When you look at someone, what do you notice? I’m your average black female. But place me next to my sister, and you’ll notice that one of us is lighter, and one of us is darker. It may seem like a simple thing to people who are not of color, but in the harsh reality, it is the very thing that divides she and I in the African American world of Light vs. Dark. The very thing that although seems so physically simple to you, is what places each one of us on different stands in the black community.
The history of light vs. dark in the black community stems from a slave owner by the name of Willie Lynch, who came up with the idea of separating the slaves by skin tone to create a divide between them, in hopes of decreasing the chances of rebellion. Inspired by his idea, the lighter-skinned slaves (who were generally offspring of the slave owners) would get the privilege of working indoors with less laborious jobs, while the darker slaves got the field jobs, which required much more labor and stress. This increased envy and jealousy from the dark slaves towards the lighter ones. Despite this “light-skinned privilege,” both slaves were still served scraps at the end of the day. A mental and physical divide was being created between the black community centuries ago.
The media promotes the concept of light-skinned privilege within the African American community more that any social construct. Although the media claims to be becoming more “diverse,” take a look around at most of the “black” people in most mainstream movies, or hip hop music videos. A substantial amount of lighter skinned women are the models, not the darker-skinned women. For example, to add some African American “diversity,” Hollywood adds someone of mixed heritage such as Zendaya or Amandla Stenberg to play a person of full-black heritage. “Beautiful black women, I bet that b**** look better red.” This is a line from Lil Wayne’s song, “Right Above It,” and most listeners pass quickly by the lyrics and miss that he addresses the colorist views of today coming from the black community.
Not only does this view of “Lighter is better” exist in the African American community, but also in places such as India, Korea, Jamaica, and Japan. In all of these cultures, the idea of “The more light you are, the more attractive you are” is widely accepted. In fact, skin bleaching is encouraged in these countries. People in these nations are often berated and made fun of simply because their skin complexion is darker.
The African American community is known for being a united community that has come together for years to express the many injustices done against not only them, but other people of color, but we fail to address the self-hatred that boils inside the black community. African Americans often fail to realize the problems that we ourselves have kept alive for centuries.