Anything But Dark Skin: The Rise in Black Women Disassociating Themselves from Afrocentrism
Pinterest frequently tailors its feeds to users’ interest: a sneaker lover’s Pinterest feed might be full of shoes; an aspiring home cook’s might contain various recipes and appetizing dishes. However, my feed shows me a little bit of everything, from political articles to supermodels from the nineties to celebrity glamour shots. That variety often leads to rather eerie things popping up occasionally, which I’ve learned to simply scroll past.
But recently, I came across a post I just couldn’t scroll past-- a post that had been regurgitated on just about every niche Instagram and Black Twitter page one could find back in 2017. The post displayed three images containing a beautiful black woman in each, lined up side-by-side, from lightest to darkest. Bold lettering asked, “Which would you choose?” [light-skinned, brown-skinned, or dark-skinned] was seen above the pictures of the women. Most of the comments under this image were filled with comments bashing the darkest woman depicted, calling her atrocious names that ridiculed her complexion and kinky hair, such as “monkey”, “burnt toast”, and “nappy-headed”. The post (and similar ones made in its honor) had an understandably negative impact on several young black girls’ self-esteem.
At that moment, I was reminded of the sheer chaos this image once caused on Twitter. It had led to a slew of black women-- specifically those of darker complexions --claiming to be of lighter complexion than they actually were due to the large amount of blatant colorism this image brought forth. I remember rationalizations such as, “I’m not dark-skinned, I’ve just tanned” and “I’m just a darker shade of brown-skinned” being common amongst those who did not wish to identify as what they truly were-- dark-skinned women.
To this day, I see many black women caking their noses with powder in order to slim them down, burning their curls to a crisp in order to fit in with their white peers, and generally erasing as much Afrocentrism from their physical appearance and demeanor as humanly possible. I’ve heard black teenage girls claim to not be “like other black girls” simply because they detest the rap and hip-hop genres. I’ve heard of black girls as young as ten years old wishing to lighten their complexions and loosen their curls with perms. I cannot seem to escape the expression of anti-blackness within the black community.
But why is it that society teaches black women and girls to despise what makes them unique? Why are they taught that straight hair is more mature and professional than their curls and “light is right”? Why is white supremacist ideology still parroted in the twenty-first century, despite the newfound “wokeness” and what is depicted to be a nationwide shift in the perception of people of color?
There can be only one logical answer: we never got rid of it. White supremacy never really left us and the disheartening truth is, it’ll take a long time before it does. In the meantime, we must teach black women and girls that their blackness is not something to be ashamed of or feared. Dark skin is not “mannish” or “ape-ish.” Their Afrocentric features are not ugly or unbecoming. They are no less gorgeous than their lighter-skinned counterparts and we as a society must stop perpetuating anything less than that.
Alycea Gayle is a freelance writer ; her blogs for estherproductionsinc.com appears monthly. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org