Will African American women ever tire of discussing the inherent problems of being born with dark skin instead of light skin?

Apparently not.

In a new documentary called “Dark Girls, which will be featured on Oprah Winfrey’s OWN network, the film “goes underneath the surface to explore the prejudices that dark-skinned women face throughout the world. It explores the roots of classism, racism and the lack of self-esteem within a segment of cultures that span from America to the most remote corners of the globe. Women share their personal stories, touching on deeply ingrained beliefs and attitudes of society, while allowing generations to heal as they learn to love themselves for who they are.”

It’s an age-old topic. The documentary explores the deep-seated biases and attitudes about skin color, particularly dark-skinned women. While the subject is not groundbreaking, the approach seems novel by allowing black women to share their stories, some perhaps for the first time.

But in an era where black unemployment remains an unacceptable 13.5 percent, public schools are closing at an alarming rate, millions of black children are living in poverty, and millions of blacks are managing without health care, is a film about dark-skinned black women relevant?

Still, it’s a topic that conjures visceral reactions.

While visiting Cancun several years ago, one African American woman remembers the compliments and attention she received on a trip to Cancun.

“When I got over there, I had the men all at my feet. I got a proposal, I got gifts. I’m like, ‘What is going on?'” she says. “They would tell me, ‘You have such beautiful skin. Is that your hair? Did you dye it? Is that your natural color?'”

It’s an entirely different reaction than she gets from other African Americans. “Black folks look at me like, ‘She’s just black. Why are they tripping so?'” the woman says. “It’s really questionable to me. Why is it that… my own people don’t see any beauty in me at all?”

Also in the video, another African American woman shares her own experience with black men, explaining how they behave one way privately and a completely different way when it comes time to venture out in public.

And other black women share painful personal stories:

“I can remember being in the bathtub asking my mom to put bleach in the water so that my skin would be lighter and so that I could escape the feelings I had about not being as beautiful, as acceptable, as lovable.”

“She’s pretty for a dark-skinned girl … What is that supposed to mean?”

“They used to say, ‘You stayed in the oven too long.’ ”

“It was so damaging … it made it seem like we weren’t wanted; that we were less than.”

“The racism that we have as people amongst ourselves is a direct backlash of slavery.”

The world television premiere of the “Dark Girls” documentary airs on Sunday, June 23, at 10 p.m. ET on OWN.

Is a film about dark-skinned black women an important issue in 2013? What do you think?

41 thoughts on “OWN’S Film About Dark-Skinned Black Women: Is It Still Relevant in 2013?

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  7. Fran H. on said:

    The darkskin vs. lightskin, which looks good and which doesn’t ideology in the black community is still an issue. Older African American women are carrying the scars from childhood, and younger African American girls unfortunately are experiencing that scaring as we are having this conversation. It’s hard to believe that we are still hurting from other peoples insults hundreds of years ago. Just like the n word we as a people have come to own someone else’s view of us. Of course black women are not viewed as beautiful in this society. But we are. And adult black women have to kick that negative image that society has fostered of us to the curb and teach our girl children to do the same. And we need to stop being ulgy to one another my sisters, we are our worst emeny. Black women’s beauty isn’t about the outside the color of our skin, it’s about how we carry ourselves. Only we can put an end to centuries of hurt, let’s start lifting one another up instead of tearin each other down.

  8. Patricia on said:

    I think this topic is one sided b/c light skinned blacks has it hard too among the dark skinned women so its two sides to every story.As a light skinned black woman myself it wasn’t easy for me growing up in the 60’s dark skinned girls always bullied me and try to beat me up b/c of my light skinned and long hair. It wasn’t fair that I always had carry a can,bottle in my bookbag to protect myself, yes it was just that bad.I always called red b&$th ,sh*t color and other names that were offensive to me ,I never done anything to them , I was always the nice girl never let my looks went to my head.I even had problems with certain family members on a same cause as well ,lets just say I went through hell and back growing up.I think all skin color is beautiful indeed it is!. But it’s not fair to just make this all about dark skinned women being treated badly ,hey we light skinned and biracial women have some stories to share too !.

    • Buckwheats Momma on said:

      I agree with you, and people need to understand that there is another side to this story.
      Again, to get to the real issues, and to come to honest conversation, all of the sides muct come to the table. Honesty is the key.

  9. Lady G on said:

    I agree that it isn’t always a negative home life contributing to low self-esteem for those with darker skin. When we’re older the reactions have little to no sting but it is difficult for some young girls who can’t escape social settings where there are repeat insults hurled at dark skinned girls. Many young girls with varying skin tones listen to the same music, watch the same media, are attracted to the same young men, so they know there are outside preferences that don’t always look kindly towards darker girls, even when family affirms their beauty.

