Dark Skin vs. Light Skin

The Dark Skin vs. Light Skin debate can be framed around a pigment called melanin.
Melanin: The pigment that gives human skin, hair and eyes their color. Dark-skinned people have more melanin in their skin than light-skinned people have. Melanin is produced by cells called melanocytes.

“You’re pretty for a dark-skinned girl.”

“Stay out of the sun or else you’ll get too dark.”

These phrases are derogatory and race-based.  They are rooted in “Colorism,” which is defined as prejudice or discrimination based on the relative lightness or darkness of skin, generally a phenomenon occurring within one’s own ethnic group. In other words, it is bias against people with darker skin and it is the tired argument within our culture that keeps us stagnant, ignorant and divided: the “team light skin” vs “team dark skin” debate.

Black people who perpetuate this type of discrimination are victims of a slave mentality. Slave masters used color to cause division and establish a superiority complex amongst light skinned and dark-skinned slaves. While the lighter skinned slaves got to do house work, the dark- skinned slaves were subjected to physically crippling labor in the fields. Slave owners wanted light-skinned black people to put themselves on a mental pedestal so that they would not work together and rebel against them. Unfortunately, this attitude still remains prevalent today.

Colorism has also heavily influenced the media we consume. On a recent episode of “Grownish,” the actors discussed the issue by questioning why black men (specifically black celebrities) are only seen in relationships with light skinned women. The most notable line was “Men only like queens when they are Egyptian and not Nubian.” This episode sparked lots of conversation on social media because most people do agree that dark-skinned women are under appreciated within their own race.

In addition, the media also portrays dark-skinned women as angry, ghetto and loud in contrast to light skinned women who are portrayed as  smarter, classier and well-liked.

A perfect example is the beloved black 90’s sitcom “Martin,” where Pam is the dark-skinned friend who is loud, rambunctious and cannot seem to find or keep a man in opposition to Gina who is higher up at her job, classy and more respected.

The doll test is a study in which children are shown two dolls, one white and one black. They are asked simple questions such as “Which doll is the smart doll?” A large majority of the kids immediately point to the white doll. When they are asked why that doll is smarter, their response is “because it is white.” They are then asked, “Which doll is the dumb doll?” The kids point to the black doll. When they are asked why that doll is dumb, they reply “because it is black.” This study proves how early on people are taught to believe that skin color is a valid determinant of a person’s worth.

The paper bag test was used once upon a time to determine whether a person’s skin was light enough to be acceptable. If your skin was darker than a brown paper bag then you were considered “too dark.” This undermining criteria was utilized to decide who was able to get into certain sororities and fraternities, night clubs, even jobs and schools.

We will never progress as a race if we are divided, which is exactly what slave owners wanted in the first place. Dark skin is not inferior to light skin and vice versa. The amount of melanin a person possesses is not a factor of a person’s character, value, intelligence, beauty or capability. At the very end of the day, we are all united in fighting the same battle for equality. Leaving with a relevant quote from the hit black 90’s sitcom A Different World “It’s bad enough when others disrespect our people, but it’s doubly offensive when we do it to ourselves.”