“My skin absorbs the suns rays and my hair defies gravity. You can’t tell me I’m not magical.”
We, African Americans, come in all different beautiful shades of black: Dark chocolate, coffee, almond, cinnamon, caramel, orange chocolate, honey, coffee with cream and everything in between! But we didn’t always show love. In fact there’s always been a big a divide between people with lighter and darker skin in the black community. Actually in many cultures, this has been an issue, but I’m just gonna talk about us, cuz thats what I know.
The whole, “If it’s white or light, it gotta be right” mentality really damaged the self-love for our melanin and stemmed from slavery (Stevenson, 1996). Slaves with fairer skin complexion were given preferential treatment from slave owners because, often times, “light-skinned” slaves were family members due to slave owners having sexual relations with the slaves (Jackson-Lowman, 2013). “Dark skinned” slaves usually worked in the field, while “light skinned” slaves usually worked in the house. “Dark-skinned” slaves were sold at lower prices because “light-skinned” slaves were valued as more beautiful due to their features being more “European.” After slavery, the “special treatment” trickled down to education, housing, job opportunities, income, marriage potential, entry into some fraternities/sororities and even churches (Jackson-Lowman, 2013; Russell et. al., 1992). This treatment is basically known as the “Brown Paper Bag Test.” If you were the same shade, or lighter than the bag, you were “in” (Jackson-Lowman, 2013).
Do you realize the psychological effects of getting what you want based on your skin color vs. not getting special treatment based on your skin color? Studies have shown that color complexity literally plays a role in various aspects of life: Interactions with significant others, interactions with people that have different skin colors, family dynamics, educational opportunities, career options, self-esteem, perceptions of beauty, “mate selection,” and even physical health. I mean, I think most people I know have, at some point in their life, dealt with these issues. I KNOW for a fact, I have and still sometimes feel self-conscious, even though I know my worth. But, through resilience, we overcome color complexity.
Resilience (n.)- the ability to stand up to challenges, work through them step by step, and bounce back stronger than you were before (Urban Dictionary).
Through encouragement we overcome fear. Through reassurance from the community, we overcome limitations. Through positive affirmations, we overcome negative hate speech. Through mentorship and positive character building experiences, we overcome self-doubt. Through positive, on-screen, representation, we overcome stereotypes. Through fair treatment, we overcome the idea that skin color matters. By following the “Golden Rule” of treating people how we want to be treated, we form a sense of community. And together we are unstoppable!!
My brown skin. My full lips. My wide nose. My curvy hips. My Black is BEAUTIFUL! All Black is beautiful.
- Jackson-Lowman, H.(2013) AfriKan American women: Living at the crossroads of race, gender, class, and culture (pp.155-172). San Diego, CA: Cognella Academic Publishing
- Russell, K., Wilson, M., & Hall, R.E. (1992). The color complex: The politics of skin color among African Americans. New York: Harcourt Brace
- Stevenson, Brenda, E. (1996). Life in black and white: Family and community in the slave south. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, USA