Monday, June 24, 2013

What's Her Dark Skin Got To Do With It?

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“Dark Girls,” is a documentary that explores the phenomenom of colorism among African-Americans. If I don't think Africans and African-Americans have the same degree of fixation about "good hair", when it comes to skin color, I doubt there's much of a difference. Nigeria has been noted as one of the countries with the highest incident of skin bleaching.

And it is something I have also experienced personally. When I was much younger, older girls, starting with those living with us, ranked me and my sisters according to the shades of our skin color, and the assumption was that the lighter skinned ones were prettier. In the height of the Nigerian dry and sunny season, I would be called blackie by outspoken strange men on the street, sometimes as a compliment, but more likely not.

I have since come to terms with my own skin color, including using creams with hydroquinone in the days of ignorance, to realizing through a painful experience that I could actually have sun burn. I always thought before then I was too dark for all that, in both a good and bad way. Now I know better that my skin deserves all the care and good grooming irrespective of the shade of dark. And beyond myself, I continue to educate myself for the little girls who are coming after.

Dark Girls premiered at Toronto International Film Festival in 2011, and features compelling interviews with dark-skinned African-American who reveal their experiences with colorism. The film is directed by D. Channsin Berry and Bill Duke, who wanted to give dark-skinned women a platform to discuss prejudices they’ve faced because of their complexion and hopefully, spread awareness and bring healing.

Bill Duke, the originator of the idea and one of the film's directors is a dark-skinned African American actor, and says the film comes from a personal place. He told Clutch;

It came out of an idea I had based upon my childhood, what I’d gone through and seen, and what I’d seen people that I loved go through, like my sister, my niece, and other children in my family, and in my life, and I wanted to really give a voice to the voiceless. I brought the idea to Channsin Berry, my co-executive producer and director. We’d tried to get some investment dollars and we couldn’t find them, so we invested our own money — which is not painless. And why now? Colorism is unfortunately still an issue today. Dark skin is considered less than light skin in the in the minds of many in our community and in the media. We thought that finally it should be addressed, to give a voice to the voiceless.

On the movie's official website, Berry, the other director said, “When Bill called me with the idea of a documentary about dark-skinned women, I was in right away. Being a dark-skinned Black man, like Bill, I have gone through similar traumas. Being separated and discriminated against by our own people. It stifles your self-esteem. Bill and I shared our similar experiences and immediately understood that we knew the best way to approach this.”

Duke adds, “In the late `60s a famous psychological study was done in which a young Black girl was presented with a set of dolls. Every time the she was asked to point to the one that wasn’t pretty, not smart, etc., she pointed to the Black doll that looked just like her. In her mind, she was already indoctrinated. To watch her do that was heartbreaking and infuriating. CNN did the test again recently – decades later – with little progress. As the filmmakers behind ‘Dark Girls,’ our goal is to take that little girl’s finger off that doll.”

Dark-skinned Black American women from all walks of life will be covered with a key focus trained tightly upon women struggling for upward mobility in the workplace of Corporate America. “The sickness is so crazy,” Berry continues. “These ladies broke it down to the degree that dark-skinned ‘sistas’ with ‘good’ hair vs. dark-skinned women with ‘kinky’ hair were given edges when it came time for coveted promotions.” Additional interviewees for “Dark Girls” include White men in loving intimate relationships with Black women that were passed over by “their own men,” as well as dark-skinned women of Latin and Panamanian background to bring a world perspective to the issue of dark vs. light.

I've seen the preview above sometime ago on Youtube, but I'm glad OWN had premiered it on TV. I look forward to seeing more clips. And being Oprah, I know she will surround the film with more empowering messages on the way forward. I'll be publishing some posts from the OWN network about this documentary in the next few weeks.


  1. I only attached the first four/five minutes of this preview so forgive me if I am wrong. The producers should have used dark skinned women who are easy on the eye (I do not like to use negative terms to describe people who are not so pretty)because the women I saw in the first five minutes even if they were painted white, yellow or green would still not be very easy on the eye. They should have used women who tend to get the tag "black beauty" because looking at the women in the first five minutes just feeds into the stereotype that dark skinned girls are not pretty. The lady at the 4.57 minute mark could pass for a dude that's all I am saying. I have light skinned friends who are nowhere close to the word pretty.

    1. Chei! I meant to say watched not attached lol

    2. And then they go ahead to dress them or maybe the women dressed themselves in dark colours making them look even more dull. Some yellows, reds, oranges would have been nicer. Sorry I am just not feeling the first few minutes that I have seen of this preview I hope the entire documentary is better I just feel like they didn't search far and wide to get dark skinned women of varying degrees of prettiness from what I have seen so far. I hope I am wrong.

    3. I think this is your bias coming through. Ask yourself, would you say the same if they were lighter skinned?

    4. For the record I am dark skinned the words black beauty have followed me all my life. It is not being biased this is the same as a foreigner going to Lagos and only showing the rest of the world photos of Obalende while leaving out the five star hotel he lodged in on VI. What I am trying to say is just like all light skinned females are all not easy on the eye the same applies to dark skinned girls. There are varying degrees of prettiness among women from the very pretty to the not so pretty. The truth of the matter is most times dark skinned women are perceived not to be pretty the women in this documentary from the first five minutes of the preview that I have seen do not exactly fit the bill "black beauty" or easy on the eye no matter their complexion that is all.

    5. And to me the documentary is just feeding into the stereotype that all dark skinned women are not pretty instead of showing the world that dark skinned girls too are pretty.

  2. @Mimi, the documentary is not about who's pretty or not, but aboout accepting yourself as you are and loving yourself, dark skin and all. It's also about what others say about women who are dark - skinned. In your case, people shouldn't say "black beauty", but simply call you beautiful as they would a lighter skinned person.

    1. I get you but what I am trying to say is that by using the women they used they are just feeding into the stereotype try and look at it from that angle.

  3. black skin or light skin really i dont know the comparison is too much, God created all of us equally and being of any colour does not guarantee success or failure,black girls have their problem likewise light colour girls mostly regarded as water people or mermaid,wayward,greedy and beautiful bocs shes yellow its unfair.check the likes of agbani,oluchi.genny,mercy johnson,dakore,stephanie,ini,annie idibia,sussan peters ,kate henshaw etc are they not beautiful and also celebrities too.the bottom line is self esteem and proud of urself.

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