From the creator/director of the critically acclaimed documentary “Dark Girls,” filmmaker Bill Duke continues the conversation with the sequel “Light Girls: How to Begin the Healing Process.” With issues of colorism, and presenting the notion that women of lighter skin have it “easy”, this documentary really was an eye opener for me. Celebrities from all walks of entertainment such as Iyanla Vanzant, Erica Hubbard, Michaela Angela Davis, and Raven-Symoné and many others spoke out their personal experiences of colorism and discrimination. From skin bleaching to the now trending hashtags of #teamlightskin versus #teamdarkskin, the documentary shed light on an issue that has long existed in the Black community.
Being a brown skin woman, I was able to relate instantly to the colorism that was brilliantly defined in “Light Girls.” One thing that struck me to my core while watching is that each stage of life for a woman of color is met with some sense of colorism and discrimination. Starting grade school, women are teased and bullied not because of who they are, but more so because of “what they are.”
The documentary interviewed several women, included note-worthy journalist Soledad O’Brien, who stated that growing up she was always asked, “What are you? Black? White? Creole?” She shared how before people would ask her name, they wanted to know “what” she was. She also shared the struggles of being an anchor in a highly white dominate culture.
Being a journalism graduate for Louisiana State University, the experiences O’Brien shared sent chills through my body. Knowing that even in 2015, there is still so much discrimination and colorism in journalism field. It is no surprise when you turn on the news and see more light color people versus those of darker complexions. I grew up wanting to be a news anchor, but upon graduation it was so challenging to get past the 1st interview. I was even suggested numerous times to go into radio instead.
Also, throughout the documentary, issues surfacing within today’s mainstream marketing, advertising, and even social media’s role in the colorism were discussed. For over five decades, lighter, more narrow faces have dominated magazine covers, billboards, and commercials, perpetuating a stigma that “lighter is better”. Just recently have darker complexion women been recognized as beautiful and stunning with the rise of Lupita Nyong’o. Some would say that she is the exception to the rule. But, what exactly is the “rule”?
The meaning of the “rule” that lighter is better is the lingering after thought that I have about the “Light Girls” documentary. Who created this rule that lighter is better, lighter is smarter, lighter is more equipped. Is the answer the media? Mainstream markets? Commericals? Or, is the real answer our culture? Do we live in a culture where we don’t know our own identity and can’t acknowledge our own beauty? Who has the right to tell us that we are or are not beautiful, smart, capable because the pigment of our skin? I believe that answer starts with us.