yea, she’s the light skinned one

In my senior year of high school we somehow ended up talking about race in my English class and I began to talk about the pedestal that light skinned black women are placed on compared to darker skinned black women in the black community, and I was sincerely surprised at my classmates’ reactions; they had no idea.

They all began to ask me questions as to why, and the only thing I could offer them was that throughout history the idea of being closer to white, which has been portrayed and perceived as superior in all senses, makes them better. In the black community the saying goes, “light is right.” It is not unusual that a light skinned person marries another light skinned person in order to maintain that skin tone for the future generations of their family.

Here’s something crazy; Howard University—which is a Historically Black College/ University (HBCU), meaning it is a school that specifically prioritizes for a high black student enrollment —but even into the late 60’s early 70’s they required applicants to send a picture of themselves which the school board then compared to a brown paper bag and if the applicant’s skin tone was darker than the brown paper bag they were immediately rejected!

The black community at large knows and accepts the fact that these light skinned individuals’ genes come from the times of slavery; sometimes a white man chose to have a relationship with a slave or as time went on a black woman, or as is most often the case the white slave owner raped his slaves. Even with this negative attachment of being a light skinned black person, many light skinned individuals insist on the idea that they are superior to darker skinned individuals.

Bringing it back to present day life, the only other black girl on my floor is dark skinned but she is a beauty, no exaggeration. Since we’ve been at school so many black guys have told her she is pretty, for a dark skinned girl. Why can’t she just be pretty?! It makes no sense. Anytime a light skinned girl walks into the room, without even seeing her face, black males are programmed to call her cute. I’m sorry but looking good has nothing to do with the color of your skin, you may not be the most beautiful person in the world (in term of society’s definition) —I’m not going to call someone ugly, because everyone is beautiful in their own way— but changing your skin tone will definitely not make you attain that status, by any means.

I know this is a lot to take in but watch the video for an episode on Tyra that shows the true mentality of certain people and you may get a better understanding. I have not really addressed the dark skinned girls’ mentality in this post or the issue of skin tone when it comes to males but those topics are for another post. Please feel free to ask any questions or comment for/against my thoughts.


9 thoughts on “yea, she’s the light skinned one

  1. this is such an interesting topic—I haven’t really heard much talk about it as an issue, but watching the tyra video and hearing that story about Howard University definitely made me realize that it is something prominent in society. I wonder how this stereotype translates to men–is lighter skin seen as “better” among black men as well?

  2. I actually am familiar with the strange racial preference of lighter African American women to darker skinned African American women, and I never fully understood it. There happens to be a girl I see around campus who honestly is one of the most stunning people I’ve ever seen in person, and I think a lot of what makes her look so striking is her amazingly dark skin tone. I think she is gorgeous, and I also think that the three girls on my floor who are mixed races are equally as stunning. While I see what you’re saying about how the color of your skin has nothing to do with your looks, I don’t completely agree. I think that the variations of skin color are a particular factor in what makes people so individually beautiful, it’s something so special and unique to people that can literally be worn on their sleeves for everyone to see. The history of a person’s family is such an apparent and daily part of people’s lives by way of appearance and largely by way of skin tone for many people.

    I’m shocked to learn that as late as the 70’s HBCU’s were factoring appearance into their acceptance requisites – let alone skin tone at a University that prides itself on having a mainly African American population. I just feel like that is so contradictory, and from how your post reads I’m assuming you feel the same.

  3. I am so glad you chose to write about this! It is so interesting. I had actually noticed this inequality before and had always wondered why it was the case. I when to an extremely homogeneous high school. That is to say, we only had a few kids of color in my entire school, and even among themselves they created a division based on how dark they were. We even had two half-sisters (one who had an extremely dark complexion, and the other who was of a lighter skin tone) who were treated differently among their peers. The lighter sister was popular and always in a relationship, while the darker sister (who, in my opinion, had the better personality of the two) was far less popular. This idea has always intrigued me, because I have always thought women with extremely dark skin are so gorgeous!

  4. To be completely honest, I had never heard this before, because my high school was predominantly white. When thinking about it though, it makes sense in that weird twisted way. I hate the fact that guys can say that to your roommate. I am a straight female, but like most other girls when I see another girl that is beautiful I think she’s pretty no matter what her race is. It doesn’t matter if you’re black, white, Asian, Hispanic, etc., beauty is something that should be appreciated by all people at all times. I hate when people put labels on beauty like that.

  5. I’ve definitely seen this before and I’ve always thought it was strange. I have a light-skinned friend who with out doubt, thinks that she’s superior to other black girls. She makes comments like, “That girl looks burnt,” or “He’s black as hell”. I think it’s inappropriate for anyone to make those comments, but the fact that she is black too really shows that light-skinned people are fully aware of the fact that they’re put on a pedestal, and I’ve really never understood why. Something else that’s interesting to consider is skin tone in relation to white women: being pale is generally a bad thing, and being tan is desired,–which is pretty much the opposite of black people. A lot of white people think darker is better and a lot of black people think lighter is better, go figure.

  6. i can completely relate to this being indian. if your an indian girl you are supposed to be as white as possible because if your darker it means you spend a lot of time in the sun and you dont have people to do things outside for you. it was almost a showing of wealth. it also meant that you were probably north indian versus south indian. south indians are typically darker skined and looked down upon by north indians. now being that im mixed white and indian im fairly pale. i once met an indian guy and i asked him if he was north or south and his reply was north thank god….i then told him i was south indian and he got realllll akward. its sill how our skin color and where we come from can define us in someone elses eyes so critically.

  7. This topic is something that i’m not completely familiar with, but it is strange to hear about. The pigment of your skin shouldn’t pre-determine your beauty, but I guess this idea is consistent among many cultures. I have an Indian friend who’s mom gets mad at her in the summer if her skin gets to darn from being in the sun. If you think about caucasians though tan/darker skin is seen as beautiful and desired. Skin color should not be such a big deal, we are who we are- we can’t change what skin color God gave us.

  8. I am also familiar with this issue. But I was really surprised to read about Howard’s picture requirement, I’m curious where you heard that. I mean it makes sense, it was historically the lightest skinned blacks who got the benefits over those with darker skin. But I’m really surprised over the bag test. It seems so implausible, which shows just how wrong it is. I remember a conversation two of my friends had in high school during lunch one day where one girl (who was black) told another one of my friends (who was half black and half white) that she was lucky she was so light skinned.

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