“I’m not Black, I’m brown”, I told my grandmother. I was four. I don’t know where I’d gotten the perception from, but Black was ugly. Black was evil. Brown wasn’t the ultimate, but anything was better than Black. A few years passed and it became less of an issue to me. My childhood circle of friends and I shared the same hue, so the jokes flew, but were dismissed as quickly as they were launched. So, why are these scars still here? I thought I’d reconciled those feelings about skin tone during my “woke” phase in college. Yet, whenever a dark-skinned, Black woman is attacked, I feel as though the dart pierced me. I become angry, defensive and lately, disheartened.
W. E. B. Du Bois and Marcus Garvey had the blueprints for liberation and were possibly derailed from collaborating on them due to colorism. In the past month or so, we’ve seen former NBA player Gilbert Arenas, suggest that dark-skinned women aren’t attractive on one end of the spectrum and blogger Luvvie Ajayi, imply that light-skinned Blacks are using social awareness to make up for their lack of melanin on the other. Fewer decades removed from slavery, it’s easier to conclude that the Garvey and Du Bois colorism beef was a product of it’s time. However, Arenas’ and Ajayi’s comments can be ascribed to willful ignorance, considering our history and the resources that exist to inform us of it.
There’s no quick solution for an internalized issue, but today’s advantages are the multiple platforms we have available to address colorism. The least we can do is examine why we have preferences and prejudices, avoid generalizing based on complexion and be cognizant of the language we use regarding skin tone. You never know what wounds your actions or words may open.