Dark and Damaged

Does Dark Skin Crush a Woman's Self-Esteem?

There is an ominous phenomenon growing rapidly within black culture today. To be honest, it is no phenomenon, and while it is still growing rapidly, it is already a problem that seems almost too huge to tackle. Allow me to explain.

Here’s a picture of Beyonce from back in the days of Destiny’s Child:

Beyonce on the far right, looking as black as she ever was


Here Beyonce and her group mates look like Nubian queens, goddesses in matching leather outfits. Beyonce’s hair appears to be a natural brown, the same as her eyebrows.  Her hair and skin are nearly the same color, both of which brown. To put it simply, she looks black. That should make complete sense…because she is.

Now let’s take a look at Beyonce on her newest album, entitled “4.”

Wow Beyonce...where'd your pigment go?

Let’s play this like one of those megatouch games you see at bars, where you have to point out the differences. For one, the skin tight leather dress has been replaced by a cleavage-friendly feathered throw. That’s not what we’re looking for however. There are two other differences that I find disturbing: her new skin and her hair. Beyonce looks like a white pop star, plain and simple.  This lightening of her skin seems intentional, it being so prominent on this album cover. Her hair and skin are nearly the same color, both of which are not brown. Beyonce’s blonde hair is nothing new, but on this new cover, draped over her pale shoulders, it looks exceptionally disconcerting.

Ok, you get it now. Beyonce was once black, and now appears to be white. So what’s the problem? Well, the problem is that Beyonce is one of the most popular, respected, and admired black females of our generation. Beyonce, and other famous black female pop stars of her caliber, are mass media representations of black beauty.  Thousands of young black girls look up to her, wishing one day they could be as talented, as glamorous, as beautiful as her. So it both saddens and infuriates me that women like Beyonce, who are well aware of their roles in the black community, still take steps in the direction of putting whiteness on a pedestal and kicking blackness in the sand.

As I said before, this is no not truly a phenomenon. There is nothing new about this sort of appreciation of whiteness and depreciation of blackness. Back in 1929, a light-skinned Harlem Renaissance author named Nella Larsen wrote a short novel entitled Passing. The novel follows Irene, a black woman from Harlem who reunites with Clare, an old childhood friend. Many years have passed since the two last saw each other, and upon reuniting it is revealed that Clare, who is half white, is “passing” as a white woman. She hides her blackness so well that she is able to marry a rich, racist white man. The perception of beauty in conjunction with skin color is a major theme throughout the novel, proving that even back in the late 1920′s black women were struggling with this issue. Now, over 80 years later the issue has not been resolved.

In 2009 Chris Rock began scratching the surface of the “white is beautiful” topic with Good Hair, an excellent documentary about what black women go through just to have perfect locks. Nearly all of the women interviewed for the documentary made the same statement: That the ultimate goal in treating and styling black hair is to make it look as straight and luscious as white hair. Chris Rock brings light to the topic through his satire, but the truth revealed by Good Hair is nothing funny. This October a new documentary will once again reopen the white beauty topic for discussion. Dark Girls: The Story of Color, Gender, and Race, is a revealing exposition on the perceptions of skin color, and how those perceptions affect women of dark complexion. According to the official website, Dark Girls “pulls back our country’s curtain to reveal that the deep seated biases and hatreds of racism – within and outside of the Black American culture – remain bitterly entrenched.” The trailer for the film, which you can watch for yourself below, is gut-wrenching. There’s a moment where a black child is asked questions about beauty and must  point at cartoons with varying complexions to answer. When asked which girl is prettiest she chooses the lightest of the identical cartoons; when asked who is ugliest she chooses the darkest. When asked who’s the smartest she again chooses the cartoon that looks white, but when asked who is dumbest her finger slides directly to the darkest girl, without hesitation. Already visible at such a young age, these are the perceptions black women spend their lives fighting. It surely doesn’t help that Beyonce looks like Ke$ha and Rihanna’s hair looks completely unnatural. For more information on Dark Girls, visit the official website, which is linked below.


Ben Badio is a jack-of-all-trades. A recent graduate from the University of Central Florida, Ben has a healthy obsession with technology, a grand knowledge of music, and a passion for writing. You can read more about him here and contact him at benbadio@gmail.com.


One Comment on "Dark and Damaged"

  1. Victoria Rowels Aug 9, 2011 · 6:34 pm


    Copyright by Victoria Rowels ©2011

    Young black slaves with beautiful dark skin,
    Violated by white masters again and again.
    They had white women to whom they were publicly wed.
    But they preferred to rape black women in the slave shed.

    A painful history we all want to forget,
    But we can’t because of the children born of it.
    Their hues range from black to white,
    With hair sometimes straight and other times tight.

    Evidence of a crime and justice never received.
    Centuries have passed and yes, we still grieve.
    But we must love the black rainbow that we have become.
    We are the original hue-mans and should unite as one.

    From the middle passage to every denied civil right,
    We make the best of our trying plight.
    But brainwashed to hate our African origin,
    We began to hate our beautiful black skin.

    From European standards of beauty to the paper bag test,
    We have been encouraged to take part in a self-hate fest.
    Now is the time to stop this genocidal game.
    God loves us all and we should do the same.

    A young black girl wanted to be fine.
    She bought hazel contact lens and now she’s blind.
    Some black women put glue in their hair,
    To hold long straight weaves that blow in the air.

    We shouldn’t do destructive things like that.
    We are a beautiful people and that’s a fact.
    Sisters and brothers we must love our natural state.
    We must love the black rainbow and stop all the hate.

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