Light Skin VS. Dark Skin: The Great Debate

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By: Zach Fulwood

With the million and one issues that reside within the Black community, the light skin-dark skin debate seems to always find its place in conversation. Right or wrong, there’s always been a perception that the type of treatment a Black person gets is solely dependent on the shade of their skin. There might be some merit to this when you consider the years of slavery when the lighter complexioned slaves were allowed to work in the house, where as the darker complexioned slaves were relegated to field work only. Disregard the fact that both were still slaves and no shade of Black was ever going to suddenly make their slave owners second guess their legal right to have free laborers. The fact remains that this melanin-based competition between Black people has been and continues to be very real to and it honestly doesn’t make any sense.

I can’t honestly recall how many times I’ve heard dark skinned people being called names like “African Bootyscratcher” and “Burnt” during my grade school days. I’d be lying if I said stuff like this never came out of my mouth a time or two. I was young and I was relatively unaware of how my words could affect someone’s self-esteem but I never said these things with the conscious thought to diminish the importance of another Black person. While I wouldn’t consider myself light skinned, on a scale of Kelly Rowland to Mariah Carey, I’d say I was a Ciara in terms of color. Even with the shade of my skin color being what it is, I’m still Black at the end of the day and any adversity that I face because of my color will be the same for anybody who falls under the Black category. At least, that’s what it should be, right?

You see, we undoubtedly live in a society where dark is considered evil and light is considered pure. It’s the whole Lion King thing where Mufasa (the lighter lion) was king and Scar (the darker lion) was the evil brother who wanted to be king. You could literally go through a host of Disney movies and find other examples of this but the point is, the darker you are, the more of a threat you are in the eyes of the masses. It’s these types of insinuations placed upon darker skinned individuals that make it harder for them and society to see their beauty. One of Tupac’s most influential lines in Keep Ya Head Up was “Some say the blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice. I say the darker the berry, the deeper the roots.” That very line was praised and celebrated the way it was because it showed that there was somebody out there who could see dark as beautiful.

These negative stereotypes are not only placed upon dark skinned Black people however. Light skinned Black people get similar treatment when it comes to stereotypes that say all of them being overly sensitive or feeling like they’re the most attractive version of Black people out there. This understandably causes a lot of infighting within the Black community because of both sides trying their hardest dispelling these stereotypes. If you’ve ever seen the movie School Daze, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. This type of infighting is shown all throughout social media with hashtags like #teamdarkin and #teamlightskin and while even I find myself laughing at the term “waffle colored negro”, it’s not hard to see how these jokes can be dangerous and culturally dividing.

It’s bad enough that other races derive character traits from the varying shades of Black that exist. The last thing Black people need to be doing is participating in the same moronic rhetoric that has been used for centuries as means to divide and oppress Black people as a whole.


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