When I was a fat middle school kid, I was one of the millions of fat, light-skinned dudes in America who were called Sinbad. Mississippi girls with Hilfiger shirts and Ziploc bags half-filled with Kool-Aid powder used to ask me if it was colored contacts that made my eyes look green. When I started losing weight, the guys I played basketball with called me Bison Dele.
When I got really skinny in high school and wore braids—and “Gimme The Light” was the biggest song in the world—some dude came up to me in Best Buy and said I looked like Sean Paul. About every six weeks or so for the last few years, someone who disagrees with me on Twitter references my profile picture and thinks I’m white. Oh, and a few weeks ago, some guy I barely know tried to get my attention in a parking lot by yelling, “Hey, redbone!” It was weird.
I’ve lived a whole life of being annoyed by people saying dumb things about me because I’m light-skinned. But that’s the extent of the trauma I’ve faced. I’ve experienced racism, anti-Black violence, and threats of violence from police because of my black skin, of course. But that’s where it ends. Yeah, light-skinned people face the oppression of racism, and that is an entire monster to live with in itself, but darker-skinned black folks face the oppression of racism and the oppression that comes with their added melanin.
There’s no way being light-skinned has made my life any worse than it would be if I were darker. It’s an objective fact that the darker your skin, the more racism and colorism you will face. There’s no way around it. At the heart of it all is anti-Blackness, and the darkest among us get it the worst.
I have never experienced light-skinned plight. Why? It doesn’t exist. Light-skinned plight is about as real as reverse racism, Black on Black crime, and Omarosa’s cookout invitation. For the most part, light-skinned stereotypes and insults are rooted in a perceived privilege that comes with our complexions—that girls are stuck up from being called pretty all the time, and that men are soft because we are too attractive and privileged to have ever had to fight.
I’m writing this because I’m sick of some of my fellow light brights running around like they overcame some great light-skinned obstacles, and it’s a miracle they survived childhoods where people thought they were beautiful, rich, or smarter. What darker-skinned people face goes far beyond the minor annoyances we deal with as light-skinned folks. Light-skinned folks face inconveniences. Darker-skinned people face consequences.
Like the fact that skin color determines how white job recruiters view intellect. Black women with lighter skin get shorter prison sentences than their darker counterparts. Black people with more education are remembered as having lighter skin.
In entertainment, Black women constantly see their skin lightened by photo editors when their faces adorn magazine covers. Amara La Negra has caught hell ever since she hopped on TV because her darker skin and Afro made her not “conventionally” attractive or marketable. Rappers passing on darker-skinned women to champion light-skinned women is a staple of hip-hop’s 45-year-old existence. The girl from the Aaliyah movie is playing Storm from X-Men. The list goes on. (Thankfully, some of my light-skinned sistren are speaking up about the mistreatment of their darker-skinned peers in meaningful, productive ways. If they can see it, then surely you can, right?)
Light-skinned folks have to overcome racism. That’s quite enough. Trust me. Whole-ass racism is trash enough as it is. I don’t know why we need to fabricate even more reasons to feel subjugated when there are actual Black people who need our energy and support. Look, fellow skindeds. We can do this. We can stop pretending that we have it worse or even the same as Black folks who are darker than we are. We can stop acting like memes about Drake being a sucker for love are an affront to our beings in any way even close to what Leslie Jones went through for simply getting a movie role.
So repeat after me: we, as light-skinned people get treated poorly because of racism that all Black people get. And while the oppression from that is real, our lives are objectively easier than people whose skin is darker than ours. The end.
Now we can go on about our lives without needing to imagine added subjugation that doesn’t exist. Got it? Good. Go pay it forward and get your darker-skinned friend a drink or something. And by “buy a drink” I mean, listen to our brothers and sisters and try to upend the oppressive and colorist systems that create violent and racist environments for people who get treated worse because of the color of their skin.
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