“Black Is Black”: Thoughts on “Dark Girls”

DarkGirlsPeople think they diss my person/By stating I’m darkly packed/ I know this, so I point at Q-Tip/ And he states ‘black is black’ ~ “Me Myself and I” by De La Soul

I was unable to see the documentary “Dark Girls” when it appeared on the OWN Network in June, but I immediately put it on my Netflix list in anticipation of the DVD release. Last night I was able to watch it on Amazon Instant Video, and I was pleasantly surprised at how well it dealt with a difficult issue.

“Dark Girls” explores the issue of colorism, primarily as it relates to dark-skinned African-American women, using history, personal narratives, educators, and psychologists. Not surprisingly, the media images in American culture often emphasize beauty as “white,” or at least as “light.” In addition, however, the intra-racial messages that dark-skinned women receive are also damaging. Historically and in contemporary society, some African Americans have internalized negative images about blackness and projected them onto other black people.

Much of what “Dark Girls” shows is what astute observers of social history and culture already know through study and the lived experience of being black in America. As recent events have illustrated, disparaging practices, policies and remarks regarding African American women’s beauty, hair, and skin color come from whites as well as blacks. “Dark Girls” asserts that these experiences have resulted in trauma. And the first step toward dealing with this trauma is to acknowledge it, so that we can start a dialogue to overcome it.

As I listened to stories from the girls and women in the documentary, I began to think about my own experiences with colorism. I, too, have been told that I was “awful pretty for a colored girl” by a young white man when I was in college. (I didn’t know whether to be offended because he called me “a colored girl” or because he said I was “awful pretty” for one.) But I can’t imagine the impact of hearing statements like that all the time.

Maybe I never developed any issues of colorism because my family, like many black families, has every color–from the so-called “light, bright, and damn near white” to “jet black.” (No kidding. When my mother was young, children called her “Jet Black.”)  Just because I thought to myself “black is black,” that doesn’t mean that everyone in my family was unaffected. I discovered this when I overheard my little cousin, who was about five at the time, and one of her playmates arguing a few years ago. My cousin who is kinda light brown called her friend “black and ugly.” I snatched cuz up (not physically) right away and asked who was she calling “black and ugly.” I said, “Your Aunt J is dark-skinned; she’s black. Is she ugly?” “No,” she replied, and I hope she meant that. Anger probably wasn’t quite the way to handle the issue, but I needed her to know that we were all black. And that if she thought her friend was ugly, she was also saying my mother, her Aunt J–who raised her, incidentally–was also ugly. I had to make a point that was far beyond my usual admonishment, “That’s not the proper way for young ladies to behave.”

So, “Dark Girls” made me think, and that’s a good thing. It’s a compelling and interesting documentary. It’s a film that could help start a conversation about discrimination based on skin color.


3 thoughts on ““Black Is Black”: Thoughts on “Dark Girls”

  1. What was insightful about Dark Girls? It was one-sided propaganda meant to make you want a white knight in shinnying armor to free you from all the horrible “intra-racial damnation”. It was very OWN/Tyler Perry-ish and used a well-known insecurity among Black people (Male and Female) to targeted women in order to get them to A) Dislike black men and B) Promote interracial love.
    That Mockumentary will only prolong the African-American Gender War by fueling the whole light skin/Dark skin debate and it will make all Black women, because a lot of them wasn’t even dark-skin, look even more “desperate” and “insecure”.
    Also it will make the issue of Colorism harder to talk about because this sensationalized video frames it as such where black boys are the perpetrators and black girls are the victim when even as your article suggests it’s a gender neutral issue that manifest itself between BW-BW, BW-BM, BM-BM, Young Blacks and Old Blacks even Non-Blacks and Blacks (last one might just be good ol’fashion racism but anyway)
    I don’t sense that you took away any of the subtle programming within that mess but I highly doubt it will be the launching point to a conversation because the narrative is already framed wrong due to it not being gender neutral. Dark Girls is just a pity-party with a little ‘Princess and the Frog’ at the end to make you’ll (The black girls that got completely programmed by it) feel better.
    It’s nowhere near holistic enough to start a healthy productive conversation about how color-struck a community we really are.

    • Thank you for stopping by our blog and taking the time to read and comment. Although you clearly had a negative assessment of “Dark Girls,” it is fostering dialogue/conversation between us. As for the documentary’s value, we can agree to disagree.

    • I have to admit, I have not had an opportunity to see the documentary yet, but I certainly intend to see it immediately after your enlightening comment. I am interested in how this documentary is capable of making all black women want white men, given the fact that I did not hear of ANY black woman or read any review written by black women, indicate that they feel strongly about dating white men as a result of watching this documentary. Also, I am now curious as to how this one documentary is capable of making black women dislike black men or fuel gender wars. I’m sure my training in critical thinking and critical reading will aid me in noticing such “subtleties in the programming.”

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