Why Is Skin Tone Still OUR Issue?

BY: - 13 Jun '13 | Lifestyle

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Are you color struck?  Do you find yourself saying things like, “She is so pretty to be so dark!?” or telling someone, “You better keep her out of the sun, you don’t want her to get to dark.”  or my favorite when looking at someone’s newborn child you say, “Oh don’t worry she wont get too much darker.”

To be “color struck” as defined by UrbanDictionary.com is: To have an aversion to someone’s skin color, usually used in the African-American community.

I’d say that was an accurate description because these are all things that have been said to me in reference to my daughter by some of the matriarchs in my family.  Did they mean to hurt me?  No, I don’t think so, but what exactly do these comments mean or imply?  I am the mother of a dark skinned daughter. I can’t believe I have to say this, but I am concerned about what all of these comments may eventually do to her self esteem.

I am a strong advocate of self love.  I’ve celebrated  diversity my entire adult life.  In fact, I’ve dedicated my life to it. I am active in my neighborhood.  I have planned community health fairs, raised awareness for the importance of mammograms, created cultural celebrations on my job, and now advocating natural hair health style and maintenance.  So OF COURSE I get offended when I hear these ignorant comments.  But what do you say to an old lady that was born in the 50’s (or earlier) and raised in the 60’s (or earlier) when they say stuff like this?  You can’t change people so I never try.  But I find myself explaining and excusing people’s ignorance to my child by saying “…she’s just color struck”.  I ran into an old friend recently and I had my “Little Chick”  with me.  She was so happy to see me and I was happy to see her and introduce my daughter.  First thing she says is, “Oh my she is so dark! but so pretty!” How am I supposed to react to that?

The other thing we get a lot of is older dark skinned women who clutch my child when they see her as if to let go of all of the pain that THEY went through having once been that dark skinned girl themselves.  They say to her, “Don’t you EVER let anyone tell you that you are not beautiful.”  Then often through tear filled eyes they say, “You ARE beautiful.”  You can tell that they wished that someone had told them that when they were younger.  Don’t get me wrong we appreciate these touching moments but it can get exhausting after awhile because my child does not know why this keeps happening and it happens ALL the time!

To add even more to this “definition of beauty” madness…since i have learned how to properly take care of my child’s natural hair it is long, thick, shiny and flowing.  It reaches down to her mid-back.  Apparently this is another anomaly.  Since 2009 I’ve been posting her hair care regimen to YouTube and since 2009 we get questions about her heritage.  “Why is your daughter’s hair like that?  Is she mixed race?”  “Are ya’ll Indian or something?”  “Are your parents white? How does she have that hair and she is that dark!?”  And the comments go on.

My daughter’s gorgeous hair is a result of me taking care of her hair and has nothing to do with her heritage.  I don’t like to blame slavery for everything, and I don’t want to, but where does all of this come from?  Nobody wants to be told that they hate themselves or that they have internal hatred for their own race.  All of these comments come to me from other black women, so this must be our issue.  Right?  Regardless of what the source or the root of this problem is I need you to not bring it to me and my child.

Before you open your mouth, please consider how your words may affect a child forever.  Here are some of the things you need to think about the next time you see a dark-skinned black child, or ANY unique child for that matter.

Think about what you are going to say.  Your words could affect this child for the rest of their life.

Telling a little girl that she is “pretty to be so dark” is NOT a compliment!!  I repeat.  Telling a little girl that she is “pretty to be so dark” is NOT a compliment! (My other favorite is telling a big person that they have a “pretty face” but that’s for another post)

Remember that just because you experienced pain regarding your skin tone does not mean that all kids are going through what you went through.

Please do not cry every time you see a dark brown child.  I know you mean well, but projecting your past pain onto a child who is happy and not yet aware that her own people will reject her is not fair.  Her self esteem may have been just fine until she met you!

Realize that not everyone hates dark skin.

Some find it to be beautiful.  I’m sorry that you have been taught to believe otherwise.

Stop asking people what their race is based on their hair texture or type.

I think its rude to inquire about a person’s race anyway.  Black people CAN grow long and thick hair that is gorgeous.  Its about proper maintenance.  Not race.  I am not even going to go into the “Good” hair, “Bad” hair thing.  I don’t have the time.

Sometimes we do things because we don’t know any better or maybe because we don’t realize the impact that our actions and words may have.  Now you know.

In your opinion where do these attitudes come from? Have you or your child experienced these types of comments? How do we begin to address this without being disrespectful to people that may not realize they are actually insulting you?

About the author

Stacey Taylor wrote 51 articles on this blog.

Stacey Taylor aka "The SistahChick" is the 40+ SuperChick behind TheSistahCafe.com, Sistah Buttah, and OurNaturalKids.ning.com. She is a writer, blogger and Social Media Maven with a passion for natural hair and her community. Through her online presence she promotes generational self acceptance for women & children alike. Since 2009 Stacey has used her blog to share her love for Atlanta's thriving social scene, natural hair and her successful life as a wife, mother & entrepreneur. Stacey is an Indiana native currently residing in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband and kids.


