Is Light Skin Erasure A Thing?
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In the wake of Kendrick Lamar’s music video for his new single, “Humble,” many black women have taken to twitter to criticize the video. The video starred a young black woman with stretch marks and curly hair. While some thought this was a good idea, some light skin women disagreed.
Due to the fact that euro-centric beauty standards exist, the black community has tried to reclaim and evaluate their idea of what black beauty is. Specifically, this reevaluation involves dark skin girls embracing the tone of their skin and their less than curly, more coily hair. While to some this seems like a good idea, others feel it can still leave the black community separate.
Although there are black women with dark skin and kinky hair, there are also black women with light skin and wavy or curly hair. Even though light skin women are usually closer to the ideal woman, they can still feel left out in the black community due to feeling they aren’t “black” enough. Does this mean light skin erasure is real?
Well, the reason light skin erasure can’t be a thing is because in society black people with a lighter tone have more advantages than other blacks. This phenomenon is also known as colorism (a form of prejudice or discrimination in which people are treated differently based on the social meanings attached to skin color).
Historically, black slaves with a lighter tone were allowed to stay in the house with their slave masters while darker skinned slaves had to stay in the fields. Also, back in the day they had a system called, “The Brown Paper Bag Test.” This test was used in churches, fraternities, and other race-conscious locations; if you were darker than the bag, you wouldn’t be admitted in whatever facility you were trying to get into.
Examples of colorism today include singers like Beyoncé being able to rise to the top while darker skinned singers like Jazmine Sullivan staying at the bottom despite her amazing voice, not to mention lighter women have the privilege of not being told they’re pretty “for a dark girl.”
As a light skin black women, I can admit that I do have more privilege than darker skinned women in a system that doesn’t benefit all black people. When I was younger, I was playing at the pool with some friends: one or two were white, and the other was black girl with a darker skin tone. One of my white friends said they wanted to go tan and my other white friend and I joined her. When my dark skinned friend went to sit with us I distinctly remember my white friend saying, “why are you coming over here? You can’t tan like us. You’re already dark.” Everyone laughed except my dark skinned friend. I could tell she wasn’t mad, but she wasn’t necessarily happy either.
I remember my brother always saying, “there’s no way I would marry a black girl. If I do, she has to be light skinned.”
My grandmother told me not to go outside because, “You better stay inside or you’ll get too dark.”
I see light skin privilege everyday. And I think, instead of playing the victim, light skin women should educate themselves on light skin privilege and protect dark skin girls.
Light skin privilege is complicated but it’s in every culture from Africa to Asia to Latin America. The important thing for everyone to do now is educate themselves on the topic of colorism and find some way to combat it.