First of all, let me make this clear. I love having discussions about colorism. This is mainly because most people try to act like it’s not an issue, and unfortunately, those people are usually black. For every post about society’s disdain for darker skinned women, there are a pair of eyes rolling and counterarguments dismissing the complaint as black women being too sensitive. Honestly, I almost get it. The black community is fighting hard enough to get non-stereotypical representation in the media at all. Chocolate women need to wait their turn. Right?
Hollywood has a long way to go before proving to me that it is making valid efforts to diversify its roles, and casting fair skinned, long-haired women is not enough. I feel like a broken record repeating how the media is the clearest representation of how colorism has shaped the black community. But it is still as true today as it was 30 years ago.
I will say, however, that I’ve noticed some of the attempts Hollywood has made to include chocolate women, consciously or unconsciously. You can’t ingnore Lupita Nyong’o gracing every red carpet with her radiant smile and gorgeous dresses or Viola Davis proudly accepting an Emmy Award on behalf of every woman who was told ‘no’ because her skin was too dark. Their roles in Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Suicide Squad respectively, although being minor parts, show that Hollywood is at least acknowledging their talent outside of the typical slave, Civil Rights Era, or welfare mother narratives.
Still, it is simply not enough. Give me one blockbuster where the love interest is a dark-skinned woman. If you can, name one where she doesn’t have a straight weave or is bigger than a size 2. Let’s be real, Hollywood is feeding us crackers when we have been starving for decades.
I certainly acknowledge the works of our favorites who have paved the way- Vivica A. Fox, Gabrielle Union (still captivating viewers on BMJ, Naomi Campbell (still going strong on Empire), and a few others. I also don’t discredit the women who are finally getting some name recognition- Tika Sumpter, Naturi Naughton, and my personal idol, Danai Gurira. But I could probably count on my fingers the number of dark skinned women who have made it to mainstream Hollywood. Meanwhile, I could easily rattle off a long list of light skinned and racially ambiguous women who not only have achieved these roles, but have occasionally managed to carry entire movies as well.
I am waiting for the day when the most famous dark skinned women don’t have to play slaves or 1960’s maid pre-Civil Rights Act before gaining acclaimed recognition. I’m waiting for the day that women who look like Leslie Jones don’t have to play the masculine, dumb, over the top character in a revamped classic and Gabourey Sidibes don’t get their first critic nods for playing roles like Precious.
The first thing we need to do is hold our black directors and producers responsible. That means Tyler Perry doesn’t get a pass because he uses Cicely Tyson in all his movies and Shonda Rhimes – yes, our lord and savior Shonda Rhimes – needs to expand the roles her black women play. Because at the end of the day, Olivia Pope is still a mistress, and Miranda Bailey and Annalise Keating are still hyper-aggressive, career-oriented stoics. If we can’t get our black movie/show makers to get over their issue with dark skinned women, especially those with natural locks and/or fuller figures, then how can we expect white Hollywood to do them justice?
Listen, I get that there are exceptions, but the fact that you can only give me one or two out of the hundreds of movies and shows that come out a year is a problem in itself. Let’s get past this fascination with fair skinned women, then let’s get past them having to wear Beyonce weaves (a whole other issue for another blog- btw Tasha’s lace front in Power is horrible), then let’s get past them having to be a size 2…and not particularly in that order.
Obligatory ‘I love my light-skinned sisters, my mama light skinned, and this is not a bash against yall’ statement. Please don’t get sensitive on me. Light skinned tears bout just as bad as white tears.
~Peace, Dark-skinned love, and poetry~