Film examines touchy intraracial biases based on skin tone


In May I posted about Bill Dukes documentary about African American women and the color bias that effects them. Recently this article about the movie was sent to me, I am putting up because I don’t want to forget that this is coming out, so it’s a reminder for myself as much as for you all. I have included the Trailer as well.

By Wendi C. Thomas
Around the time she reached junior high, Brooke Sarden noticed that remarks made by neighborhood kids took on a different shade.

The pretty girls were described as light-skinned, with long hair — and the observations were made as a compliment.

But kids who were the object of derision? “If they wanted to insult someone, it was ‘Charcoal.'”

In the decades since, Sarden, whose brown skin is neutral — she was neither praised as pretty nor teased for being dark — has placed that word in the larger cultural context of intraracial prejudice against darker-skinned black people, particularly women, in favor of those with fairer skin.

The subject makes for a treacherous, often painful minefield that an upcoming documentary plumbs.

“Dark Girls” is scheduled to premiere in October at the International Black Film Festival in Nashville.

A powerful 10-minute trailer from the film has made its way around Facebook, prompting a recent examination of this discrimination among black people by black people.

In the clip, a series of dark-skinned black women, some in tears, recount how they were made to feel that their skin was less than ideal by relatives, friends and romantic partners.

“I can remember being in the bath tub, asking my mom to put bleach in the water so that my skin would be lighter and so that I could escape the feelings that I had about not being as beautiful, as acceptable, as lovable,” said one woman.

Said another woman of her view of her skin as a child: “I thought it was dirt, and I tried to clean it off, but it wouldn’t come off.”

The tension dates back to slavery, when lighter-skinned enslaved people, products of the slave master’s wandering or raping, were assigned comparatively cushy jobs in the master’s house, and those who were dark-skinned were relegated to the fields.

Black people picked up where slavery left off, using paper bags as the color litmus test or searching for blue veins under tinted skin. Even today, the ears of black newborns get extra scrutiny, as they are rumored to match what the child’s skin color will be when she or he grows up.

In 1988, Spike Lee’s film “School Daze,” in which the light-skinned “Wannabes” were pitted against the dark-skinned “Jigaboos,” propelled the topic into popular culture.

Even rap music, like Young Money’s “Every Girl In The World,” declares a preference for fair-skinned black women: “I like a long-haired, thick red bone.”

Perhaps cultural influences like these are behind the heartbreaking segment in “Dark Girls” in which a dark-skinned girl, about 5, sits in front of a poster board with five shaded drawings of girls, from light to dark.

Asked to choose the ugly child, she picks the darkest one. “Why is she the ugly child?” the interviewer asked. “Because she’s black,” the girl replied. Asked to pick the smart girl, she picks the palest one. Why? “Because she’s light-skinned.”
Read more after the jump

Here is the Trailer

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