Thursday, June 23, 2011

Hiding from the sun

This particular post was inspired by Shani's blog, where she posted the following video entitled 'Dark Girls':

Dark Girls: Preview from Bradinn French on Vimeo.

After watching it was I surprised by the way I was reacting. I didn't burst out in tears, but I was identifying some of those insecurities within myself that I thought I had conquered and I hated that. I wouldn't consider myself dark-skinned - I actually prefer caramel, hence my nickname - but I felt wrong for ever thinking that by Black standards, I'm better off being lighter, and by Dominican standards, I'm a bit too dark (both of my backgrounds). I think that at this point in my life I have grown a lot more comfortable with myself, skin color, body type, hair and all, but I seriously wish that myself and other young women didn't need to "get comfortable." Why are we the ones who have to do the adjusting? We're just expected to learn to love ourselves when we have ignorance hissing in our ears?

But listen, I'm not making excuses.

This past Spring semester I wrote my thesis on the changing portrayal of African American women's body image in magazines, so I covered everything from Aunt Jemima to Michelle Obama. Obviously, one of the big things I talked about was skin color and it's significance in both black and white society. It was the first time that I was seeing this written in books by scholars. Through my own research I discovered how there were brief stints of time when being dark skinned was en vogue (like during the 70s and around the Black Power Movement) and there were also times when being light skinned with more white features were in. Yet, light skin has historically been associated with a higher status and thus, more positive qualities. What hurt me the most was that it was black people who were judging one another the harshest. One thing I did discover is that even if darker-skinned models were being featured in magazines, there were still magazines that lightened well-known celebrities - celebrities that weren't even that dark to begin with. As much as we'd like to think we're growing as a society overall, we shouldn't be concerned about accepting dark-skinned women. We should have a natural inclination to love and tell people that they are beautiful no matter what their shade.

Watching that video also got me to start thinking about what my siblings and children, if I ever have any, are going to grow up with. People tell me now that they anticipate my boyfriend and I will have beautiful mixed kids because he's white and I'm black, but I always tell them that my kids will be beautiful no matter what race J and I was. I know I can't change the way people think as a whole, but I can always start with myself and I think my thesis helped me understand that. It's still a growing process though, because I do catch myself having my moments where I'm like, "Oh no! I don't wanna stay in the sun because I'll get darker." Like, it baffles me when my white friends ask me to "lay out."

But it's the summer. I should just enjoy it even if my skin goes from a Soft Sable to a Toasted Almond by L'Oreal standards.

Sidenote: "Toasted" almond! Why is that that?
Double Sidenote: If I hear, "she's pretty for a dark-skinned girl" one mo' 'gain. Okay, I'm done.


  1. Such an amazing post! Love love love your blog! Thanks for stopping by mine :))

  2. Thanks for the sweet comment! I would love it if you followed me so I can hear what you have to say!

    Your newest follower,

  3. I happen to love dark skinned women and I have friends who are adamant in thinking there are more good looking light skinned women than dark. I dont think that's the case and it repulses me. I don't think there's any ratio but hey, different strokes for different folks.

  4. Nice post!

    Thanks for stopping by/ leaving the comment on my page.. Now following you BTW. Feel free to follow back.


  5. You are such an intelligent and well-spoken young woman. I love your bold attempt at a pretty edgy and, what some might consider "undesirable", topic. Do you have your thesis posted anywhere on your site? It sounds like it makes for a pretty good read.

    I read a book once called "Don't Play In the Sun". It is about a woman who was emotionally and mentally damaged as a child after her mother suggested one day, as she was playing outside, that she come back in the house in order to avoid the sun and getting any darker. The author mentions the same trend you are referring to now (as far as dark people being considered fashionable during different eras). She even cited how deeply pigmented skin was considered so desirable in Egypt that at one point, mothers were holding their babies up towards the sun. They said that the Egyptians considered the sun to be the source of all good things and light, thus black babies were desirable and considered to be children of the sun and heavenly skies.

