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Dark Girls — Exposing Skin-Color Bias

Dark Girls — Exposing Skin-Color Bias

“Oh you are so pretty for a dark -skin girl.”  These are the words I often heard growing up and when I heard them, I did not know whether to feel proud or ashamed of the  dark color of my skin.  Was it a compliment or an insult?  I often wanted to ask the person, “What is that supposed to mean?” However, I never did, because my southern upbringing considered such a reaction to be impolite, but that is another story. [quote] I also remember being subjected to  the “paper bag” test by the grandmother and aunts of a college sweetheart in my Freshmen year.[/quote]   He was a very intelligent, well-dressed, articulate, Creole  Gentlemen whose complexion was much lighter than my own.   It was not his skin color I was interested in, but his mentality and his manners as a gentlemen.  Now,  for those of you who don’t know what  the paper bag test is, or ever heard of it, it is when a piece of a brown paper bag is placed against your skin (usually the arms and hands) to find out if your skin color is darker than the paper bag.  If your skin color is darker than the paper bag, then you are considered “too dark”.  Obviously, I failed the test because in a week’s time my sweetheart dumped me for a more “acceptable” young woman who shared the same skin color as him.  This was the point in my life when color bias really hit home.

The documentary Dark Girls exposes the deep-seated biases and attitudes about skin color that are experienced particularly by dark-skinned women, outside of and within African-American Culture.  The following video preview are clips from the documentary.  What are your feelings on the topic? Do you agree or disagree with statements made by the women featured in the documentary? Have you ever experienced this type of bias, if so how did it affect your attitude, or mental and emotional state?  Share your thoughts, views, attitudes, and experiences on the topic, let’s talk about it. Black Doll Test

Felicia Williams-Gary


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11 thoughts on “Dark Girls — Exposing Skin-Color Bias

      • jolene weiss:I would like to adopt maurice seuhanzcr/min mix I saw his picture and information on adopt a pet. please contact me via the above e-mail addressthank you

    • Dear KL,I have a feeling we chttaed for a little after the last grove talk can you remind me? I am drinking my cup of MADURA tea (I get boxes sent over from Australia) and wondering how to respond to your post. My first response is that one of the things about previews is that the show is still in progress this is why we discount our preview seats. You’re part of our creative process in attending a preview. My second thought is that we’re trying to help people discover Shakespeare, and this is why we chose to take this risk. The original play is probably Shakespeare’s weakest, so our thought was: how can we help people discover Shakespeare in new and reverberative ways? My third thought is a more tangential one: my husband is a contemporary classical composer, and I remember a good friend asking me once, So do you LIKE your husband’s music? Just curious.’ At first I was offended, but then I realized that one of the things that most attracts me to my husband is this blend of control (he is a very rational person) and unpredictability, which comes out in some sounds which are dissonant, and then I am rewarded by a passage of lyrical beauty. (It’s all under control, but the illusion I have is of a-rhythmic/dissonant material that is tempered, and heightened, by lyrical soaring.) This passage wouldn’t be so beautiful without the dissonance. Does this make sense? I don’t have the musical vocabulary to say it better. I am a Shakespearean and so there is a part of me that is deeply scholarly and, in a sense, formal but I also find this production exciting in its audacity. I read that you see some of the music-making as incompetent (which was not what my friend was saying about my husband’s music) and it is true that some of the actors are playing instruments they haven’t played before. This is a kind of controlled risk-taking. It may not be to your taste but I appreciate the fact that you care enough to write and share your thoughts. I see you as sincerely taking issue with it, and trying to come to grips with what would have inspired us to make this choice, and what would have inspired Amanda to take the executive and aesthetic risks she took. She is taking a risk, trying to see what people can make if they step outside their comfort zone.

    • Sure, race does not determine one’s inmcoe, that is true, and yes the article is directed at white middle class society, that much is obvious. But indirectly race does determine how well one does even today. When people of a certain race start in a lesser neighborhood with lesser education and lesser support, they have a hard time doing better than what’s expected of them. (And because of that a place like D.C. is going to have a hard time improving their education system.) Then those same people really do become a product of their environment and do badly in school, get bad jobs for low pay, and in turn have a difficult time helping their own children do better than they did when they can hardly help themselves, and so the cycle continues. When the average white person earns about $95,000 more than the average black man, you can’t tell me that race does not, in some way effect their inmcoe.

  1. I am actually teaching diversity at the college level and recently heard from students who discussed the “color divide” of his two daughters. It is quite unfortunate that the bias exists at all but when one has family members exhibiting “I am better than you” attitudes, it cuts at the core of inclusivity in family membership.

  2. Enjoyed the post! I can relate and as a bi-racial kid growing up in Washington DC in the 70’s, I experienced first-hand that skin is not just skin in the eyes of many people. With my light skin, green eyes and straight hair, I do think I was afforded certain advantages in black and white circles. It is one of the reasons I wrote about it in my book. Love you site!

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