Last night, I watched ‘Light Girls’ on the Oprah Winfrey Network, a documentary about the experiences of women of a fairer complexion. “Light brights”, “high yellow” or “redbones”, just to list some of the names given to light skinned women of the black community. Now just to have a disclaimer of which I feel is ridiculously unnecessary: I do not identify as light skinned.
To some people I appear to be and to others I just appear to be brown. Let’s just get one thing straight here, I check the Black and/or African-American (Not Hispanic) box. I feel like I said to say that to eliminate any prejudice that may come with the consumption of my opinions. I hope that my opinions will be met with an open-mind and patience, but let’s be honest, this is the internet. I’m a blogger, which means a great deal of my time and effort is spent online, more specifically spent on Twitter. I just knew Twitter was going to blow up when this doc aired on OWN, for some reason Twitter is not #TeamOprah right now for reasons I will get into another day, I honestly should have logged off. But I didn’t. I remained online and read all the little tidbits and heated opinions from women of color of all shades. Needless to say, there weren’t a wide range of opinions directed at ‘Light Girls’, not on my timeline at least. The general consensus was quite singular, in that everyone thought the documentary was ridiculous, frustrating and unnecessary due to the fact that light skinned women have “privilege” that dark skinned women don’t experience. I tend to take the position of the devil’s advocate in most discussions for the sake of enlightenment and also because I don’t usually succumb to mob mentality. So, when this one-sided discussion blew up on my timeline I was annoyed. I, for one, don’t understand the need to bash the documentary or claim it to be invalid because it’s giving a different point of view. The discussions seemed to be coming from a place of hurt and I get that but we could all stand to be a little bit more open-minded. Colorism is a very real issue in the black community and by claiming that hurt experienced by light skinned girls isn’t worth examining, we cheat ourselves out of the opportunity to grow and become better as a society. And not just as a white/black society but as a global community. That’s what I liked most about this documentary, it showcased all sides of the argument when it comes to colorism, giving perceptions from women, men and other people of color. Colorism is even an issue among the Japanese who favor a more western ideal of beauty. We must do better. We must seek to be the voices of reason in the debate on colorism. When I say we, I mean all women. It’s one thing to be upset by the perceived privilege experienced by ‘light girls’ and it’s a whole different thing to take it out on light skinned women when they didn’t choose it to be that way. Colorism didn’t start with us but we can damn sure end it. (This article was originally blogged on Tumblr on January 20, 2015)