“Light Skinned” and “Dark Skinned” in the Black Community

By Christina Spires ’16

It comes as no surprise that black comedians are using racial themes as the driving forces in their acts. In the last three years, comedians have addressed a particular topic, causing debates and conflict within the Black community. This topic being “#Teamdarkskin vs. #Teamlightskin.”

Famous Viners, Jerry Purpdrank and King Bach, use these terms in many of their videos, exposing their consumers to this topic from a humorous point of view. Though used with comedic intent, these jokes are contributing to a damaging force in the Black community that is already being encouraged by the current state of our society, making others of darker complexion feel rejected while those of lighter complexion are built up and exotified.

In society today, those with lighter skin are portrayed as refined, while those with darker skin characterize a low-class, unkempt stereotype. (Photo: Hype Hair)

In society today, those with lighter skin are portrayed as refined, while those with darker skin characterize a low-class, unkempt stereotype. (Photo: Hype Hair)

“Coming from the ‘dark skin’ side of the debate, I’d say that this argument is very hurtful,” says 19 year-old Joshua Spears, a student at Mount Hood Community College. “Growing up black, I got teased a lot,” recounts Spears, dicusiong his time at majority white schools.

“When I went to church, it was even worse. Like I thought that being around people of the same ethnicity I’d fit in just fine, but I didn’t at all. Heck, my brother even harassed me and made jokes about my skin. My own brother.”

Like Spears, many “dark skins” feel uncomfortable in their own skin, due to the dismissal from other races. Despite this, the biggest aspect that affects these people is the rejection they receive within the African-American racial group.

“This problem is only getting worse because of how the media portrays this hidden battle between the two groups. In media now days, the “light skinned” group is portrayed as the beautiful or handsome people that are nice, while the “dark skinned” group is portrayed as thugs,” says Spears. “To be honest, all I want is to be handsome like a light skinned person, because I don’t think I am [handsome] at all. That’s probably why this whole thing is so hurtful. Because dark skinned people envy those who are light skinned. They envy the beauty. And the media basically says that if you’re dark, you’re ugly, mean and loud, amongst other things.”

This discrimination from society fits the mold of racism, but is actually “colorism,” which is defined as the act of discriminating people within an ethnic group and dividing them based on their features, in this case, being skin color.

“Colorism in the Black community continues to tear us apart as a people,” writes NewsOne reporter Kirsten West Savali. “If we’re too busy cloaking ourselves in destructive stereotypes to address the tangible issues that threaten to destroy us, then Willie Lynch has won and we have been eternally enslaved — without shackles.”

Although combating something so ingrained into society is daunting, there are many steps that can be taken to move to a more progressive state, and the first of these is acknowledging the effects of White Privilege and how it plays into Colorism.

In 1917, American Journal of Sociology writer E.B. Reuter published his article, “The Superiority of the Mulatto.”

“The white man’s assumption of the mixed-bloods’ superior capability, entirely aside from any question as to the accuracy of the assumption, created in the Negro race the tradition of mulatto superiority,” writes Reuter. “It laid the basis for a class separation on the basis of skin coloration and for the social prestige of the mixed-blood group.”

As absurd as this may sound, this is still something that thrives within society to the point where blacks of lighter complexion have begun to adapt the beliefs instilled in their minds from institutionalized racism.

“Effectively dealing with colorism requires acknowledgement of how whites perpetuate colorism,” writes Sarah L. Webb, founder of the organization “Colorism Healing.” “Because whites created colorism in America and because they continue to perpetuate it and continue to maintain social conditions that entrench it, they are a part of the equation that leads to solutions.”

Because the effects the white population has in society, they should aid in taking the right steps towards fixing this problem. This action shouldn’t be taken as apologizing for the mistakes of their ancestors, but the thought should be that they are doing what is right for society and the world.