“Brown skin…you know I love your Brown skin”

Brown skin, you know I love your brown skin
I can’t tell where yours begins, I can’t tell where mine ends

I will forever love India.Arie for singing these beautiful lyrics.  They tell us to love and embrace who we are.

I’m not sure why, but I thought we were over the dark-skinned/light-skinned; good hair/bad hair era.

Then I watched “Dark Girls” a 2011 documentary that aired Sunday night on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) .  In it, directors and producers Bill Duke and D. Channsin Berry explore colorism in America and other countries.

According to the documentary’s web site, the directors “took their cameras into everyday America in search of pointed, unfiltered and penetrating interviews with Black women of the darkest hues for their emotional expose’, “Dark Girls”.

“Dark Girls” pulls back our country’s curtain to reveal that the deep-seated biases and hatreds of racism – within and outside of the Black American culture – remain bitterly entrenched,” the web site goes on to say.

Some of the more riveting interviews come from black men talking about their preferences in women.  Some say they only date light-skinned women with straight hair. Others subscribe to “the blacker the berry the sweeter the juice” theory in their choices.

Dr. Cheryl Grills,  president of National Association of Black Psychologists, is featured prominently in the documentary. She talks about the discrimination and dehumanization African-Americans experienced for several centuries and how it often led to self-hatred.

To understand African-Americans’ deep-seated issues with skin color you must first understand how much of it is rooted in the institution of slavery. Even among slaves, who were deprived of their freedom and humanity, there was a pecking order. The lighter skinned slaves, often the children of their slave masters or other white men, were the “house Negroes.”  The darker-skinned slaves were the field hands. They were considered ugly and inferior.

These psychological scars were passed from generation to generation, and sadly,  still exist today in some families.

My parents never dwelled on skin color, but I remember people in our extended family and people in the community making comments about dark and light skin. One of my aunts  calls my niece Megan “Red” short for “Redbone,” one of many terms used to describe light-skinned women and girls.

Dr. Grills says it’s up to all of us to challenge structural racism in media images,  which she says perpetuate colorism.

It’s time to  stop this madness. Children need to be told they are beautiful from birth, no matter their hue. The brown paper bag test — where people whose skin was  darker than a brown paper bag — didn’t make it into certain social organizations or worse, certain jobs, sounds so ridiculous now.

In “Dark Girls,”  actress Viola Davis talks honestly about the pain she felt growing up as a dark-skinned child.  Davis says she has forgiven her parents and finally put the skin color issue to rest in her own mind.

Dr. Grills says near the end of the documentary: “You ultimately are the keeper of your own soul. You are the keeper of the spirit that is you. So if you don’t treat you right, if you don’t love and cherish you;  how do we expect anyone else to do the same?”

Actor and Comedian Michael Colyar says in the film: “Loving yourself is not racism, loving yourself is race pride. And in shows I try to point out that I can love me, without hating you… I don’t have to hate white people to love me….I love me because it’s intrinsic and because we are taught, not from books but by the spirit, that love begins at home.”

“Dark Girls” is a must see for anyone who has children or works with children. Sometimes, we  unknowingly send cues to our children about their worth. Some of that is tied to how they look.

For most of his nearly eight years, I’ve called my grandson my little chocolate drop.  I want him to know that I love his dark skin and that he is sweet to me.   Other people may try to tell him different, but my hope is that he will always know that he is loved and cherished. My newest granddaughter is bi-racial. My daughter’s husband is Korean and people are already asking my daughter, “What is she mixed with.”

If the question is posed to me, my answer will be, “She’s mixed with lots of love.”

To learn more about “Dark Girls”, go to: http://officialdarkgirlsmovie.com/

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