I’ve addressed colorism in my fiction, but with the growing anticipation of the Bill Duke documentary Dark Girls, I feel it’s safe to speak more directly about the issue.

Surprise! I’m dark-skinned.

Being so, I’m often apprehensive about speaking candidly of colorism for the following reasons:

  1. Complexion is complex, and I’m not sure how to begin.
  2. I didn’t want people to dismiss me as merely hating on light-skinned girls.
  3. People often have the attitude that “If you love yourself, you wouldn’t make it an issue.”
    • Since I didn’t want anyone to perceive me as “not loving myself,” I kept silent. My mistake.
  4. People often deny me the opportunity to discuss the issue by changing the subject with a dismissal disguised as affirmation: “Girl, you’re beautiful, and you have to believe it no matter what others think.”
    • Sorry, but it’s literally not that black & white. “What others think” has real world consequences.
  5. You’re viewed as weak if you acknowledge you’ve been hurt. With that comes the “You’re just being too sensitive” argument.

It’s time we encourage everyone to express their pain in constructive ways within a supportive community.

Maybe we hate pain so much that we avoid the expression of it from others.

What we can avoid are cynical messages that directly or indirectly say: Suck it up. Don’t come crying to me about your problems. It’s probably you and not them. What are you doing to cause others to mistreat you (blaming the victim). Awww! You got your feelings hurt? Well shame on you for being so weak. Boo hoo hoo. Wah wah wah.

Perhaps I would’ve shared my story sooner if I’d felt someone would’ve actually listened.

But like I said, complexion is complex, so I’ll be delving into it one post at a time. If you prefer to stay away from “sensitive topics,” these posts may make you uncomfortable. Just think of it as that discomfort you feel when stretching your muscles.

2 Comments

  • Anna'may Lee Hendson

    Hello, i wanted to write one of my college cause and effect papers on the topic of colorism because i feel like it is a fairly large controversy in the African American society but i needed more causes of it and i had trouble finding some reasons that this has come about. I can only find history as one cause. i would be delighted if you can offer two other causes for me.
    Thank you.

    • Hi Anna’may. Thanks for reaching out. A lot of people would agree that one contemporary cause is the media, television, movies, magazines, etc. Do you have to have three causes? I think you could write a pretty lengthy paper just by giving examples of the historical causes like colonialism and slavery and by giving examples of how the media continues to cause colorism in the younger generations. I happen to teach college writing, but I know instructors generally have different requirements. Feel free to ask more questions!

      All best,

      SLW

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