Rejecting Self: The Skin Tone Game

All Black. All beautiful.

This week a fellow Howard Alum posted a photo album on facebook that, within the HU community, went viral.  The pictures, featured in LIFE magazine, gave readers an inside look at Howard University’s student life in 1946.  One couldn’t help but to look at these pictures and to be proud to be a part of the great legacy of Howard University. However, I couldn’t help but notice the stark colorism in the women whose pictures were featured – fair skin, wavy hair.  From a historically black institution’s standpoint, I can understand, though I don’t agree, the need to change perceptions of Black America by emphasizing black students that were in line with mainstream America’s standard of beauty.  From the photographer’s standpoint, I can understand the inclination to capture the images that were most striking to oneself aesthetically.  It wasn’t until I read the entire LIFE article printed in 1946 that mentions the discord amongst students due to the color hierarchy on campus that I realized that the huge disparity in regards to the skin tone of featured women was not done haphazardly.  While almost 60 years later, I am very proud to say I didn’t experience or see any disparity based on hue, I believe within the greater Black Diaspora it is still a very relevant issue in daily interactions and dating.

Geez, where do we start?? In the interest of brevity, I will only focus on dating attractions today.

A week can’t go by without someone tweeting, facebooking, or conversing about their skin tone requirements about the people they are willing to date.  Everything from men saying they want a yellow/red women to women rejecting men because they don’t want to have dark skinned children.  Or it is the complete reverse.  Women will completely reject lighter skinned men and only date the darker hues as to suggest reversing the hierarchy makes everything much better now.  While preferences are warranted, the automatic dismal of a person because they are not your “type” in regards to their hue prior to getting to know them is still prejudiced.  It is just the worst kind- the one against ourselves.
The thing that is wonderful about being part of this Black Diaspora is because it envelops so much diversity from language, religion, to hue.  With the exception of religion, we have no choice what language we learn to speak initially or our shade of brown designated to us.  The only choice we have is the type of person we want to be.  And honestly, there are only two choices: one that loves self or one that rejects self.  When I look at another black person, I am innately inclined to them, regardless of hue,  because I recognize they are a piece of who I am.  So when I reflected on the men I have dated, I have absolutely no preference whether he is a lighter hue or a darker or any one in between.  And I won’t say I look beyond their hue because I don’t.  I see it just like I recognize their blackness.  I choose to acknowledge and embrace it as a part of who they are and ultimately of who I am.  The only commonality that shapes my “type” is the man that made the choice to love himself and thus his people and all of their beautiful hues.

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