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In Defense of All Women of Color

As I read the article, “In the Defense of Light-skinned Women,” by Demetria Lucas (formerly of Essence Magazine) I felt that this issue is way beyond a 773 word essay.[1] In fact, there were two topics mentioned in her article and I wish she went more in depth about each one. She mentions the sexism as well as the typical stereotypes colored women are faced with everyday.[2] I am not journalism major or a classically trained writer, but I can and do take advantage of my ability to express my opinion on various topics I find myself feeling strongly about. I am used to doing my research by using sources and finding references to prove my opinions and thoughts.  I feel that the  article needed some more attention to each topic separately because they are just that important.

As a woman, life has shown me that no matter what color your skin is you will experience sexism as long as you are a decent looking women, if that.  However, there are two different topics being discussed in Miss Lucas’ article and with all due respect they should be discussed separately. She starts her article talking about Eric Benet’s song, “Redbone Chick” in which Eric himself states is a song, “… you either love it or you hate it.”  He states that the song is NOT about his preference but about an experience with a woman who was light skin. In comparison, he had a song titled “Chocolate Legs” which was about his experience with a dark skin woman.[3] To play Devil’s advocate could it be that some people are overreacting?

Nonetheless, men using nicknames that describe women’s physical traits, in this case skin color versus personality traits come off as ignorant. This brings up the topic of men being sexist and identifying women solely on what they see on the outside. Miss Lucas brings up the stereotypes that come with being a dark or light skinned woman in America. We as woman don’t help the situation when we walk around the streets in outfits with short skirts, cleavage exposed, and looking for ways to increase the size of our “booty.” We have become a culture based on “appearance.”  Everywhere you look whether it is TV, Magazines, or Billboards women are being viewed based on their physical appearance. This topic carries such a historical context that can go back as far as slavery, where light skin slaves were employed in the house as servants and dark skin slaves worked the plantation.[4]

Both topics deserved to be discussed separately at length. Discussing them together us not only confusing but it shows little effort to thoroughly give each topic an appropriate defense. 

On the topic of sexism, there is no argument that everyone is entitled to their preference. If a man prefers a dark skinned woman over light skinned woman than that’s his choice. It becomes ignorant however when he begins to state that one is better than the other.  We can educate the dumb but if they choose not to learn than there is nothing we can do, now is there?

What we should be doing is asking where does a man learn that behavior? It is from his father, uncle, cousins, perhaps an older brother. Why the lack of respect towards women of color? Why is it being allowed? We are supposed to be leading by example. If we allow this type of sexism within our culture to continue, can you imagine what our future sons will think? 

As women we should not accept nicknames like “redbone” or “chocolate” to define who we are. If you were raised with self respect and confidence you would know that your color whether dark or does not make you who u are. No matter what anyone says or prefers there is someone for everyone. The thought of feeling like another woman is prettier than you because of her complexion merely show insecurity. These insecurities often stem from past experiences or learned behavior. For example, if I grew up hearing my mother say that light skinned women are pretty and dark skinned women are not then most likely I will carry those same thoughts. If you hear people tell you, “You’re pretty for a dark skinned girl,” you are going to assume that general thought is that dark skinned girls are not pretty. It’s these behaviors that tear us apart and divide us as people of color.

We all have that one person in our family or among our friends who us the skin color of another to makes them feel and appear to be a better person. In my culture, Hispanic women are often given nicknames based on their skin color. The terms are used as terms of endearment but at times can carry a negative connotation. “Blancita” (white girl) would be for a female of actress Cameron Diaz’s complexion. “Negrita or morenita” (black girl) would be a reference for a female brown to dark brown complexion like the late Cuban singer Celia Cruz. I’m a mix of a dark skinned father who is Afro-Cuban and a light skinned mother who is Puerto Rican. Someone might call me “triguenita” (mixed girl) like actress Zoe Saldana.[5]

It’s been a part of our culture and our language for many years. When will it stop? No one knows but it needs to stop especially when our women are consistently degrading each other over their complexions.  That’s why it’s important to bring such topics up in healthy environments for discussion so that people can learn that they should not use such references when we converse with one another.

On the topic of stereotypes phrases such as “light is right,” “light girls are more beautiful,” or “light skinned people have it easier,” encourage discrimination. People tend to say such ignorant comments based on life experiences. Whether ignorance is bliss can be argued, it appears to be just that in some cases. When you have no idea about your surroundings you have no qualms. Now for example, let’s say you are a dark skinned woman in a store looking for a pair of shoes and the saleswomen walks past you to help a woman who walked in after you, who happens to be lighter than you. Well then you start to make judgments based on your feelings of being dismissed. You see what you think is discrimination, which could or could not be. But that was enough to stir anger inside and make you generalize that light skinned women get treated better. You start to develop animosity and you now notice every time a light skinned woman “gets one over on you.”  It’s just that simple on how people come up with such stereotypes, which are often traced back to an experience in the past.

When growing up you see how your light skinned girlfriend in high school had all the boys all over her and you start feeling like she was “pretty” and life has been easier for her because her complexion. However that stereotype has an origin dating back to the beginning of the slave trade within the Caribbean, South America, and North America. It started with the salve masters and how they embedded that thought within the conscious of the slaves.  It didn’t help that light skinned slaved where often allowed in the house to be servants and nannies. Whereas dark skinned slaves were not allowed in the house and could only work on the field. What did this message send to slaves? When liberated and they started migrating out west and up north, who got jobs easier? Who were able to own land first? Ask who were targets of racist organizations like the KKK the most?

Now fast forward into the 20th century and see how research has shown that being light skinned fairs better than those individuals who are dark skinned.[6] These series of events and more throughout history embedded a subconscious battle whether one complexion began to feel a certain way over the other. Can we blame them? But we can’t play victim. We are smarter than that and those experiences through history can’t be a valid argument to continue being ignorant.

We have been discriminated since the beginning of time as a race, the last thing we should be doing is discriminating towards each other. Honestly only those who have chosen to be part of the “Talented Tenth” can help rear this stereotype that the shade of one’s skin should not be considered as a form of determining how “easy their life is” or how “beautiful” that person is. We as future leaders must lead by example and proceed to discredit stereotypes so our future offspring won’t pass on that type of ignorance.

There should not be a defense for one side over the other. We are all victims and instead of rationalizing it we should all be promoting the beauty of our race as a whole. It is not a sympathy contest! No one should be looking for pity from the other side either. We have to do better, point blank!

 

-Nely


 


[1] Lucas, Demetria. “In Defense of Light Skinned Women”. Clutch Magazine.25 July 2012.< http://www.clutchmagonline.com/2012/07/in-defense-of-light-skinned-women/>

[3] Eric Benet ‘The One’ Track by Track-“Redbone Girl”. < http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=djUi6XoHLPc>

[4]Steward, Bernadette. Art Exhibition Exposes Racism.2012. Texas Communist Party. 27 July 2012. <http://tx.cpusa.org/darkskin.htm>

[6]Hochschild, JL, Weaver V. 2007. The Skin Color Paradox and the American Racial Order, 12/2007. Social Forces. 86(2):643-670..<http://scholar.harvard.edu/jlhochschild/publications/skin-color-paradox-and-american-racial-order>

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