Sticking to the topic about skin tone and the beauty notions associated with it, I have always wondered why, specifically in the black community, light skin tones are preferred to darker skin tones.
I remember being a little girl and my sister bought me my first Barbie, It was dark skinned. I hated it. I had no logical reason why I hated it, I just did. Then my mother bought me a lighter skin one and I use to play with that doll all day long. My story isn’t unique. Many little girls, even now, would prefer to have a white doll to a dark skin doll. As a young adult I don’t really judge other peoples beauty on their skin tone but I often find myself being attracted to lighter people.
It’s really awful to think how my perception of what is beautiful has been controlled since a young age. Who is controlling my views and how are they doing this?
At first I thought that this phenomenon arose from black pop culture, such as music videos which often feature curvaceous, long haired, light skinned beauties. The women rap stars, who role models for many young black men, often choose to date are light in complexion, think Rihanna or Beyonce, and even in movies, generally, the black women portrayed as beautiful women are light. A perfect example of this would me any Medea, Tyler Perry directed, movie. I think the line Huey, from Boondocks, says perfectly sums up Tyler Perry movies which perpetuate this light skin phenomena: Boondocks: Huey explains typical Winston Jerome story.
The more research I did the more apparent it became that this idea has been instilled in the black community since slavery. The “House Niggers”, the black people allowed to work indoors, were the ones their masters felt most resembled them and the “Field niggers” were the darker toned people. To determine if a black person was good enough to work indoors their hair had to be silky like their masters and their skin tone had to be light. The slave masters used the brown paper bag test to determine if a person was indeed light enough, this literally was the placing a brown paper bag against someone’s face and if their skin tone was close enough to the paper bag they could become a house nigger. Obviously once slavery was abolished such tests were unacceptable but the mentality was forever ingrained in black people that light skin is better than dark skin. This mentality has since been passed down from generation to generation.
The examples I gave above are part of the American history but when it comes to South Africa I think it is because the media perpetuates a “Hollywood” ideology and we just followed suit, allowing their values become our own subconsciously.
I think a great documentary to watch is Bill Dukes “Dark Girls”. I have only managed to find clips so far but from what I have seen it really explores the psychological damage that this light skin ideology has on the black community.
When I asked a few of my friends how they felt about the issue many of my male friends are more attracted to lighter females and either have no clue why or feel that being light “masks” any physical flaws she may have. They said they usually try to imagine if she would be still beautiful if she was darker. I think this is something many black people do as if it is some sort of achievement to survive being dark and still be seen as beautiful. As for dark girls my male friends said they would have to consider the whole package.
At the end of the day we are all black, whether you are light or dark. We suffered many injustices because of our skin colour yet we pass the same judgement on each other and it really makes no sense.