We’re in the midst of a black girl renaissance. Beyoncé’s release of Lemonade, an unapologetic celebration of black womanhood, confirmed this. While this shift may seem revolutionary to other communities, I’m hesitant of this newfound confidence.
Of course I’m all for the advancement of black self-love, but I clearly see some of our own being left behind. Dark skinned girls and women are still being slandered for their looks, and we as a whole can’t move forward until they’re uplifted as well. After all, Lil’ Kim recently caused a stir when she posted pictures revealing her porcelain skin, thin nose and blonde hair. The woman in these photos is a far cry from the artist Lil’ Kim we grew up with.
While many commenters attacked her for this dramatic transformation, accusing her of self-hatred, I feel nothing but empathy for Lil’ Kim and women like her. We live in a society that praises European beauty. Consequently, a black woman’s looks is judged by its proximity to whiteness.
You only have to look at the (extremely small) media presence of black women to see this. Those who are in the spotlight tend be light skinned, almost always accompanied with small lips and noses. I admit that every time I see figures like Amandla Stenberg or Zendaya I get a little uncomfortable. Obviously they’re not at fault and in fact are working to shake up the strict beauty standards imposed on Afro-American women. Still, their presence is a painful reminder of the social climate the favors “the right type of black.” The Kelly Rowland’s and Willow Smith’s of the world are just as valuable as the Beyoncé’s and Skai Jackson’s. Now we just have to start acting like it.
More painful than being ignored by mainstream society is the own disdain dark skinned women face within the black community. I have personally witnessed my older sister, who has skin like sable, being belittled for her complexion. What makes this abuse especially demeaning is the fact that it came from boys who bore the same tone yet felt compelled to make her suffer for it.
As we continue to listen to Beyoncé’s powerful manifesto, I want to remind everyone that beauty comes in more than one shade. In an age where black women are realizing our worth, letting those with darker skin being crushed under the heavy hand of social standards would be an injustice. We need to tear up the paper bag once and for all.