differential treatment based on skin color, especially favoritism toward those with a lighter skin tone and mistreatment or exclusion of those with a darker skin tone, typically among those of the same racial group or ethnicity.
I’m a black woman.
A dark skinned black woman.
My husband is a white man.
Not much more I need to say there.
He is an amazing partner, supporter, and father to our nearly 2 year old little girl.
This is about our daughter. Delilah, or as I call her Doll. She is a firecracker of personality and spunk. Every day is a gem watching her grow into such a complex and beautiful little person that is ready to take on the world. I always say that she is a slice of perfection. Our girl is the perfect mixture of both of us. She’s a thinker like her father, determined like her mother. Her nose is a perfect replica of my own, but her eyes have a deep golden brown hue like her father. The little sandy reddish brown ringlets that surround her cherub face are soft and precious, illuminating the perfect golden glow of her skin.
….the perfect golden glow of her skin….
“She’ll never have to worry about tanning.”
“Her skin is so perfect.”
“Look at how perfectly tan she looks.”
“She has the most beautiful skin tone.”
Too often, I hear these comments directed at my daughter. Luckily, she doesn’t quite understand what is being said to her – but I do. It slips the minds of individuals directing these comments at us on how toxic it can be.
I remember when I was in elementary school being told by two of my friends that I couldn’t pretend play “Mary Kate and Ashley” with them because they didn’t have any black friends.
I remember envying my lighter skinned black friends because all of the boys had crushes on them. They were “prettier.”
Growing up, it took a lot of reminding from my father that I was just as beautiful as any other little girl. That I mattered just as much as my white girlfriends. That I mattered just as much as my lighter skinned black friends.
That I mattered period.
I happened to fall in love with a kind and loving white man, who has loved me for me. Loud, confident, a slew of different hairstyles in my back pocket, and determined black woman that I’ve grown to be. He’s fought the good fight against racial inequality and lost a lot of friends for it. I’d go as far to say he’s a giant among men when it comes to the proudly proclaiming that black women are underestimated.
Our daughter will understand that she has privilege as a light skinned black woman. She will understand that people, including family, will direct comments at her “perfect skin” that do not add value to what her worth is. Her worth will never be determined by the color of her skin or how beautiful someone may tell her she is. The value she has in life will come from her kindness, grit, and will to be somebody. To speak out for people that don’t have a voice. To stand up for those who need support. To exist without fear in a world that is quick to appreciate and dismiss you, simply for the color of your skin.
Severina Ware is a non-profit professional with over a decade of experience developing community resources and mobilizing volunteers. She is a Public Voices Fellow with The OpEd Project.