Dark Skin vs. Light Skin: The Color Complex
Color classification is a still a huge deal around the world and seen more prevalent in the African-American, Indian, and Asian communities. The color of one’s skin can be linked to social status in the community.
While many people of non-European decent typically think of their own culture as being plagued by the stereotypes and negative connotations associated with darker vs. lighter skin, the truth is you can find it in almost every culture or group of people.
The Indian community has long suffered from the caste system and connections to skin color. It’s still typical to see fairer skin Indians marry each other and darker skin Indians marry each other, than to see a darker and fairer skin Indian couple marry; it’s frowned upon by the couples’ families.
Additionally, many Asians, women in particular, invest in bleaching and lightening products to make their skin fairer or whiter. If you’ve ever spent time in any Asian country you’ll notice television commercials and advertisements cast with the lightest skin women.
In the African-American community, stereotypes continue to perpetuate the idea of lighter skin being better than darker skin. Just recently on an episode of VH1’s Love and Hip-Hop, the rapper Consequence defended his lyrics in a song referring to the skin tone of women.
Light skin is the right skin, so you, you, you and your white friend
Maybe lighter complected skin is most attractive to him, which is fine to have a preference but to say one is right denotes that anything else is not.
One of the problems I see is that this conversation seems to evoke a feeling of black or white. Not in the sense of African-American or Caucasian but in the sense of one extreme or the other. What happens if your skin tone falls somewhere in the middle? How should you be classified? I don’t think that in the black community light skin or dark skin are sufficient adjectives to describe the many shades and hues that we bless the world with. Chocolate, latte, mocha, caramel ..we’ve relegated our color to coffee flavors. I don’t think it’s a bad thing because you actually get a better understanding of a person’s hue with those descriptors.
Color and complexion distinctions are made clear for most during childhood years. Hollywood actress Gabrielle Union depicts an all too similar experience as a ‘brown girl’ growing up in her letter to her younger self displayed beautifully in the October 2012 issue of Ebony magazine. I read it when the issue was released and thought that it was so wonderfully and beautifully written that I cut it out, added it to my journal and was inspired to write my own letter to my younger self.
In the letter Union wrote:
Your deep Mahogany skin may not resemble that of the others in your family, but it’s just as gorgeous and you’re just as worthy….One day you’ll appreciate how much your brown skin shines in the moonlight, glistens in the sun and ages ever so slowly.
This resonating with me so strongly because I too had feelings of inferiority due to the images on television and personal experiences. As I got older I learned to accept and embrace my chocolateness. But those images that portray lighter skin as perpetually equaling beautiful still exist, so it becomes even more necessary to be confirmed in who you are, as to not compare yourself to anyone.
Through every example of skin tone revealed above and others not mentioned here, it is obvious to see that the underlying factor in the skin color debate is the lack of self-love and acceptance. No matter who you are, where you were born, how you were raised, every person has some complex with themselves that either they don’t like, want to change or are just not comfortable with. If you find the love for yourself from within, and don’t allow other people’s opinions or judgement to dictate your beauty, stereotypes will not be an issue for you.
Oprah’s OWN network recently aired a documentary entitled “Dark Girls” highlighting the degradation of darker skin [black] women. It depicts to a broad audience something that so many suffer from silently. I think it was pretty well done and honest. The documentary can be viewed here.
This upcoming January 2015 Oprah’s OWN network will be airing a follow-up to the Dark Girls documentary entitled Light Girls. I’m interested to see the juxtaposition of these two points of views. Here is the preview:
Now that Light Girls has aired, stay tuned for my thoughts on the similarities, differences and perception.
- India’s unfair fixation with fairness (indiaitblog.com)
- Light skin vs Dark Skin (nqubekosithole.wordpress.com)
- The Melanin Pigment (aiswaryabaskaran.wordpress.com)
- Chimamanda Adichie: ‘Dark-skinned girls are never the babes’ (independent.co.uk)
- “Light skin” vs “Dark skin”.. How we’ve already lost. (djwritingoutloud.wordpress.com)
Posted on April 21, 2013, in Beauty, Life Changers, Living Out Loud, Pop Culture, Race Relations and tagged #selma50, Asian, Beauty, Black people, color complex, color complexion, colorism, Consequence, Dark Girls, dark skin, dark skin vs. light skin, documentary, Ebony, Gabrielle Union, Indian, light girls, lightskin, Oprah, OWN. Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.