Raising a Dark Girl


Sunday night I sat up until 1am full of emotion, mostly sad. Other words I could use are disgusted, appalled, angry, hurt, and confused. Like many other Black women in America, I watched the documentary by Bill Duke, Dark Girls, on OWN. This documentary expatiated on the prejudice that apparently many dark-skinned women face in the African American community. Actually, it also discussed how women from various nationalities face this very same prejudice amongst their own.

At the end of the documentary a lot of people on “Black twitter” simply shrugged and yawned saying “Well, that was nothing new. I lived that. I needed something more, something deeper”. I thought it was a great first step, opening the door for even more dialogue on the topic of colorism. Also, for this dark girl, it was something new. I knew colorism existed. The extreme to which it existed I did not. Yes, I am a chocolate girl, but I had an aha! moment while watching the documentary – my mother got to me before the rest of the world could. That very thought brought tears to my eyes.

Growing up my mother, a golden skinned lady that was even lighter when she was growing up, earning her the nickname Red by her peers, always complimented my complexion. She would often tell me “I love your complexion. I wish I had your color”. While some days it made me wonder if she was struggling with self hate (I’m just being honest), most days it made me throw my head back in pride. I was chocolate and beautiful. My skin color was fierce! Funny how it took me this many years to understand that she was doing that on purpose. That she knew that there were some in the world that would look at my chocolate skin and immediately decide that I was the lesser negro because of it and she was determined to build my self-esteem in that area before they could tear it down. Well played mom, well played. It worked. I’ve never struggled with my complexion. I never wanted to be light skinned. I once heard a peer say she wished to be a caramel complexion and I closed my eyes trying to imagine myself in that skin. It didn’t work for me. I couldn’t like it. My dark skin just suited me too well. God didn’t make a mistake when he formed me.


However, I did have another aha! moment, or maybe it was more of an OH NO! moment. One that still makes me tear up. Did I make a mistake? Did I make a mistake in having a preference for men whose skin looked just like mine? In wanting to have babies who looked just like me? Did I set Johanna up to be ridiculed? Is someone gonna take a look at my precious babies face one day and tell her that they don’t want her because her skin is too black? Is that going to knock her so far down that she not only isn’t gonna want to be black, but maybe she will even try bleaching her skin? My heart breaks for her and she’s too young yet to even notice the difference in skin tones. Bottom line? I feel guilty. Maybe I should’ve gone for the lighter men that were after me. Maybe I shouldn’t have freely fell in love with my husband whose gorgeous chocolate skin melts into mine. Maybe I should’ve been more shallow in my selection for a life mate. That’s the thought that nags at me in the back of my mind even though I know it’s wrong wrong wrong. I am positive that Johanna is a beautiful little girl. Not a beautiful Black girl, not a beautiful dark skinned girl, but a beautiful girl. I tell her so everyday. I tell her that she is pretty, smart, kind, and funny. Is that going to be enough to combat the prejudice she will have to face in her own community? I pray so. I sincerely do.

I don’t know if you saw the film. If not, please check it out. I will try to track down whether or not it’s coming on OWN again. I know it will be available for purchase on September 24th. Here is a clip:

Moms and dads, please embrace your children, no matter the color of their skin, and tell them they are beautiful everyday. Don’t let society tell them how they aren’t good enough. Surround them with a community that will uplift them humbly in every way possible. If my mom were still alive I would kiss her on her forehead and hug her for a very long time for the gift she gave me. Since I can’t, I plan to hug Johanna and pass the gift on.


4 thoughts on “Raising a Dark Girl

  1. Reblogged this on johannasmama and commented:

    I have had wonderful discussions on here, twitter, and my personal facebook account that spawned from my blog post on introducing your children to the word “race” and all that it means. What I found was that many were unaware of what colorism is. I found this wonderful definition of it on about.com:

    Definition: Colorism is a practice of discrimination by which those with lighter skin are treated more favorably than those with darker skin. In the African-American community, this traditionally played out via the paper bag test. Those lighter than the standard paper lunch bag were allowed entry into fraternities, sororities and other realms of black upper class life, while dark-skinned blacks were excluded. The Spike Lee film “School Daze” is an exploration of colorism.

    In June of 2013 I wrote a post about raising a dark skinned child and colorism based off of the documentary Dark Girls. I am reposting it here and if you have any comments I would love to keep the conversation going. It may not effect you directly, but it may affect how you treat others.


  2. She is beautiful. And you’re doing the right thing in telling her so. As parents, we can’t always change the problems with the world in which we, inevitably, must unleash our children. We can, however, shape our children’s minds. We can teach them what beauty is so that they won’t second guess themselves when some stranger tells them otherwise. We can love them so hard that they will never question their ability to be loved. We can provide them the tools they’ll need to know that they are worthy. I think all this is enough.


  3. You are most definitely doing Big Good by telling your daughter she’s beautiful. One of my missions in life is that children (and parents and everybody really) is respected and encouraged for exactly who they are. We are all different, in a million different ways, and that’s how it should be. I approach this from a different angle – my son is on the autism spectrum and it terrifies me that he’ll be bullied or made fun of for his differences. While learning delays and race have nothing in common really, I think that the message that we’re all beautiful and important is a huge one. By the way, I run a series called Our Land – which has the goal of spreading exactly that message. Would love if you’d consider submitting something like this to it!


  4. I saw Dark Girls with my boyfriend and it definitely sparked discussions of race, color biases, color preferences, and differences in cultural paradigms within the African Diaspora. I am dark and he is light. We are both the grandchildren of bi-racial grandparents and we often talk about the fact that there is a chance that once we get married and have children, our kids could look brown like me, light skinned like him, or white like relatives we both have. His mother, a darker woman, revealed after watching this documentary, that people often thought she was his {my boyfriend’s} nanny and she lived a life where one of her two children looked nothing like her. Growing up, I felt different than my cousins on my Dad’s side because I was the only dark one. However, I thought that being different made me special and both my parents fostered confidence in my appearance by telling me my color…even with freckles (go figure) is beautiful. After watching Dark Girls, my heart went out to those who didn’t see their true beauty and mystique. Sending you blogger love from one
    #BLMgirl to another, btw. Thank you for posting and reposting this.


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