Through her cable TV network OWN, Oprah recently delivered the acclaimed documentary Dark Girls to a global audience, introducing many viewers to longstanding prejudices against dark-skinned women that exist around the world. It’s the story of colorism within communities of color, not another re-telling of white vs. black racism.
I have brown skin. I thought I was already aware of the appalling realities discussed in the film. So many of the painful memories shared in the women’s interviews felt familiar, if not to me personally, then because of someone I’ve known. Dark Girls presents so many sad, troubling real-life situations that it’s difficult to rate them, but one woman’s comment stood out. She said,
“If I had a little girl, I didn’t want her to be dark like me.”
The notion that the greatest opportunities, wealth and social status are awarded first to the lightest-skinned people, followed by the brown-skinned and lastly to people with the darkest skin color is not an American phenomenon.
Dark Girls explains that in parts of Africa, Asia, India, Latin America and other parts of the world, skin bleaching creams are a multibillion-dollar business. It’s a powerful, painful acknowledgement that in the year two thousand thirteen, amidst all the promotion of self-help, self-love and empowerment for women, many of us hate ourselves simply because of our skin color.
Editing being what it is, I’m not sure, but I got the feeling that the woman would rather not have a child if it was going to have dark skin. The idea that concerns about pigmentation could lead a woman to remain childless had never occurred to me. As the cameras moved on to expose global aspects of colorism, I kept thinking about that woman. Are her feelings replicated elsewhere? Logically, they must be.
The film continued, and viewers see that woman again, this time with her beautiful dark-skinned infant. She was happy, the baby was happy, and I was happy. There are many valid reasons for a woman to choose a childfree life. Color shouldn’t be one of them.