Light Girls Documentary

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Typically when we talk of matters of “colorism” in the black community we refer to darker complexioned sistas receiving the crap end of the prejudice stick. This past Monday a sequel to the highly debated, highly controversial OWN network’s “Darkgirls” documentary that premiered back in 2011, aired. This documentary tells the stories of light-skinned women everywhere on what it is like to grow up in a “#teamlight skin vs. #teamdarkskin” culture.

Cue dramatic eye roll. At least that’s how I, like many other black women, first reacted to the announcement of this movie. I had my doubts, as I too was a believer that darker skinned women had always faced worse in the eyes of society compared to lighter skinned women. But as I sat down to watch the premiere on Monday, my viewpoints began to shift.






The documentary does not ignore the fact that historically, darker toned women have been set up to face far more prejudice than lighter toned women. It speaks to that fact, and it speaks to what would have been perceived as “perks” back then and now, when it came to matters of the brown paper bag test, and the house slave vs. field slave dichotomy. However, what it also speaks to is that even those “perks” came with their own price.

Comedian Aida Rodriguez says that people would always tell her because she was light-skinned, if slavery were to return, she would be in the house. And she would respond, “If we were in slavery, we’d be in slavery,” explaining that just because you’re in the house doesn’t make it any better. She points out being “in the house” did not excuse you from the fact that you were still ‘getting beat up by white women you knew you could beat’ and ‘you were still getting raped’.

The documentary points out that “passing”, had its emotional hang-ups as well, because one would have to see their black mother and act like she wasn’t the woman who gave birth to them.

The Light Girls documentary does a good job in its approach of showcasing different viewpoints held by various light-skinned women in America; yes it is singular, but it’s not “singular”, if you know what I mean.

Some of the women of “mixed” heritage share how they were constantly challenged by black women to identify as “black” instead of mixed. Some share how growing up they felt they had to overcompensate for some sort of “blackness deficit”.

Actress Chanté Moore said she would get rocks thrown at her head, while Actress Roland Watts describes being threatened every day that her hair would be cut off. One unnamed woman says that every Friday when she went to the bathroom eight girls would rush in, beat her up and rip her earrings out, so that her ear lobes would split to the point where she eventually stopped wearing earrings. Rapper Nya Lee describes getting the side of her throat cut because some girls in a club, whom she had never met before, felt she thought she was “better” than them. A couple of women, including entertainment personality, Onyxx Monopoly, describe how they felt lightest skinned girls in families suffered more sexual abuse growing up based on their experiences.

Needless to say, this documentary offers a lot of depth and insight as to what it can be like for a light-skinned woman growing up in highly polarized America. And I think it’s important material to talk about, because we do often discredit these stories of the “light skinned girl struggle”. We discredit them without thinking, because of the roots racism has held historically.

It’s not a “light skin” or a “dark skin” problem. It’s a black people problem that of course helms from white people, but is still our problem at the end of the day.

Writer and image activist, Michaela Angela Davis says something really poignant in the documentary that I think speaks to how we as a culture and a society have been plagued by the seeds of racism. She points out how today we don’t even refer to the KKK as a terrorist group or to Jim Crow as acts of terrorism. And I think she does that to go beyond colorism, but to show how deeply racism has affected our psyche in even appropriately naming certain people (“light skinned girl” and “dark skinned girl” included). If you haven’t already, check out the documentary and check out the trailer below.

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Akanimoh Ekong studies creative writing at the University of Illinois, with special interests in women's issues as they relate to sexuality and race. She previously has written “Girlfriends” column for Buzz magazine. Akanimoh believes the art of fashion should be the utmost form of self-expression. She dually enjoys blogging on issues pertaining to fashion and pop culture news.

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