Mon | Apr 22, 2019

Michael Abrahams | In praise of dark-skinned black women

Published:Monday | March 4, 2019 | 6:38 AM
Abrahams

I recently checked out the music video for one of my favourite rap songs. I found the production to be highly entertaining, but while watching it I made an interesting observation.

The production was filled with scantily-clad ladies, but the vast majority of them were light-skinned black women. There were hardly and dark-skinned ones.

I decided to re-visit the video for another rap song I know and like that I recall featured even more scantily-clad, gyrating women. Again, I noticed that the majority of the women, and the ones that were featured more prominently, were light-skinned. 

The casting I observed in the videos is unlikely to be co-incidental. Colourism is alive and well, and the marginalization of dark-skinned black women is evidence of the disturbing and persistent phenomenon. 

You see it not only in the music videos, but even more in beauty pageants. And when you look at successful black men, their spouses are often very light-skinned.

Just go to an Internet search engine, enter the name of a famous black celebrity, such as an athlete or a rapper, next to the word 'wife' or 'girlfriend', and you will find that in many cases, the complexions of their spouses are way lighter than theirs. 

Recently, black NFL (National Football League) player, Jahleel Addae, who is with the Los Angeles Chargers, and his white fiancée Lindsey Nelson, created a stir on Instagram.

While sitting with their friends, a group of black men and their white spouses, the couple made a toast to “more light-skinned kids”. They were so enthusiastic about their toast that they repeated “light-skinned kids” three times.

In 2016, Kelly Rowland, former member of the popular trio Destiny’s Child, told an audience that dark-skinned black women deserve more role models in popular culture. She was responding to a question from a young audience member, who said that her sister had been rejected by a prospective boyfriend who told her, “You’d be prettier if you were lighter”.

More recently, singer Normani Kordei, the only black member of the group Fifth Harmony, has also spoken out about not just racism, but colourism as well. 

During an interview, while speaking on the lack of representation of dark-skinned black women in mainstream music, she said “There’s not many of us. Especially when it comes to darker skinned or 'chocolate girls'. Like, being African American is one thing, but girls with my complexion, it's unheard of. It's me and SZA (another dark-skinned black female singer). Who else?” 

The examples given above are in the United States of America, but the situation is prevalent in Jamaica as well. 

'Brownings' are continually being 'bigger up' over dark-skinned women. Comments like, “Her skin is brown and pretty” illustrate the bias. 

I know several women who tell me of their lighter-skinned sisters being given preferential treatment in childhood. One related a story to me of walking on the street with her mother when a woman approached and greeted them, looked at her, and said to her mother, “Your daughter is so pretty”. 

Her mother responded by saying, “You should see the other one”, referring to her lighter-complexioned sister. 

Insensitive comments such as these hurt, and only serve to reinforce the erroneous concept that “lighter is better”.

BIG UP OONUSELVES 

I do not like bleaching. I examine women who do, and I see the damage that it can do to their skin. 

I find the rejection of one’s complexion and identity to be sad, and it offends and disturbs me. But I understand why people do it, and I empathize with them. 

We live in a society where many who denigrate dark-skinned black people and celebrate “brownings”, turn around and criticize bleachers, when they are a major part of the reason why people bleach their skin.

I love black women of all shades, and in my country, I am surrounded by so many dark-complexioned ones with beautiful skin, like smooth, dark chocolate. 

We are all entitled to have preferences, but too often I see dark-skinned women being put down or rejected.

Having a preference is normal, but to equate a lighter complexion with quality or value is a hindrance to the progress, well-being and self-confidence of black people.

Those of us who are black need to wake the hell up and appreciate and accept ourselves. We need to understand our history, and how slavery and colonialism have brainwashed and gaslighted us into believing that darkness is synonymous with inferiority.

Dark-skinned black women, big up oonuselves and hold your heads high. Embrace your complexion. Love it. Own it. Black is beautiful.

- Michael Abrahams is a gynaecologist and obstetrician, comedian and poet. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and michabe_1999@hotmail.com, or tweet @mikeyabrahams.