The other day, I was walking around the Flatiron District here in NYC and a 30-something year old black man said something to me as we passed each other on the sidewalk. He said “I would ask you for your number, but I’m too black and ugly.”
I had never seen the man before in my life and I opted not to respond to him at all and just kept bopping along to the vintage furniture store I was making my way towards. Though I basically gave him no response in that moment, I was rattled by that interaction. One, because it was such an odd thing and two, because a similar thing happened to me a few years ago.
In that first encounter, a 30-something year old black man passing by said hello and I said hello back, but he must not have heard me because he screamed “Oh, you can’t speak? I’m too dark for you, huh?” I was feeling some type of way that day, so I did respond. I (relatively) calmly told him that I did say hello back and also that I was married. He said “I bet he’s light-skinned.” I didn’t even bother to respond, I just kept it moving.
That awful color struck mentality is still a real issue in the black community. We see this tragic phenomenon manifest most vividly when it comes to black women. There is a Bill Duke directed documentary called Dark Girls that explores that very issue. As a brown girl (I’m not light or dark…just brown) I’ve never really experienced any of that color struck stuff, but I have seen friends, family and classmates suffer or dole out cruelty over the shade of one’s skin.
Oh and surely you’ve seen some of those ignorant light skin vs. dark skin party flyers. Oy vey! There are plenty of jokes about when light skinned men will be “back in style” (Apparently that was a ’90s thing? * Kanye Shrug *) and Biggie rapped about being “dark and ugly as ever,” but outside of all the jokey stuff, there has not been much substantive conversation about how that color struck crapola impacts black men. Clearly the two young men I encountered here on the streets of NYC, have internalized things they have been told (or things they experienced) about the meaning of having a certain skin tone.
The color struck stuff is so stupid. It’s even dumber than regular ol’ racism. I know folks who are obsessed with whether or not they could be considered “light skinned.” Such an odd thing to worry about.
Love your skin. It’s yours. Drink water, moisturize, use sunblock (sunlight is not your friend in large doses) and be awesome. Get it? Got it? Good.