I Am Black, I Am.

Are you #TeamLightskin? #TeamBrownskin or  #TeamDarkskin?

Sound familiar? How many of you are sick of this ‘battle’? I open Twitter or Whatsapp everyday to see yet another image or tweet pertaining to this ‘battle’.

I’m not going to be a hypocrite & say some of these ‘memes’ don’t make me chuckle, but what concerns me is the ignorance behind the ‘banter’. In a society where racial prejudice thrives in politics, communities, institutions and popular culture, it’s easy to see how and why some ethnic groups may start to absorb the messages that we are being bombarded with from every medium.

I am 1 of 5 sisters, 2 of whom are mixed race. We have all grown up together despite us having different mothers. Something which I sincerely thank my dad for; I know a lot of ‘step families’ who don’t have that close sibling relationship they may have liked to have.

When I meet someone new my siblings always come up in conversation, almost at the first instance. As I start to explain my diverse family tree, I get interrupted with “can I see a picture of them?” The reaction is almost always the same:

“Aaawww, they’re so pretty, are they really your REAL sisters?”

After explaining & having to proving beyond reasonable doubt that they are, in fact, my biological sisters as appose to ‘sister’ being a term of endearment. This is quickly followed by:


“… But you’re pretty for a dark skin woman”

If I had a pound for every time this has been said to me, I’d be a very wealthy woman!! This is something I have unfortunately had to just get used to.


Dark Girls

COLOURISM; prejudice or discrimination based on the complexion of the skin. Generally a phenomena occurring within one’s own ethnic group.


I don’t know about you, but the last time I checked we were all black; many, many shades. And they are as beautiful as the other. So why is there this internal battle? Why do some have this sense of superiority just because of the complexion of their skin?

Lets go back in time…

Now, of course I know this isn’t a new phenomenon. The issue of colourism (a term coined in the US by Alice Walker in 1982) has been around from the history of European colonisation. With the global colonisation came not only a physical, but also a cultural invasion, which completely shifted the perspective of people by creating a new sense of beauty, identity & superiority. Colonisation spread the idea, the system of white supremacy.

The act of giving better treatment to the lighter skinned slaves served as a tool for the slave owners to keep a divide & tension between the two sets of slaves. The light skin or ‘mulatto’ children were the by-product of slave owners copulating with their slave women. They were treated better than the African slave, but still beneath the slave owner, never really fitting into either society.


 House Slave

Darker skinned slaves, or those with more pronounced ‘African features’ would usually encounter more difficult living conditions on the plantation. They were usually housed far from the plantation house, and in close proximity to the fields that they were forced to work. Dark skinned slaves were given the most demanding jobs, the most basic living quarters, and the least appealing clothing. These are but some of the factors that have contributed to growth of this cultural divide.


 Field Slave

The Impact…

After extended periods of mistreatment all blacks reached the point of psychological exhaustion, and began to accept the belief that there was a racial hierarchy based on their skin tone; colourism. This psychological conditioning has been passed down from generation to generation. So not only do we deal with the external prejudice, but the inherited belief system causing internalised racism.

The mainstream media continue to reinforce the ideal that the Eurocentric standard of beauty is the epitome. This is reinforced not only by the under representation, but also the misrepresentation of black people. We are also seeing a growing number black stars being ‘whitened up’ to adhere to the European standards of beauty.


 Nicki Minaj

Recently, ex The X Factor contestant Hannah Barrett was racially abused via Twitter for being ‘too dark to win The X Factor and claimed the abuse came mostly from people from her own race people. http://www.voice-online.co.uk/article/too-dark-win-x-factor

Have you also noticed the growing number of cosmetic shops set up in ‘urban’ areas stocked up with more and more varieties of skin bleaching/whitening creams? Despite the risks that come with the excessive use of these products, including Cancer, it hasnt stopped people wanting to have lighter skin to be considered ‘beautiful.’ http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-428541/Dying-whiter-The-black-women-risk-lives-lighter-skin.html

Beauty comes in many different shade, no matter what race you are. How can we possibly subscribe to 1 standard of beauty when there’s so much diversity in the world? The very standard of beauty that has being forced on us by the very same system that enslaved us & conditioned us to believe that white meant superior and black was ugly!


Now I’m not saying I have all the answers… Sorry Kanye, you’re right,  I don’t. In order for us to continue to break down more barriers that society puts up, the first thing we need to do is to educate, love and build ourselves and to understand our entire history in real terms to make it relatable today; not a white-washed version. With that we’ll rediscover the value of community and our collective consciousness, for the saying goes ‘United we stand. Divided we fall.’

“If you want to change a person, you must first change the awareness of themselves” – it starts with consciousness”

Cheryl Grills – President at The Association of Black Psychologists