By Twanna F.
Real friends are real when you need it most. My girls in and out of MLNNNYC are always open and honest with me. One thing that has been a big topic of discussion for us is light skinned privilege, because I’m much lighter than most of my friends. I remember having a conversation with my two closest friends where they opened up about maintaining their confidence and feeling beautiful in a world that tears down black women for having dark skin, tight curls and full lips. They explained that it was a constant battle between the propaganda fed to them and what they knew in their hearts to be true. And they couldn’t find happiness within themselves until they began to turn the voice of society down. This was an experience that I had only been able to relate to on one level, my hair. I never had to struggle with others feeling I wasn’t beautiful simply due to my complexion. I’m thankful I have so many great friends who can expose me to the issues I may overlook, because my privilege has made it easy to.
It doesn’t always have to be long discussions either, my friends give me a couple words and bring me back to reality. A night out with the ladies of MLNNNYC began at TGI Friday’s. Noni and I walked in late and met Raven and Shavonne at the bar. We exchanged hugs and they quickly put us on to how fine our bartender was. Girl, he was fine as hell. But anyway, Noni was ready to order before me and wanted to get his attention. That man looked over her every time he passed us, but I raised my hand and he came running over to take my order. I explained that I wasn’t ready and I had only called him over to take Noni’s order. He looked confused, but proceeded to take her order and then walk away. Shavonne jokingly says, “That’s that light skinned privilege” but I heard the serious undertones of the joke. Comments like these used to make me get defensive to be honest, because I’ve always tried to fight against the ideas that light skinned people get more attention, are full of themselves or act “Hollywood.” I did this not even realizing that I was perpetuating those same stereotypes by making the discussion about myself and my experiences with prejudice. I’m learning to fight against that ignorance and acknowledge that there is a problem, that it’s not about me and that I need to listen to understand rather than respond.
Colorism is as relevant today as it always has been. Sadly, it is a privilege in this society to be light skinned or to have features commonly associated with whiteness. When it comes to this issue we need to stop feeding into white beauty standards. As well as that, if you are light skinned or have other features commonly associated with whiteness you need to recognize that you are privileged. Do not walk around ignorantly on some “I don’t see color” nonsense. It’s easy to forget that there is an opposite to the benefits. By this I mean that for every man or woman that praises those with light skin and eyes there are also men and women that tear down or overlook those with dark skin and tighter curls. So, check yourself. Acknowledge your privilege. And for men and women who are dark skinned or have tightly coiled hair check your friends. Don’t let them walk around ignorant simply because you don’t want an awkward conversation. Change is always uncomfortable, but change will only come if we create friction. At a time like this when racial tensions are high, black people need to be on the same page. We can’t possibly move forward without tearing down the division that was built by white people in the first place.