No Pity Parties Please: A Dark Girl's Manifesto - GangStarr Girl : GangStarr Girl

No Pity Parties Please: A Dark Girl’s Manifesto

[ 16 ] June 1, 2011 |

This documentary preview has been making rounds online. It’s about various women’s struggles with being dark skin. In case you haven’t seen it, watch:

Dark Girls: Preview from Bradinn French on Vimeo.

I am a dark skinned woman. I am not a victim. I am not unfortunate. I am not pretty for a dark skinned girl. I am not ugly because I am dark. I am brown and beautiful. I was made by my creator with love, and in the spirit of diversity. I pray for people who self-hate and I pray for those who are ignorant and inane enough to believe that complexion determines what is attractive.

I cringed when I watched the trailer for Dark Girls because of the self-loathing and the pain that these women are still dealing with as a result of lingering post-colonial psychology. No one should hate them selves that much, especially because of someone else. It’s not just in the Black community that we deal with this type of self-hate, brown people all over the world struggle with this problem⎯this ridiculous White worship that negates our creator’s plans. Even if you don’t believe in any type of God, the fact that every inhabitant of this Earth looks different should attest to the verity that this was part of the plan. There isn’t one standard of beauty. Logically, that concept should be simple but it’s not so uncomplicated because people insist on being stubbornly blind to the fact. Mankind has such a strong desire to label everything because of our personal insecurities, that even if we were all the same complexion and had the same type of hair we’d then most likely be divided by height, size, eye color and so on.

Dark Girls is culturally relevant to everyone because African people throughout the Diaspora (including Latinos), and Asians too, need to have these uncomfortable conversations and face the ugly truth so that we can hopefully correct the problem. However, I’m also tired of this rhetoric because we’ve been dealing with this issue for centuries but with no real progress. So…

I want whoever reads this (if anyone) to know that not all “dark girls” hate themselves and that some of us are tired of being the victim of your perceived ugliness, stupidity and low self-esteem. But for those who are still victim to this repugnant train of thought: Like the documentary’s narrator said, it is time that we rise up and be confident because self-love is contagious.

Growing up, I didn’t deal with a color complex in my household because I was fortunate enough to come from a smart family of various brown hues (like most Black people do) who celebrated the beauty and diversity of our motley sun-kissed skin (ranging from vanilla to midnight).

However, in school I dealt with children who weren’t so fortunate. I’ve been called monkey (by Latinos mainly, which is another blog), told that I was pretty for a dark skin girl, that I’d be pretty if I were lighter, not chosen by the boy I liked because I wasn’t light but it still wasn’t enough to break my self-esteem because I learned from childhood that hurt people hurt people⎯that the same people who insulted my skin color didn’t even like their own. Conversely, for every person who said my skin made me unattractive, there were three more who said that it was what made me beautiful. There were also beautiful dark skinned women around me who showed me how to be confident because they lead by example and held their heads high or at least engaged in behavior that could change the world, one brown girl at a time, whether they knew it or not.

I had beautiful, talented dark skinned dance teachers who taught me about Katherine Dunham and Judith Jameson, how to tap dance and about the significance of the West African dances I did. I had dark skinned schoolteachers with locs and *TWAs who taught African American history and power to the people. I had my dark skinned top private school, Ivy League-educated, three romance language speaking sister who is one of the smartest women I know, my beautiful almond-hued mother, a well-read woman who is also one of the smartest women that I know, and then there was my reflection in the mirror⎯she wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea but perfect for me. Not only do I love my milk chocolate skin, my high cheekbones, my sharp nose and my almond-shaped eyes but I also like that I am smart, compassionate, multi-talented, humble, not shallow and impervious to other people’s idiocy. Therefore, if you are trifling enough to believe that complexion determines beauty then you don’t deserve consideration enough from me to be hurt by your negativity. I refuse to give you that power.

I am human and yes degradation hurts, but self-love has set me free and it can do the same for you. You can use bleaching cream and get plastic surgery, but it won’t erase the most dangerous form of destruction on Earth⎯self-loathing.

I love my skin because it’s the skin that people tell me they wish they had, it’s the skin that people tan for, it’s the skin that allows my blemishes and dark marks to fade faster (and in some cases, blend in), it’s the skin that protects me from the sun, it’s the skin that has a beautiful golden undertone that makes bright colors pop, it’s the skin that has attracted the man who loves me dearly even when I am at my worst.

From one dark girl to another: Rise. Tell yourself you are beautiful. Tell a little dark girl that she is beautiful and smart and worthy of love; tell little brown boys too. Once we believe in ourselves then the world will follow.

For Kalila and Johari.


*TWA- Teeny Weeny Afro

Dark Girls will be released this Fall.


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Category: News, TV/Film, Videos

About the Author ()

Starrene Rhett Rocque is a recovering journalist who often fantasizes about becoming a shotgun-toting B-movie heroine.

Comments (16)

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  1. Amber J. says:

    Beautiful post. I hate that there is still a need for this type of documentary in 2011, but I hope it sparks a discussion on colorism world wide.

