By Alyssa King 3/24/17
Since the start of slavery, there has always been a conflict between light skin and dark skin black people. A man by the name of Willie Lynch created that conflict that lasted for hundreds of years. He made a plan that divided the blacks so that they don’t have unity to revolt against their slave master. He came up with the idea of crossbreeding white and black so that the lighter skinned would be house slaves and the darker skinned would be field slaves. Light Skin people were catered to more because their features were closer to that of a European whereas dark skin slaves were hated for their dark complexion. This situation made dark skins HATE light skins because the lighter skin was preferred. This conflict carried into society today. Light skins are still preferred in different settings such as education, jobs, and even through dating. The effects of lighter being “better” can hurt the self-esteem of darker skin people. This situation is what we call Colorism; a form of bias that is based primarily upon skin tone and hair type.
In today’s society, light skin or mixed race is put up on a higher pedestal over dark skin. It is taught in black communities that having a darker complexion means you will not succeed. Stereotypes say that dark skin black people are less educated, disrespectful, ghetto, thieves, ugly, and dirty. Stereotypes of lighter skin people are that they are nice, clean, educated, more respectful, have good hair and formal. This conflict was carried into social media and made into hashtags such as #TeamLightSkin and #TeamDarkSkin or even #LightSkinvsDarkSkin. People of all ages bashed each other on social media just to prove a point that light is better than dark. Black people turned on their own race.
In the workplace, a study done in the University of Georgia proved that lighter skin tones were preferred over darker tones no matter your credentials. For the experiment, 2 black men, one lighter and one darker, went to an interview for a job. The light skin male had a bachelor’s degree with little experience and the dark skin male had an MBA with more experience. Although the darker skinned male had better credentials and experience, the light skin male was still chosen. This shows that it doesn’t matter if you had several hundred degrees in a major, if you are not light skin then you most likely won’t get the job.
The dating world is even more complicated when it comes to skin tone. Studies show that black men have prejudices against dark skin women. “I just prefer light skin”. This can cause dark skin women to feel like they are not good enough for their own race. Many black men marry white or mixed race women because they think they are more beautiful. Black men are sometimes even embarrassed to date someone with a darker complexion. Some have even gone as far to say that they just want their kids to be mixed, more beautiful, and have European features. It’s almost like they fetishize mixed light babies so that they can be more successful in life. This idea that “the lighter you are, the better you are” is stuck in black Americans minds and it’s ruining us mentally and physically.
All of these situations can result in horrible self-esteem issues in the black community. As dark skin people are seeing and experience discrimination because of there skin tone, they’ll bleach their skin. Skin bleach cream has been known to cause skin cancer. Some black people will get plastic surgery for a thinner nose to look more European. The proof is even in some celebrities. For example, if you look at old pictures of Nicki Minaj, she looks darker, has a bigger nose, bigger lips but now she’s very light skin, has a thinner nose, and smaller lips. This proves that in order for her to be respected in the music business, she had physically change her features to get noticed in the industry. Another example is Michael Jackson. MJ HATED his skin color, he hated it so much that he pretty much had his whole facial features reconstructed and bleach his skin to the max!
Not only did this issue affect dark skin people but light skins are affected too. Because of this representation that society gave them, they see themselves as superior. They are starting to believe they belong in the white society. The more they believe it, the more they start to disrespect dark skin people. On social media, I always see people hyping up light skin men and women, commenting that they are gorgeous and amazing. When a beautiful dark skin woman or man posts a picture, they are immediately attacked because of their skin. Although light skin people tend to believe that they are better, white people still see them as black. Yes, they may be higher up than dark skins but they won’t ever get the same benefits of a white person.
I think the only way to solve this issue is to educate black individuals why this idea is engraved in us in the first place. Teach them their history and they will understand not to discriminate because of skin tone. At the end of the day, I wish the black community didn’t have this type of conflict about who is better. I hope that we can all uplift each other instead of putting each other down. We are all beautiful no matter what shade you are.