What “Dark Girls” Was Missing…

June 24, 2013  |  

From 2011, I was eagerly anticipating watching Bill Dukes’ Dark Girls. From the 9 minute trailer, I knew that it wouldn’t necessarily be a film I would enjoy perse; but I knew and know today, that it is a conversation our community needs to have…over and over again. As much as some of us attempt to pretend that this colorism thing will just go away by not speaking about it, it’s vital that we have these discussions. I also appreciate the fact that the film made it clear that a light skin preference was not just a black thing. People in countries all over the world fight with the “light is right’ sentiment. For those reasons, I commend the film. We’ve never seen anything like it.

Hopefully, the film brought some things to light and sparked some much needed discussion.

And while the film did a good job in addressing some of the beauty standards, self esteem issues and even the historical origins of these preferences; when the credits rolled, I found myself wanting more. First before I begin, I’m not a dark skinned woman but many people in my family are dark complected, including my mother.

Weeks before I knew that Dark Girls would be premiering on OWN, I read a conversation on Tumblr that made me ask my mother and aunt a couple of questions. In the conversation, a lighter complected woman told this darker skinned woman that she had always preferred darker skin. And said that if she had her way, she’d be darker complected because to her that was beautiful. The darker complected woman snapped saying that the lighter one would never understand the turmoil dark skinned girls and women face. And though she might think this is a life she’d like to lead, it was much more than she could handle. I thought it was a bit excessive. But like I said, I’m not dark skinned so I don’t know how women who’ve lived that life might feel about their experiences. So I called my mother and my aunt.

My mother and aunt grew up in Indianapolis, the Midwest, where white was and still is in the majority, the most readily accepted standard of beauty. I asked them if they were ever made to feel inferior because of their dark skin. And both of them stated that though their parents, my grandparents, never explicitly told them that they were attractive, they never felt like they were ugly or that their dark skin made them less desirable in society or in the eyes of men, black or white.

The only time my aunt said she was ever aware of her skin tone might be an issue was when she liked a white boy in her high school class. They both liked each other but somewhere during the crush-ship he informed my aunt that their relationship wasn’t going to go any further because his mother wouldn’t approve of him dating a black girl. But other than that both my mother, my aunt and several other dark complected women in my family never struggled with disliking or even loathing their skin tone.

This is the narrative I didn’t see in Dark Girls. Again, I’m not attempting to negate anyone’s experience, but it would have been nice to hear from a woman who had always been confident in her skin tone and her looks because of it. I know those women exist outside of my family. It would have been nice if the film had a bit more of this type of  balance.

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