Friday, February 16, 2007

A Girl Like Me Video: Blacks Bleaching Skin, Hating Ourselves

by Paula Neal Mooney


I just watched this amazing "A Girl Like Me" video clip of the award-winning documentary by Kiri Davis, a 17-year-old New York high school student. (Thanks, dreah, for the heads up.)

Kiri Davis conducted a modern-day "doll study" wherein she asked black children to choose between the black and white dolls. Most of them selected the white dolls.

But skin bleaching tales caught my ear the most.

One black woman spoke of friends who actually pour bleach in their baths in sad attempts to lighten their skin.

I understand the mentality.

Even though some blacks consider me light-skinned, my biracial friends and whites are quicker to call me dark-skinned. All depends on your perspective.

Anyhoo, I still use the skin lightening cream sold in grocery stores.

I tell myself it's just to even out my skin tone. But I feel a little weird at times as it moves down the conveyor belt toward the register.

I snickered at my mom when she used beauty products like this. She was browner skinned than me and my sister and our dad. Skin color was always an issue lurking in the background.

The book The Color Complex gives great insight about these issues of being color struck. Something so ingrained in us, I won't give a pat ending that we should all just get over it.

I know people consider lighter-skinned black females prettier, in the same way that whites are held as the standard of beauty in our society.

One time this comedian on stage called me out in a room full of people -- he was picking out the so-called pretty and fair-skinned women in the black crowd.

I can't lie and say that attention like that on the surface didn't speak to some innate, temporal and base part of my being.

But at home, later, I realized how sad it was that the brotha thought he was complimenting me.

So watch the A Girl Like Me video. Talk amongst yourselves...



Amazing, huh?


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11 comments:

Daniel Jack Williamson said...

Mystifying.

There are other "body fashions" I find mystifying, too. What's up with the popularity of the "gothic" look these days? I've noticed a lot of young women with a very pale complexion dying their hair black, wearing black lipstick and nail polish, and adorning themselves with tattoos and jewelry in morbid shapes like spiders and skulls. I think the end result is hideous.

For that matter, I don't understand the appeal of tattoos or body piercing at all. Would someone like to attempt to demystify this for me?

That Journalist said...

I used to be considered a "light-skinned" girl. But my problem has never been my skin. I have ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS hated my hair. ALWAYS.

I would frown and cringe whenever it was "touch-up" time, and I would be beaming ear-to-ear whenever I got my relaxer. I contemplated cutting all my relaxed hair off so I could rock a natural style, but I chickened out as soon as I got into the chair at the salon.

I hope my daughter doesn't grow up with the same issues I have....

Paula Neal Mooney said...

Yes, Daniel, the way we sometimes denigrate ourselves can be confusing.

I know I rock the black nail polish now and again, though. Only because it became trendy and fashionable. But I've never been into the goth thing...

Hey Tara - I feel you.

You're speaking to a woman who right now has extenstions with blonde highlighted braided into her hair!

Laura said...

Oh my, this does bring back the teen years with a vengeance!

There is such a tendency during those years to hold one's self up to impossible and ridiculous standards. For me, it was body image. I had curves in an era when curves weren't very popular. I thought I was fat and dieted my 5' 7" self down to 88 pounds one year.

What we self-haters forget and need to be reminded of is that beauty comes from the inside out. The longer I live, the more I realize that it's true.

This doesn't even take into account the fact that Christ thought each of us important enough to die for and self-hatred is like slapping Him in the face.

Excellent post Paula!

Paula Neal Mooney said...

That is so true, Laura.

Jesus does see us as beautiful, though all the world may not.

And I'm so glad you survived from being down to 88 lbs.

Starvation is even more trendy these days, unfortunately with three models dying last year from it.

NtycnBoricua said...

I actually wrote a post about that video on NtycnBoricua. When I first saw the video, I was just saddened, but at the same time, not really surprised at the outcomes of her study.

http://ntycnboricua.blogspot.com

notfearingchange said...

Lightening creams!?! seriously...wow.

Jose said...

Hi Paula,

This is poignant post. As a people we are still suffering the external and internal trauma of slavery and racism (which is the code word for hatred). The trouble is healing the psyche is a difficult task one person, much less a whole people. But it is very necessary!

Believe it or not, I'm on the phone with a friend of mine discussing this very post right now. I wanted to tell him about it, but he found it before I could get to him. Hopefully, you will meet him soon. He and his wife plan to start blogs of their own.

I hope you had a good weekend!
Jose

Paula Neal Mooney said...

Hi Mami Dearest - The video is sad. I'm gonna head on over to your blog and read your post about it.

And yes, NotFearingChange (How I wish I could find your real name on your blog), I confess. I've used the lightening creams, which more so just even out my skin tone.

Have you seen them?

Hey Jose - I guess I didn't realize you were black. Are you? No pics on your blog of you that I've seen.

But thank you so much for discussing this post with your friend. It's amazing that he found it himself!

Thanks all and love,
Paula

Jennifer said...

This is something that has always been foreign to me. My grandmother is about your shade, Paula; my mother is quite lighter. I never grew up thinking that light skin made a woman prettier, and I never recall wanting lighter skin, not even to look like my mother. I don't know if it was conscious effort on my family's part to make sure I never grew up color conscious, or if I just never paid any attention (my aunt and great-grandmother are brown-skinned women). It makes me so, so sad when I read things like this is so rampant in not only the black community, but apparently darn near every minority group that exists! What do we do to combat such a thing? Where do we even start? Maybe we can't save our generation, but we sure as hell can fight to save the next one from the kind of pain that you apparently have felt before.

Paula Neal Mooney said...

I cried and cried watching Oprah's Memorial Day episode, which featured Kiri Davis, the black girl who -- along with her mother, sat on Oprah's couch discussing this new race doll study and matters of light-skin versus dark-skin.

Oprah recounted the story of when she knew she was brown-skinned when she went to live with a very fair-skinned woman and the woman made Oprah sleep on the porch, while the lighter-skinned child got to sleep in the house.

This Oprah show was so touching.

It featured a dark-skinned young man and his mother, who had prayed that her son not be born dark-skinned because of all the pain she herself had encountered.

I could relate to her pleas in a way, because for all my enlightenment, I do find myself checking out the gorgeous darker skin of my son and daughter as we tan in the summer.

Thank God for Dr. Robin, ironically herself very light, for saying that the mom needed to deal with her own skin-color issues.

Of course she's right, but it probably would've sat better coming from the very dark and gorgeous producer Oprah said she has that has a wonderful attitude about herself.

Hope Op brings her on the next show.

Oh well, today's show should be good too, cause Robin Thicke is coming back to Oprah for the 2nd time for a second appearance!

Viewer demand brought Robin Thicke back to Oprah...

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