    Thanks for this great read!


    Soraya (Sojo) ; FWB team member.

  6. Great post! I love your blog! I am now following ;). Thanks for stopping by my blog.


    Carmen Vogue

  7. Wow! This is really deep. In College I did a presentation on the black body images vs. white body images in men magazines. The results were agonizing. I couldn't believe the derogatory manner that black women were being displayed in vs. white women. This post reminded me of the conclusion of my presentation, I felt like black women had lower self esteem because of society's expectaions for black women, and we acted out by treating ourselves with less respect than we deserve(hence the booty shots in the men mags). IDk? maybe that's far fetched. I'am very intrigued with this post. I'am a follower. Thanks for commenting on my blog.


    Tarah and The City

  8. Very thoughtful post. I was thinking about this today while reading an article about a study showing that darker skinned women received longer sentences on average than light skinned women in NC....

  9. I don't even know where to begin with this comment but I absolutely love this post. I like getting along with people, regardless of their race, gender, whatever. But I will say that I have never experienced racism from any race other than my own. My mom is Persian and slightly lacking in the melanin department; my dad is Black, with a toasted almond complexion if you will. I came out looking like a carbon copy of him, I like to think that I happen to be more attractive though. I'm an only child but I always loved to share with people when I was younger. The very first slightly racist incident I had, I was about 5. I was at school, on the playground and I was eating cookies. I turned to the girl next to me, this African girl that I grew up with, and I offered her one. She looked me dead in the face and said "I don't play with people like you." Then she walked away. I remember standing there, confused. I thought I was making a nice gesture and she threw it back in my face. I went home and explained it to my mom. She told me that she didn't expect me to understand at that point but I would when I got older. I didn't fully grasp it until I went to a shitty public school. The dark-skinned black girls hated me and wanted to jump me in the hallways. They thought that because I was light-skinned, whatever you want to call it, I thought that I was better than them. They were so mean to me and made sure that they made the rest of my high school career was a living hell. I looked at them like they were crazy not because I thought I was better but because they were legitimately acting crazy.

    I've historically dated white guys, not because I'm racist but because I happened to think that each of those individuals was amazing. In hindsight, I was wrong because they were the biggest gumps I had ever met. We're in the 21st century, I was raised to not see color. I grew up in a predominantly white area. As I've gotten older, people have given me the standard nickname, Oreo. But one that slightly rubbed me the wrong way was Hilary Banks (the older cousin from the Fresh Prince). I am not a ditz, my parents raised me to be a well-educated, well-spoken, contributing member of society. I finally realized that people weren't calling me that because of my intelligence but because of the way I carried myself. According to the outside world, I act "white". After a certain point, I just stopped arguing because I was trying to change other people's opinions about the way I acted. I'm at the point where I don't care what people think about me; they can hate and talk shit all they want, that just means that I'm living my life correctly because I'm one step ahead. I can still look myself in the mirror every morning and every night. That might not be the case for "haters".

    Thanks for stopping by my blog. Also, I like your goals for this summer. My main goal is to make more money so that I can shop clothes need more company.

  10. @Shelby, Courtney, Tammy, Lynn – thanks for visiting! <3 y’all!

    @Lil – I know exactly which friends you’re talking about! Lol I know a lot of guys think light-skinned girls are more attractive for what I consider to be a brainwashed reason but they’ll swear it’s “preference”. I’m glad you find all shades of women attractive.

    @SOJO – aww thanks girrl :) I’ll talk abt random things in this blog but every once and a while I wanna cover something real – something that people shy away from. It may get me more views with less comments, but hey, as long as it’s being read I’m good.

    That book sounds like one I would def read! I never knew that in Egypt they desired darker babies. . .very interesting :) That’s so beautiful.

    My thesis is actually in the process of going online. That was the 2nd part of my project, actually lol. I’m thinking of getting another blog just for that.

