Do Dark-Skinned Black Men Suffer From a Color Complex Too?

January 17, 2012  |  

I always thought the comments about light-skinned dudes coming back in style were just light-hearted jokes that really went out of style when the men did back in the 80s. From my perspective, tall, dark-skinned, and handsome has long been viewed as a black (or any other) woman’s dream. Yeah, Shemar Moore had his run and lots of women love Michael Ealy, but the fanfare doesn’t compare to the admiration for Idris Elba (praise ‘em), Morris Chestnut (yes lord), or Tyson Beckford (let the church say Amen).

Taye Diggs is another actor who has been admired for his chocolaty goodness—particularly after his debut in “How Stella Got Her Groove Back,” although I personally enjoyed him most in “Brown Sugar.” But despite the love the mocha-skinned author of Chocolate Me, a children’s book encouraging kids to accept themselves as they are, has received over the years, he says it took him a long time to become comfortable in his own dark skin.

“When I got into high school I started to hear, just from the black community, everybody is more attracted to the light skin girls and the light skin dudes with the light eyes. And from within the race the light skin black people and lighter brown people would make fun of the darker people. So then it was a completely different kind of struggle, Taye told MyBrownBaby.Com.

“And then funnily enough it was when dark skinned men, and this was just from my perspective, there seemed to be a shift where all of a sudden we saw Denzel Washington, Wesley Snipes, Tyson Beckford. I’m still trying to figure out how this came to be. For me, when I saw Tyson Beckford hailed as this beautiful man by all people, that caused a shift in my being. And I remember literally waking up and walking the streets feeling a little bit more proud. And then after the movie “How Stella Got Her Groove Back,” when I had my own personal moments of weakness, I just had to remind myself of all the people that really enjoyed that movie and just kind of lean on that.

I was surprised by Taye’s comments; sort of in the same way it’s shocking to find out a beautiful woman has low self-esteem. You wonder, how could he not see himself as gorgeous when 99% of those around him do, but you realize self-confidence is strictly an internal mindset not based on external compliments and men struggle with self-esteem issues just like women. Still, I’d thought if black men had any sort of color complex, it was related to how they choose women, not so much how they felt about themselves. But maybe it’s all connected. Do dark-skinned men favor light-skinned women because by being with a lighter skinned woman, it somehow makes them more attractive or socially acceptable in their minds? A friend of mine always says she thinks black men’s propensity to date outside their race has to do with self-hatred. Maybe being with a white woman gives some dark-skinned men a boost of esteem that’s even greater than being with a light-skinned black woman. If so, Taye Diggs could certainly fit the bill.

But I’m not as interested in men’s interracial dating choices as I am how their color affects their sense of self-worth. After all, light-skinned men date outside their race too and are obsessed with redbones just like everyone else, and lord knows some think they are God’s gift to women just because they have a little less melanin. I guess it isn’t so hard to see how a dark-skinned man could feel the exact opposite. Still, this is an issue that’s mostly been limited to black women’s experience, most recently in the documentary “Dark Girls,” because there is so much pressure put on all women to fit a very narrow standard of beauty, and black women especially struggle with being accepted outside of that realm. Taye’s remarks remind us that men can be insecure too, and although a lot of women may see a handsome, chocolate man as an Adonis, he might not see himself in that same light at all.

What do you think about Taye Diggs’ comments? Do you think dark-skinned men struggle with feeling accepted aesthetically as much as darker skinned black women? Do you think this issue has any bearing on who they date?

Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.

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