
If you haven't seen it, watch it below.