Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly was released last year and with it, came an abundance of black pride, self love, and reawakenings. The album brushed on many topics that affect the black community, ranging from institutionalized racism to consumerism in our capitalistic society. It became an anthem for black america, as this year brought a lot of grief surrounding police brutality and other social injustices. Its genuine and dynamic lyrics partnered with its unconventional mix of jazz and theatrics won it a Grammy for Best Rap Album of the Year. The topic of colorism comes up in his song Complexion (a Zulu Love) ft. Rhapsody. Colorism is prejudice against skin tones, leaving darker skinned people…in the dark. Here are 7 lyrics from the song that perfectly explains colorism.
This reference to Willie Lynch is referring to William Lynch who was a slave master who told other slave masters to divide their slaves by skin color. The lighter slaves became house slaves and got “easier” work while the darker slaves were field slaves. This would create a divide between the slaves, and would stop them from uniting and rebelling.
This divide is still seen in today’s society, an example being the #light skin vs #darkskin rivalry on social media. Darker skinned people of color are seen as less attractive, masculine, and unwanted forms of their lighter skinned counterparts. Dark skin is equated with less fortune and Kendrick is rebuking this way of thought, as it is detrimental to not only the black community, but communities all over the world. This ranges from the rising bleach cream markets in Asia to the the lack of representation in America.
Kendrick see’s himself as dark as the midnight hour, but the “bright as the morning sun” quote is referring to his intelligence. This is specifically important to anyone who feels inadequate because of their skin color. Colorism often elicits insecurities that are related to beauty, but can also create self esteem issues in other departments. Kendrick is saying that his melanin does not limit his abilities and is, in fact, beautiful. Throughout the song, he voices how little complexion matters to him, but how it wasn’t always that way.
Many dark skinned people struggle with loving their melanin, especially in a society that puts lighter skinned people on a pedestal. These stigmas haven’t dimmed the light of many successful, dark people of color, like lupita nyong’o, Gabrielle Douglas, and John Boyega. Being dark does not mean you can’t go far in life, and this song, along with this album proves it.
- I’m talkin’ days we got school watchin’ movie screens And spike your self esteem The new James Bond gon’ be black as me
Lack of representation has always been a big contributor to major self esteem issues in people of color. If the only representation you get in the media are negatively stereotypical, you start to see yourself in that way too. Rhapsody refers to seeing a black james bond in school. The topic of more people of color in movies is a controversial one. This can be seen in all the backlash the new Spiderman movie got when it was announced that Zendaya would play Mary Jane. People like Viola Davis and Laverne Cox have discussed the importance of representation and opportunity for marginalized groups of people. They’ve been fighting for a place where black people aren’t just casted for slave movies, where there is proper representation of culture, and where you aren’t singled out by not only your race, but your skin tone as well. People of color have been asking for more representation in the media, and because celebrities like Kendrick Lamar, Zendaya, and J. Cole, we just might get it.