All my life I’ve heard, “You’re so pretty, for a dark skin girl.” That lingering qualifier used to invalidate the compliment before it even registered. Nowadays I mostly ignore them and forgive them for their ignorance.
I grew up less than loving my skin tone. My momma did her best to show me that my black was beautiful and acceptable and just as good as anyone else’s skin tone. But as a small child at a predominately white school all I saw was that my dark skin made me different. My friends with lighter complexions more closely matched our white classmates and were able to fit in.
I remember taking freezing cold showers because I heard somewhere that cold water was good for the complexion. In my head good equated to lighter. I would stand under the icy water for as long as I could stand it scrubbing away at my milk chocolate skin praying it would lighten just a shade or two.
Along the way, I made peace with my melanin. The differences that bothered me so much as a child dissipated. I began to love the skin I’m in and truly appreciate it. It seemed to me, however, that as I overcame my demons the world around me became more preoccupied with skin tone. I walked the halls of my high school hearing my friends called things like “ Lil Black” and “Darkness”. It was never lost on me that the attacks concerning skin tone never once came from my white classmates it was always the blacks.
For years the black community has struggled with skin tone vs. skin tone. It has recently made a very visible comeback. Last year sometime the hastags #teamdarkskin and #teamlightskin surfaced. It was just a matter of time before the color war made its way to the Internet.
We can trace the poisonous tree from which this problem grew. In 1712 a British slave owner Willie Lynch delivered a speech. In the speech, Lynch explained ways of owning slaves that would create division among them. He explained in order to better control them the owner should highlight their differences. One of the ways he proposed this should be done was to treat the dark skinned slaves and light skinned slaves differently. Lynch’s diabolical plan worked and has over reaching consequences to today.
In slave times the dark skinned and light skinned slaves had animosity. The dark slaves felt that the light skinned slaves felt they were better than their darker counterparts. They often received better clothes, foods, and had “plush jobs” of working in the masters house, rather than the in the fields.
The fact that the whole light skin dark skin debate stems from a calculated scheme to divide us as a people should be enough to bring us together. This is simply not the case. We have taken a slave mentality and carried it over to modern times.
The truly disheartening fact is that skin tone is only truly regarded by us. Other races just see us as black, point blank, period. Light skin, dark skin, brown skin, it really doesn’t matter. We are all black. This is the way we need to start seeing ourselves. The things that divide us should not define us as much as the things that should hold us together. We experience a common struggle that does not recognize skin tone as a reason for reprieve. Our collective blackness should be paramount over the actual tone of our blackness.
We waste too much time squabbling over details when the big picture is far more important. It is up to us to mold the next generation to understand that all black is beautiful, no matter how black you are.