When you’re a dark-skinned, black 20-something living your life in America, you really don’t expect to see or hear your narrative being told by mainstream media. You hardly see the normal, everyday life of a dark-skinned black woman being depicted in the media we consume, a truth that helps to reinforce the close-minded perception we have of them when they’re encountered in public spaces. Interestingly enough, this underrepresentation serves as one of the main reasons why I created this corner of the internet. I mean, I am a black woman and I do have voice and have been fortunate enough to have mediums to share my thoughts and experiences. If I can’t completely count on mainstream media or mainstream feminism to do it, then I will, even this space never becomes a mainstream one.
But then again, life has its way of surprising you.
“Dark Girls” is a documentary that was put out by the Oprah Winfrey Network in 2011. It features several dark-skinned black women who share their experiences with encountering colorism in America and their journeys with navigating their identities, their self-worth, and the age-old question “am I beautiful” in a world where anything resembling whiteness is the global standard. These are discussed in the context of America, in other countries in the African Diaspora, and worldwide. It also mentions the perception of dark-skinned women by various black men as well as the perspectives of white men who are in committed romantic relationships with black women. Most importantly, it discusses the healing these women are experiencing and encourages dark-skinned women to keep pressing on regardless of the unique obstacles that they may come across in their lives.
While watching, I found myself as both the empathizer and the sympathizer, the insider and the outsider (which is basically the story of my life). I found myself empathizing with the girl who mentioned how she felt that is she was just a little bit lighter, she would have gotten the attention of the guy she was crushing on over her lighter skinned black friend. But then, there were more stories of women whose family members and people within their communities engaged in extremely hurtful dialogue, words that, if said to me, would take an innumerable amount of years to recover from. I felt like I could only empathize to an extent because, while I have experienced my fair share, it was obvious that some of these women in the film were hurting. While colorism is present in Nigeria, my family members have never said anything negative about my dark skin and the majority of the colorism towards me happened during my childhood in America. I am fortunate enough to look in the mirror and see the complexion of the woman staring back at me as one of the most beautiful things about her. However, I will acknowledge that the external battle wasn’t (and continues to be) not-so pretty.
I will acknowledge that there are women my age who have my complexion that are grappling with coming to terms with their skin color.
I will acknowledge that my full embracement of my skin color does not negate the fact that the journeys and voices of others going through or healing from damaging colorism need to be heard.
I will acknowledge the need for children’s shows and children’s books to have dark-skinned girl characters that dark skinned girls can relate to as they navigate the early stages of self awareness in their adolescent years.
I will acknowledge the need for us to educate ourselves, broaden our perspectives, and begin important conversations so that we may know the experiences of others while examining ourselves in the way we relate with others. I strongly encourage the viewing of this documentary in aiding in this pursuit.
Below is the preview for the documentary to get you started.
(Image Source: http://www.officialdarkgirlsmovie.com)
Were you aware of colorism prior to this post? Have you experienced colorism before? What are your thoughts on the preview?