Light skinned? What does that even mean?

I don’t want to go deep into the topic of colour because it could take me days to get close to the core of the issue. However, seeing the reaction of women across the board after the airing of Oprah’s document “Dark Girls” on Sunday night, I felt the need to jump on the bandwagon but through my own eyes.

I don’t want to go deep into the topic of colour because it could take me days to get close to the core of the issue. However, seeing the reaction of women across the board after the airing of Oprah’s document “Dark Girls” on Sunday night, I felt the need to jump on the bandwagon but through my own eyes.

Back in the day, I was lucky to have never experienced ‘colourism’. There was racism growing up away from the Motherland but not colourism. I guess we were too young, plus seeing my beautiful “dark-skinned” mother married to my “light-skinned” father, I never gave it a thought To me, we were all black. I was wrong. 

I became aware of colourism in secondary school in Kigali. I heard boys say they would like a girl more if she was lighter skinned or that she would be prettier if she was just a bit lighter.

I still never cared because I found those girls beautiful for different reasons, and I was attracted to boys across the board. Even today, my biggest crush is Lance Gross and his beautiful dark skin. That’s my preference.

Everyone is allowed to have a preference; my problem is when you turn that preference into making someone feel less of a girl/woman because of her skin tone. Where I grew up in North America, to be light-skinned means that you are mixed-race.

If you are purely of African descent then you are dark-skinned so when I see African women fighting with cosmetics to have some ugly unnatural skin tone, I just think to myself that to another race, they will always just be black no matter what other Africans tell them.

I have met African men who make ignorant comments, downgrading dark-skinned women and I always ask how their moms or sisters look. Most of them come from families with dark-skinned women and will admit that they wouldn’t like a man making such comments about the women in their lives.  

I think it is a colonial mindset that has made us feel that anything associated with black or African is primitive and not beautiful. It hurts when you see educated men making such comments because you expect them to know better.

It is fine to have preferences but the fact that dark-skinned women are faced with these images of self-hate from a young age means we have to be more aware of the words we use when expressing these preferences.

We really need to ask ourselves as Africans, as Rwandans, why we feed into the idea of light skin being the right skin?

 

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