Credit: Carline Jean/Sun Sentinel/TNS (Getty)
Like many who heard the comments from Florida rapper Kodak Black (the irony of his name is crazy) about not dating dark-skinned women and not liking his own complexion, I was taken aback. For about a split second. The truth is, a very large segment of Black men, from athletes, to entertainers, to the average Joe on the street are notorious for preferring light-skinned women, so this is nothing new. The difference is Kodak Black is so unapologetic about it and the fact that he doesn’t like his own skin color. As outraged as I would like to be, there’s another part of me that just wants to give this guy a hug in the same way that I would a dark-skinned woman who says she doesn’t like her skin color. We all know it ain’t easy being dark skinned in our society. I start thinking about a song that we sang as kids growing up.
Jump back Jack because yo hands too black and you looking like a monkey on the railroad tracks! To the front, to the back, to the side-by-side.
Nobody told us not to sing it.
I start thinking about what’s being instilled at home. I know that I obsessively tell my girls how beautiful their skin color and hair is. One is medium brown and the other a little darker, so I consider it my job to reinforce their beauty before society introduces its trickery. And I’m clear that the trickery begins as soon as they turn on the TV and see dolls and books with images that don’t look like them. A Black mama has got to bring her A game from day 1. But what’s happening with our boys? Are moms (and dads) reinforcing their beauty? I wonder if Kodak Black ever heard that his skin color was beautiful growing up? I never heard that my “nappy” hair was beautiful and as a result I never saw it that way.
I texted my friend Shaniqua who has a 7-year-old son about this question about whether we need to reinforce Black boys’ beauty and she hits me back with, “I make it a weekly ritual to tell my son that Black skin is beautiful in all shades and that he should love himself and his skin tone…he and I are two different shades and I constantly reiterate that we all look beautiful.”
That’s good to hear. I start thinking about dads and now I’m wondering if they’re doing anything to reinforce Black female beauty? My friend Miles sends me a text back saying, “I don’t think it’s a conversation of skin color but more about understanding what is valued within our family. Emphasis is on pointing out beautiful Black women and celebrating their beauty. Because of my personal taste, expressing appreciation for Black beauty he, in turn, is similarly attracted to the same aesthetic.” Miles went on to say that at 14 year’s old his son likes beautiful Black girls with zero makeup and natural hair. Funny enough, women who resemble his mom.
One of the reasons this topic is so bothersome to me is because people say that women marry their dads, but in these Kodak Black cases the men want no parts of mom– at least the ones who don’t pass the brown paper bag test. How is that supposed to make a Black mom feel? I doubt that Black moms, even the most open minded, are priming their boys to marry a Kardashian, at the exclusion of Black women.
I pose the question to my friend Shikwanda who has sons who are 8 and 13 year’s old. She says that obviously it would make her feel sad if her sons grew up to dislike Black women because it’s like saying that they don’t like her. “My husband and I have never focused on skin color, but we talk to our sons a lot about valuing what’s in a person’s heart, not what she looks like on the outside.”
That’s nice. But I have to wonder if it’s enough to combat the endless stream of music videos, commercials, ads, and movies that a young Black man will see where light-skinned girls rule?
I ask psychiatrist Dr. Kristin Carothers of the Child Mind Institute about this conundrum and she says, “It’s important to build critical consciousness in young Black boys from a young age. They need to be shown a wide range of Black beauty starting from women in our own family. They need to know that one is not better than the other, and skin color doesn’t impact a person’s personality…and we also have to be mindful of not repeating things that some of us heard growing up like, “Get out of that sun because you don’t wanna get no blacker!” At the end of the day, we’re only three generations out of slavery so there’s still a lot of work to do.”
Ain’t that the truth.