Light skin vs Dark Skin





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. 





  1. Really interesting post and honest! I have actually always thought of dark skin as beautiful, but there is a clear favouritism towards lighter skin in music videos, films etc like you say! It’s sad really. x

    1. I totally agree with you dark sin is absolutely gorgeous. It’s a real pity but the media really has a huge impact on what we think is beautiful.

      1. Yeah they have! Along with a persons size as well. I dread to think what children will think of themselves by the time they are teenagers with the way the media portrays things.

  2. […] Light skin vs Dark Skin ( […]

  3. toomanygrandkids · · Reply

    This light skin vs dark skin war going on among black ppl wages on this very day. It’s the older black folks who teach the children this type of ignorance. Even when children overhear these conversations, they repeat it. When I was younger, I would hear dark skin females talk badly about light/brown skin females. “She’s tryna pass for white,” they’d say. Most of the time, I heard dark skin females refer to other dark skin females as ‘ugly’ or ‘black’. They would say the same things about males as well. It seemed to me that light skin females may not have liked dark skin females b/c the light females knew dark skin didn’t like them. In fact, it dawned on me that dark skin females were indeed jealous of light skin females. But if a light skin female never said/did anything personally to you, why have something against her like skin color. That gave me the impression that these types of dark skin females just wanted something/anything to be mad about. So very childish.

  4. toomanygrandkids · · Reply

    I should also point out that black females who hate themselves, whether light or dark skinned, will make their own children feel as though they are ugly. Whenever I heard an ignorant female call her child (son or daughter) ugly and/or black, I’d think to myself, “Somebody needs to slap her!”

  5. toomanygrandkids · · Reply

    I should also point out that black females who hate themselves, whether light or dark skinned, will make their own children feel as though they are ugly. Whenever I heard an ignorant female call her child (son or daughter) ugly and/or black, I’d think to myself, “Somebody needs to slap her!” And my thought had nothing to do w/ anybody’s skin color. It was about her ignorance.

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