brown skin, you know i love your brown skin. i can't tell where yours begins. i can't tell where mine ends... -india arie
White is right, and if you can’t be white, be light. Right?
I was raised to love the skin I’m in, and I can’t recall a time as a child really paying much attention to darker or lighter shades of my racial identity. My earliest memory comes from October 20, 1996, the day after my brother was born. He as a very pale shade of brown — what we could call high yellow. My sister (with beautiful chocolate chip skin), (creamy caramel) Auntie Tracie, and I were leaving our apartment that day to go to the hospital to visit him. On the way out the door, we were stopped by our white neighbor Ms. Alicia. She was married to a(n almond brown) Black man, and had biracial children. Ms. Alicia asked Breana and I if we were excited about the new baby. Boldly, Bre spoke on our behalf. “He so little and cute. And he’s white like you.” I don’t remember Ms. Alicia’s response, but I do remember feeling embarrassed. She was 3 and I was 6 ,and somehow I knew what she said “wasn’t nice.” White, Black and everything else I noticed. But why didn't I ever notice skin tone?
Everyone in my family is a different shade of Brown and those shades have changed overtime for one reason or another. Other childhood memories include comments, primarily from little girls about not wanting to be outside in the sun too long for fear of getting too Black. Comments from adults about how Black our skin was from beach trips. Questions directed towards my sister and I questioning if we had the same father because our skin tones varied. My Nana using vaseline and baby wipes to literally scrub the black off out knees (which turned out to be dirt from crawling around the floors and outside during the summer).
Fast forward to freshman year and a friend is convinced that I could get deals and persuade men to let us cut lines and get into parties for discounted rates because I was smaller in frame and had lighter skin. Like light skin means more juice. And while the joke about light skin are sometimes hilarious (no lie), It's not cool when it's at your expense and you haven't develope all those "tough skin mechanisms" just yet.
That was a "joke" with her that became a constant statement and began to bother me. What did my skin have to do with anything? The comments continued and before I realized it I was falling into a lightskin-guilt kind of mood. I didn’t want to be considered light skinned if it meant pimping me out for meaningless perks. I didn’t want to be the different one in the group (beyond my white roommate) if it meant that I was considered better than anyone else. And truthfully, I think it was just her that made it a “joke” or a truth, but it meant a lot to me. In my 4 years at Winthrop and even now I struggle with being qualified as “light.” Really though, I’m not.I'm brown-skin!All shades of Black and Brown are EQUALLY beautiful, but I can’t detach the personal stigmas and guilt associated with being a light-skinned person. It’s not a conversation of who’s better than who. And having darker skin will not make me anymore down than any other brother or sister. That’s an argument that’s just as ignorant as the paper bag test.
I took this issue to a few of my line sisters. We vary in tone like a Crayola People colors box. Here are their thoughts...
The history of colorism is real and still an issue. However it isn’t just plaguing the Black community. Thank goodness right?
Indian & Asian Culture
Dominicans vs. Haitians
It goes on...
I really respect Mary-Frances Winters’ perspective on this view so I’ll share it with you.
As for me, I’ll be alright. I won’t be in a tanning bed or crying because I don’t have darker skin. I love where I am, I just don’t like the opinions others express towards it. But those opinions don’t pay my bills, so I’m moving on!