The perception of beauty is so weird when you think about it...
It's enough to make you crazy.
My friend Pearis is doing some big things lately, one of which includes a book about the effects of colorsim on the African American community's perception of beauty. She asked a bunch of girls, some lightskin, some darksin, to answer some questions for a book she's putting together. I put an excerpt from the section I wrote below, enjoy!
I never knew what colorism was growing up. I’ve lived in a majority white community all my life, so either you were black or white, there was no in between. I remember in middle school this guy I had kind of liked telling me I would be pretty if I had lighter skin. I never really thought it affected me much but now looking back, that’s the one memory from middle school I can vividly recall. Once I was in high school, and was just leaving my awkward stage, there was another guy I kind of liked. He was tall, a senior (I was a lowly sophomore so this was like a HUGE deal), and was a captain on the basketball team. But he was lightskin. And I was darkskin. And apparently, to him, that made all the difference. I was pretty but just “pretty for a darkskin girl”. However, fast forward two years and I’m on my way to a great future and a college degree and he’s living in Philly with no college education and no future plans, so I mean, who’s the real loser in that situation?
I know so many girls where all they have is that they’re lightskin and it’s sad. There’s a girl I grew up with who has a black, although lighter skinned, mother, a black father, but swears she is mixed. And what’s terrible is that she doesn’t realize what she’s buying into, the ancestors that she’s ashamed of, or what her actions are doing to the girls who are going to come after her.
Colorsim affects beauty in the African-American community immensely. Have you ever noticed that every picture of Beyonce in magazines is lightened like 10 shades? Somewhere between slavery and now lighter skin became prettier. And I would be lying if I said I didn’t kind of buy into it. I have seen many a dark skin girl, myself included, go to great lengths to find “good lighting” for a picture or edit an instagram photo 3 or 4 times to lighten it. It’s like you want to fight it because you know it’s wrong, but then you don’t want to be ugly either, so you’re just stuck. I feel like personally I haven’t felt the colorism affects too badly because I live in a white community which I’m actually grateful for. It’s either you’re white, or black, the white people don’t seem to understand or care about the whole lightskin darkskin thing; we’re all just black. I remember trying to explain it to some kids in my AP Lit. class and they were just perplexed, “So you mean there are lighter shades of being black? What’s lightskinning I don’t understand?”, I was amazed. Whenever I’m in a black community or with black people the two comments I always get is “wow, you’re really pretty for a darkskin girl!” and “where did you get you’re weave from!?”, apparently the only way to be pretty or have long hair is to not be darkskin. That’s when it hit me that even though I’ve lived in a white community all my life, the most racist comments I ever got were from other black people. Now that’s just sad.
It took some time but I actually do like my skin tone now. When I was younger, eh not so much, but now I wouldn’t change it for anything. I used to be that girl hiding from the sun in SPF 200 sunscreen trying to stay in my “winter shade” in the middle of August, but then I just got over it. I can’t even recall the exact moment; I think it was a series of moments. I kept getting compliments from white women on how beautiful my skin is and how many pretty my natural curls are and I realized, you what you’re right. That and a combination of getting older, broadening my spectrum of what beauty is, and meeting new people from new places with different ideas.
I can’t even imagine what it’s like for girls growing up now because when I was younger we didn’t even have instagram or twitter or any of that. Young girls just are bombarded these days with so many images of what they think defines pretty or beautiful and it just eats away at their self confidence. Boys are really not helping the situation either. This preference has emerged for lightskin girls from guys whose mothers are darkskin! Somehow they don’t seem to realize that by calling darkskin ugly that also includes their mothers, aunts, sisters, grandmothers, and so on. Those guys will end up being the ones with shallow relationships based solely off of appearance, which isn’t worth anything anyway, so they’ll get there’s in the end.