Light skin, dark skin: Does it matter?

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Since slavery, light skin vs. dark skin has always been an issue that has plagued the Black community.

In an African American English course I take at UNCG, we discussed how typically dark skinned African Americans worked in the fields, while fair skinned African Americans were house workers.

Depending on the master and his family, to an extent, house slaves were treated “better” than field slaves.

We concluded as a class that, regardless of one’s skin complexion, if enslavement were to come back upon the African American community no one would be exempt.  

It is sickening to hear students chant “Light skin, the right skin” or “ Down with the brown.” Granted, some jokes on social media are a bit comical, but to know that some people actually abide by these stereotypes is sad. It shows how far we have actually come as a community.

Stereotypically, light skin automatically places you in the cute or pretty category. Because light skin is associated with pretty and cute, there are times when people say, “She/ He is cute to be a dark skin girl/boy.” What does that even mean? Not every light skinned person is cute and not every dark skin person is ugly. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Today’s Hip-Hop music reinforces the idea that light skin is better than dark skin. In a study conducted by a group called Black Youth Group, they asked 1,590 youth’s from different ethnicities, between the ages of 15-25, how often they listen to rap music.

The African American Youth came out on top with 58% of them, while Hispanics came in second and Caucasians came in last with 23%.  

The constant promotion of red bones in song lyrics makes it appear that light skin women are the only women worth being infatuated over. It is sad because the majority of the people infatuated with those of fair skin, come from a family full of dark skinned people.  

Is the preference of skin color a defense mechanism based on personal self-esteem?

I have friends who feel like the “black sheep” of their family because they may be the only dark or light skinned one. Because of this, they prefer someone of the opposite skin color.

For my light skinned friends, they will give anything to tan and become darker. My dark skinned friends constantly complain about being too dark for pictures and wanting lighter filters for Instagram.  

I do not disagree with the fact that the separation of color came from slavery, but we cannot blame White people for actions we can control.

The beauty of a person is not based on his or her pigmentation.

The beauty of color is that no one’s color is the same, and there are all different shades. Embrace who you are whether you are light skinned or dark skinned.  

Rapper, Angel Haze said in her freestyle on “No Church In The Wild,” “A lot of [stuff] we can’t get passed/Like dark or light skin when it’s just black.”

—Email Meagan at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter  @theatregister

  • Meagan Jordan