Visualize a black woman – glazed with a lustrous, creamy complexion à la Dorothy Dandridge – owning the sidewalk with her vibrant Ankara-esque fashion, natural curls popping out of her colorful head wrap, and her Africa-shaped earrings dangling beautifully from her ears.
What a sight to see, isn’t it?
Most people – well, if they’re free of insecurities – would, at the very least, look admiringly at that Afrocentric woman as she slays the city streets with pride and confidence. But, unfortunately, there’s a subset of our Black community that scoffs at such an aesthetic – a light-skinned woman expressing herself in ways that would certainly be welcomed on any #UnapologeticallyBlack social media feed.
Recently, on a date, I met a man who exemplified the very essence of the aforementioned subset.
He was a brown-skinned Black man whose contributions made the date progressively worse as time ticked on. The man lied about his height on his online profile and turned out to be a shrimp, he gushed about how attractive the Asian male servers were, and admitted that he’d slob another man’s knob for the “right price.”
Nope, I am not kidding. This is real life.
And as I was about to grab my bag and run straight for the hills, he asked me if I’d ever heard of a term called “The Light-Skinned Complex.” Before I could answer, as if he was a snobby college professor with a stiff bow tie, he went on to pretentiously explain the term:
“It’s when light-skinned men and women feel the need to emphasize their blackness because they feel as if they do not fit in with other Black people.”
He went on to say that the term perfectly described his best friend’s ex-girlfriend who recently got dumped — he’d never been happier because he “hated” her. I had no idea why he felt the need to share this insignificant tidbit of information with me, but my urge to leave was quickly replaced by curiosity.
“What about her made you think she had a Light-Skinned Complex?” I wondered. On the surface, I seemed innocently inquisitive, but on the inside, I was thinking, “Oh, I can’t wait to hear what this dumba– has to say about this.”
“Well, she wore Africa earrings all the damn time, and wore these dashikis more often than not. And she was always wearing her hair in an afro. She even has a tattoo of Africa. I mean, to me, it’s clear she’s just overcompensating for not feeling Black enough, so she has to overdo it.”
Now I’m not saying that light-skinned women who seek to validate their blackness don’t exist. And, side note, who cares if they do? In a world where it’s easy to fall victim to Eurocentic standards, I think, more than anything, it’s refreshing to see Black men and women – no matter their complexion – embracing their Black identity through fashion, accessories, hair, and however else.
But what really gets me is that this fool truly believes that the tell-tale signs of someone “suffering” from Light-Skinned Complex are continent-shaped earrings, African-print clothing, and a damn ‘fro. If it’s not already obvious, I don’t agree with him at all!
As a dark-skinned woman, I’ve never in my life looked at an Afrocentric light-skinned woman and thought, “Good Lord, she’s really trying her darndest to prove she’s Black, ain’t she?” And that’s because, fundamentally, she is a Black woman so what is there to “overcompensate” for, anyway?
Seems to me this guy has a bad case of Intimidated by Secure Black Women Complex, don’t you think?
I am not here for another damn “term” floating around in the blackosphere, which is already wrought with turbulence, that serves no purpose but to further divide our people when the very key to our advancement isn’t further categorization, but good ol’ solidarity.
What about y’all?
Kimberly Gedeon, founder of The Melody of Melanin, is an illustrator and content creator with nearly 2,000 professional articles published online about everything from beauty and business to politics and pop culture. You can say hello to her on Instagram or Twitter – she doesn’t bite. Much.