  2. KB says:

    Thank you so much for this, Starr. Watching this preview was an uncomfortable experience for me because it made me wonder if people just assume *all* dark-skinned girls feel this way about themselves. My skin color has NEVER been an issue for me and people are usually stunned when I say this. It certainly helps that most of my family is on the darker side– from maybe a deep caramel to the blackest beautiful black (that black so lovely it sends shivers down your spine). My mother is a bit lighter than me and my sister, but still dark, and she made SURE we knew we were beautiful. It was never a question. So I have never felt ugly because of my skin. This does not reflect my experiences as a dark-skinned woman.

    I have to say some part of me also felt like– okay, we’ve heard this story before. I would need another set of hands and feet to count how many times I’ve been told that I’m pretty–for a dark-skinned girl. But at what point do we allow ourselves to move past other people’s self-hatred and ignorance? I’m interested to see how this is received and what sort of discourse it will elicit.

    • Girl, I feel like the discourse is going to be circular as usual. The problem with topics like this is that they were one sided and people are also in denial. Instead of confronting the problem I think it’s going to just turn into a light skin vs dark skin situation where people just get defensive but find no common ground. I hate to think the worst but after several years on this Earth, and hearing about this topic, it’s the only thing I’ve come to expect.

  3. Thanks Amber. I totally agree. This is a topic that no one really wants to confront head on, hence why we’re still dealing with it. People like to pretend ugly social nuances like this don’t exist but they do. And we have to stop this.

  4. Girl, YES! YES! YES! THANK YOU! This post was much needed, particularly as a manifesto for dark girls. I still have faith that Bill Duke will include some stories of women like you. Those are the voices that will inspire self-loathing to transform into self-love. Talking about pain is constructive, but if it isn’t accompanied by empowerment rhetoric, it’s useless.

  5. tatiana says:

    I really loved this post. I had seen the documentary and it saddened me. It made me wonder if all dark skinned girls experienced this sort of discrimination, but I’m glad that some girls are able to rise above it.

  6. Raven says:

    Ahh. Thank goodness. I, too, saw the Dark Skin Girl documentary and just cringed. I cannot believe this is still going on in 2011.

    Not every brown woman loathes the skin she’s in or wallows in abject pain because she can’t pass the brown paper bag test. I could only wish that the tired rhetoric would get squashed in an instant. But, that’s only a wish.

    You’ve said everything I’ve been thinking.

    So, Thank you.

  7. TuttiFrutti says:

    Beautifully expressed! Well done! A must read by all females who doubt themselves and their worth!

  8. Dash says:

    The fact that there are literally hundreds of terms to describe pigment in Latino culture speaks volumes at the stigma ingrained about the color complex. It has been part of my life since birth this Latino color complex and thank you for pointing that out. My mother can tell you stories upon stories of her own countrymen calling each other monkey because of skin color. It’s just as pervasive in Latino culture and needs to be discussed as well. I agree w/ you Starr and fact is, I never knew there was such a colorism problem among Black Americans (I surely knew it was a huge problem among Latinos) until I went to college. My family has always been so proud to be brown that I never even got any type of negativity about skin color. I watched the trailer and thought wow who are these parents because I can attribute all of my pride and self-awareness to my mother who embraced, celebrated and loved her dark complexion and all skin colors. It’s sad to see that this complex starts from home where that is the very place where you should be accepted.

  9. To be honest, I know that this still goes on, but why did there need to be a documentary about it? I wonder if there will be a solution…ever. I feel for those women who were never able to overcome but I really feel like this conversation is old. I’ve embraced my lovely chocolateyness a long time ago and I think that it’s time that all of us do the same no matter the shade, we are all beautiful.

    I’ll talk about this at length on The Home Girl Next Door – Friday 2-4 pm EST *plug*

  10. Truds says:

    I can’t say that I never felt the way the women in the documentary felt because I did. I went through a really tough period where I just couldn’t understand why some people’s reactions were what they were. But for me it was about understanding that you teach people how to treat you. So whatever you believe is what you will project. Getting that through my thick skull was my break through. Awesome post and great comments!

  11. Indigo says:

    D.O.P.E. You reflected the same sentiments I had when I saw the doc. It made me feel Bad, not because I felt sorry for the women speaking and who they may reflected, but their responses made me feel lousy and victimized. It’s one thing to point out the problem of colorisms created by colonialism, but resolutions in the doc would have exemplified the complexity of this deemed issue.

  12. Dr. DR says:

    Beautifully written post. And thank you!

  13. VirtuousWoman says:

    This is a COMPLEXION IGNORANT WORLD! I LOVE THIS POST. Iam so thankful to be a dark golden-tone woman.I would never like to change my dark complexion.Just today I was casually looking in a Essence magazine and page after page had a woman who looked like me.I was telling a friend that I could remember wanting to be lighter when I was a young girl. Kids picked on me adults in my family made me feel so bad.But I NEVER let it break me or ever had a pity party GOD blessed me to rise above it.(your pretty for a dark skinned girl) is such a ignorant comment if i had a dollar everytime someone said that.

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