Dark Skin vs Light Skin…the effect of Colorism

Dark Skin vs Light Skin…the effect of Colorism

In today’s generation it’s hard not to compare yourself to others or compete with others. With social media platforms like Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter & Facebook everything is put out for the world too see, comment on & judge. Problems & issues that weren’t so big before social media are now magnified 1000x more. Take for instance the continuous debate on Dark skin vs Light skin women. An issue that has been about since slavery days.

In the 17th Century William ‘Willie’ Lynch, a British slave owner who had settled in the west Indies, wrote and delivered a speech to fellow slave owners who had problems with controlling their slaves. In his speech he stated fool proof instructions if used correctly could ensure control over Black slaves for 300+ years. One being the separation of slaves he used their fear and distrust against them pitting young against old, men against women & light skin slaves against dark skin slaves. He ended the speech with; “Gentlemen, these kits are your keys to control. Use them. Have your wives and children use them, never miss an opportunity. IF USED INTENSELY FOR ONE YEAR, THE SLAVES THEMSELVES WILL REMAIN PERPETUALLY DISTRUSTFUL. Thank you gentlemen.” Lets make a slave.  Sourced: Willie Lynch Letter

In her novel The Bluest Eye (1970), Toni Morrison depicts the effects of the legacy of 19th century racism for poor black people in the United States. The novel tells of how the daughter of a poor black family, Pecola Breedlove, internalizes white standards of beauty to the point where she goes mad. Her fervent wish for blue eyes comes to stand for her wish to escape the poor, unloving, racist environment in which she lives. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internalized_racism

In the 21st century the Doll test,  originally done by psychologists “ Kenny and Mamie Clark ” in the 1940’s was recreated by high school student Kiri Davies and once again it was shown that young black children still viewed black dolls as being bad and ugly.  Her results are shown in a short film calledGirl Like Me

Growing up I dramatically lacked confidence that wasn’t brought on from alcohol. At a young age because I was made to feel unwanted & unloved by my own parents, I carried those traits on as a teenager & well into adulthood. In secondary school, before social media highlighted people’s lack of confidence it was the football pitch that did that or whatever green grass etc that was available in your school. That was always the best way to get noticed right? Although I never did get noticed standing next to my light skin friends, I was always known as the Black one, never by my actual name just the black one. On one I occasion I was actually referred to as ‘Wally’ from the book Where’s Wally, this was due to being one black girl amidst a bunch of mixed women.

You see a majority of my friends in school were of mixed heritage. In those days being mixed race was like being part of the royal family (okay that’s a bit exaggerated but you get what I mean). Mixed race people were put on a high pedestal because like my classmates used too say ‘they were like Hovis, the best of both worlds’ or ‘Pic’n’Mix’. Their light complexion & long hair stamped them as beautiful. Whereas black girls weren’t considered beautiful or worthy of being girlfriend material because of our short hair, dark skin, rude attitude etc. Whatever belittling excuse they could come up with. As a teenage girl I was constantly comparing myself to my friends & associates. What could I improve to get the same attention they got, how could I behave, what could I wear. I changed my dress sense a couple times, even permed my hair but I still wasn’t comfortable next to my friends.

For as long as I can remember Black woman & Mixed women have always been pitted against each other, not only by men but also by society e.g. In the Media, Front of house job roles, Public speaking/Politics & sometimes even within our own family. The most common saying I always grew up hearing was that mixed raced people were confused & as a youngster I never got it, it weren’t until I came of age I realised it meant being mixed with different races, according to elderly black woman I’ve spoken too, mixed race people had to be confused not knowing which race to stick with or claim. Now if I was a mixed person & consistently heard this I too would feel some kind of way towards black people & vice versa with the comments made about black girls.

“People’s desire to have a particular skin tone, be it a darker or lighter one, stems from them wanting to be more attractive and sometimes for others to take notice. And more often than not, in the case of an individual who has undergone skin lightening here in Africa, it works. The critics might be unwilling to concede this publicly, but the harsh truth is that in Africa, lighter skinned girls do get more attention and are more appreciated than darker skinned women.”Source: dark-skin-vs-light-skin-the-effect-of-colorism

So knowing this, as women of colour, how do we come together & tackle an issue that’s been around since the 17th century because it’s clear as day the issue is still relevant (Below i’ll post a video that was recently uploaded online, specifically relating to this issue). I find that young girls are now feeling the pressure even more due to social media platforms. I’ve heard young girls discussing bleaching their skin & having weave to conform to society’s notion of being light skin with long hair, to get further in life. This hurts my heart especially seeing young black men who are able to put down a young black girl with such ease you would never think they were brought into the world by a black woman.

I believe educating the younger generation is key, no matter what colour or race they are. Young girls, women, boys & men need to be educated first of all on integrity, having morals & knowing how to unite instead of bringing others down. Secondly culture, the more young people that understand their own culture & background the more confidence they’ll gain within themselves, I truly believe this. Lastly I think young people should be taught how to communicate with each other effectively. There may not always be someone of authority or influence available to guide & advise a young person, so if it’s possible for a young person to give advice to another, Why not? If someone can turn to you & discuss their lack of confidence, depression, anxiety etc. Be that ear for them, trust me you just listening could benefit that person in so much ways.


The purpose for this post was to give a shout out to women of colour, despite the ups & down that black women experience, we are all sisters at the end of the day if you can help a fellow sister out why not aye?!
Just a little mantra I say to myself when I’m feeling really down: I am beautiful, black + beautiful to be precise. No I don’t need to be told I’m pretty for a black girl, I know & love myself. This is how the Lord blessed me & ain’t it great!


Featured Image By: Alicia Robison http://www.aliciarob.com


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