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23 WordPress comments on “Why Is Skin Tone Still OUR Issue?

  1. Anonymous

    These attitudes are obviously passed down from white supremacy, and black just practice and replicate this behavior. Notice the darker people tend to be the poorest, while the lighter tend to be of higher socio-economic status in some countries. The sad thing is that black women go through this, and there’s more in store for you daughter, when she begins to date. Black women are finding their natural selves, and some black men don’t appreciate this, as they are also very color struck. Your daughter just needs to be taught and learn and know self love.

  2. Chantelle

    I LOVED this post. I have a fair skinned Puerto Rican mother and a brown skinned African American father and remember hearing all my life as a child how “unfortunate” it was to have the hair texture I have and how “lucky” I was that I came out so light. Sadly, it often came from other black people. We need to teach our young girls and boys that beauty comes in all shades and textures and raise our kids with confidence and self esteem!

    1. LORILYN

      Lashaun, You are a “VICTIM” of White Supremacy..I do agree with you, in the black community LIGHT SKIN is looked upon as prettier but that is because black people have been taught to Hate themselves….To all other people outside the black community, It doesnt matter what shade of black you are, You are still BLACK…And we are ALL in the same boat.

      1. Caydence James

        She’s a troll (in other words she’s postingbthis to get attention or a rise in someone). If she truly meant it, she wldn’t need to keep repeating it over and over again yet “she” wrote this twice in this post (on the facebook posting area too). Huge giveaway that this “lite is right” comment was meant to incite an emotional response of any kind. Whoever wrote this “lashaun” does this a lot and needs to be ignored. I know you meant well but don’t worry-it’s fake. Please don’t feed into it!

  3. Ayana

    Sigh, I am currently going through the color thing with my youngest son who is noticebly darker than myself and my other 3 children. He has had a color complex for as long as I can remember and I can honestly say that I have no clue where it came from. I often find myself trying to shield him from hurtful and ignorant comments that people make, that quickly make me jump from zero to ten with anger. Saying something about his complexion equates to fighting words for me, because I feel like at this point everybody should be aware of how sensitive the subject can be.

  4. Faith

    Iam am made to comment after reading all your posts! Iam the PROUDEST DARK women i Know!! If i was given a chance to choose a skin tone/color. i would still fo me.. my own skin colour. Whenever i look in the mirror i find it absolutely amazing and i blv am a beautiful African princess. If you dont like it look laugh and move on! The Darker the Berry the sweeter the juice! You cant change my perspective and no one can make myself esteem go dwn coz he/she is lighter. nuh.. NEVER.. i Knw black is the in thing…

  5. Faith

    Iam am made to comment after reading all your posts! Iam the PROUDEST DARK woman i Know!! If i was given a chance to choose a skin tone/color. i would still go for me.. my own skin colour. Whenever i look in the mirror i find it absolutely amazing and i blv am a beautiful African princess. If you dont like it look ,laugh and move on! The Darker the Berry the sweeter the juice! You cant change my perspective and no one can make my self esteem go dwn coz he/she is lighter. nuh.. NEVER.. i Knw black is the in thing…


    Unfortunatly, White Supremacy has permeated the whole world…I have gone through this very thing growing up. I have a very loving family that just happen to love being BLACK. And did the opposite. They made me feel like a Queen for being “DARK”. They constantly taught me about my history, Post and Pre slavery…How “we” built the Pyramids…How “we” were the civilized people…Although I faced what you are speaking about in the outside world and it did hurt, I always knew that the people that were saying those hurtful things to me and about me were ignorant of how things were supposed to be…They didnt know what they were saying so the hurt never stayed…Always teaching your daughters and sons how wonderfully made they are and giving them examples of all of the people who look like them and also teaching them that “REAL” beauty comes from within will ensure them having a healthy self esteem.

  7. Tanya C

    I remember as a little girl, people would say things about my skin tone and it would make me so sad. I would go home crying to my mom &dad and they would tell me how beautiful I was. A girl once told me she could never be friends with me because she didn’t get along with BLACK people-and, yes she was Brown too. When those taunts continued in high school, I remember thinking I am going to marry a fair skinned guy with good hair so that my kids would be seen as beautiful not just in our eyes but, by everyone. I don’t think people realize how deep this color thing really is. People don’t seem to relate unless they are dark skinned or have dark skinned children. Thanks for the article but this issue is deeper than we could ever know.

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  10. Anonymous

    the only issue I have with this article is that it is not just those of us who are over 40 but even this generation the same question with alarming frequency.I have grandchildren that run the spectrum in color and hair types and the things they are getting teased about or preferential treatment about is the same as when I was in school. My dark skinned granddaughter can be with her lighter cousins and people make differences in them to her face…it is not old people like me but young people in their 20’s and 30’s …we as a people are still color-struck and have the good hair/bad hair complex even more now than ever before…

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