    @Tarah – thanks for coming by! I researched a little bit about women’s body images in men’s magazines as well and you’re right – it is agonizing. I believe that for both white and black women they are shown more fleshier than in women’s publications but the posing is so blatantly different and more demeaning for black women. I think your points are right on the money.

    @Carla – If this is the Carla I’m thinking of – heyyy cuz! Thanks so much for visiting! And WOW! Longer sentences? No doubt because darker women are probably believed to be more malicious.

    @MacKenzie – OMG girl! Pretty much everything I read that you wrote sounds A LOT like me! I don’t even know where to begin myself, lol!

    Your story with the African girl when you were younger reminds me of some stories I had in school. I like to think that people are non-judgmental and I always look for the best in them but I have experienced jokes because I wasn’t as dark as others. It was never anything blatant, but now looking back on it the comments about me being an oreo or being “lucky to be light-skinned” show that. I never thought I was better than anyone but I was still trying to understand who I was and why I was treated differently. I grew up in a predominantly white neighborhood as well and it wasn’t until I moved to a predominantly black school that it really hit me. Up until that point I had foolishly thought racism was only black vs. white, but then I saw that it existed within our own community.

    & it’s funny you mention the nickname Hilary Banks because I’ve gotten that as well! I’m no where as light as Hilary, but I guess I took on her attitude because of the way I was raised (minus the ditzy part). I could go on and on about “acting white” because I’ve heard it SO much. I hear about acting too white from my black side of the family and acting too black for my Spanish side. I heard even more about it when I was in school. I’m also at the point where I’m over what people have to say about me. I’ve never switched it up and I never will.

  11. i love this post but there are so many problems with us a women and how we act to each others looks the color thing is just a small fraction, i spoke about this via my last post and nobody cared so i just have to start with loving myself!

  12. p.s i'll add that watching this video empowered me my heart soul and sense of being through all the negative i see the ''light'' (excause the pun) its not a matter of how dark you are but how different you look to other people who have a ''media'' state of mind!

  13. This is extremely true. I've always been a strong believer that the most divide is amongst groups that are supposed to be united. I feel that with all types of groups: from race, to gender.. and from social class, to 'social race'. It's a sad social conflict that lies within us, and if there's nothing else we've gotten from our ancestors, it's that. I'm a dark-skinned girl, chocolate brown baby! =] LOL. And I've never felt inferior to anyone who was a lighter complexion but I HAVE felt when SOMEONE has felt as if they were superior. And it's quite sad, but it's the norms of our environment; unfortunately. Looking forward to the focus of this documentary, and the lessons it will teach through it's story.

    Kimberly, FWB

  14. @Euqinum • thanks for visiting hun! I know, it's crazy how much actually divides us :\. Checking out your blog now!

    @Kimmy • I gave you a nickname, lol. Hope you don't mind. Your belief about the most common divides actually sounds pretty accurate even though it's ironic. & I would never expect you to have felt inferior! lol you're fierce as hell! :) thanks for commenting.

  15. Thats actually heart breaking to know that girls dark skinned girls have to go through that. I've heard many people say that dark skinned girls aren't pretty etc. And when I look in magazines and tv ads they tend to use light skinned girls instead. They would use dark skinned boys, but what about the girls. We're just as beautiful as a light skinned girl, as a white girl, as an asian girl. We're all equal. We're women, we should stand by each other y'know. Black people should stand by each other full stop. And I hated the comment that dude made about black girls not looking right. *kiss my teeth* So he's saying that chicks like Gabrielle Union, Lauren London, Lauryn Hill, Kelly Rowland etc don't look right. That's a big disappointment.

    I've never had to go through that and I hope in the future I wouldn't have to either or anyone else I know. I'm actually comfortable in my skin. My family is all different shades of black. My mum is the lightest in the house and my dad is that darkest. I love everyone, no matter what colour/nationality/religion.

    Oh, and I'm following you now. I thought I was in the first place.

    Interesting post hun.



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