    The truth is that ALL of these young ladies are beautiful, dark, light, damn-near white, etc., and girls should be constantly reminded to take care of the beauty God gives us, but know that attraction is more than just skin and hair features. As mature women, we should make it a priority to connect with efforts that promotes young black beauty and confidence in more than just externals, but also in positive character, and gift development.

    • joey on said:

      @ Lady G I agree with you. but the thing for me, I think we have to walk in there shoes,, WE really do not understand what they are facing. I was discussing this with my mother. and we do not understand what they face everyday being dark skinned.

      I have always wondered why this subject came up again. because white people do not understand what we are talking about. being a LIGHT-SKINNED BLACK WOMAN I MYSELF WAS BULLIED. AS EARLY AS THE THIRD GRADE. I mean you have to understand what it was like being in my shoes.

      Being beat up or called Yellow-Bi***ch half black half white. but when I fill out applications and they ask what is your background I check African American. So I agree we have to Embrace all the colors we make up as people with Color. GOD he/or she is of Color. so we have remind our-selves that he or/she was of color. so he created us in his Image. and that is what I look to. for my answers. we have to stop this Cruel, Evil/ness we bring upon Ourselves. WE do this to ourselves.

  10. MsDee on said:

    I’m a light skinned Sista but my Mamma was dark and my Daddy light, so we r the rainbow family. This whole light skinned dark skinned is usually home grown. I grew up in a family where you could have been green u were still taught to be proud of yourself and your family. My problem was the outside people who discriminated against me for being too light you need some sun, bright light damn near white, and a whole lot of other crap I heard, but once again my Parents made me know who I am and whose I am. My favorite doll was a two feet high Black doll, and remember there wer no light skinned dolls then, With hair I had to wet and roll to give her a curl. All this to say if she want to go there with the whole Dark Skinned thing the she need to do it both ways. Because Oprahs dark, Brown, then she is only taking it from one side but be fair & give all sides.

  11. dottie on said:


  12. Diane on said:

    If little children think that they are not beautiful because if their skin color then they are being taught that from their parents. Your parents are your biggest influence as a child so if there is a negative vibe in the home then that will come out in the child . I think it is insane that this little girl on the commercial for this documentary says she doesn’t like being called black . That is offensive to my sensibilities and I’m white ! Any and every child is beautiful and it’s a shame that the parents of this child are letting their daughter become a ” victim ” . How about stop re enforcing negative thoughts like asking a 6 year old to show them the ” pretty ” child and start installing in your child that she’s beautiful as one of Gods children and to be proud of who she is regardless of skin color .

    • Angel on said:

      I would love to agree with you Diane, but I cannot. Unfortunately, even when the parents consistently tell their beautiful black daughters that they are beautiful, they are still met with comments to the contrary in school and other social settings. Additionally, there are so few darker complected women being depicted in a positive light in the media that our little girls don’t get to see positive images of themselves. Parents should always tell their children they are smart and beautiful, but that is not the magic wand that erases racism or the skin tone drama that occurs within the black community. In a perfect world all children would know they are beautiful and have the potential to be whatever they want to be in life…in a perfect world.

      • Natalie on said:

        I wholeheartedly agree with your comments, Angel. I was criticized for underscoring media’s influence on young Black girls esteem. I don’t think we should just broad stroke and say that it all starts and ends with what you’re being fed at home. Like it or not, our young people are largely influenced by what they’re seeing on big & small screens and coming through the air waves. To say they should ‘rise above’ that and not be effected is completely unrealistic. We can’t even portray ‘us’ in stories of ‘us’. Case & point the biopic of Nina Simone, who herself battled with her own insecurities as a result of the pain and rejection she experienced for have dark skin. Instead of getting a beautiful Black actress with a complexion close to that of Simone, Zoe Saldana is cast and given a ridiculous make up job to alter her light brown complexion and widen her nose. I find that to be quite ridiculous. Taking no credit away from Saldana as an actress but getting a Latina to play a Black woman makes no sense at all. That makes as much sense as George Lopez playing Dr, King.

  13. Ashley on said:

    Of course it is an important issue. Not just for dark skinned people but for everyone. The author’s tone is almost offensive. What I received from the beginning and end is will dark skinned women shut up about their painful experiences dealing with skin color. I won’t be visiting this website again. Thanks.

  14. Fake hair braided onto girl’s head as young as five years old. Weaves, fake nails and light contact lenses as soon as they hit jr. high. Breast augmentations for 16th birthday presents. The people who are supposed to teach are instead the main perpetrators. It will only get worse.

    • Apparently not. In your gallery of Dark Skinned Beauties you only show three (3) ladies. In all of our history only three women of color rate being called beautiful? I know not. If you only look at today’s public figures there are many, many more. How bad and sad for you..

  15. blackspeak on said:

    Black folks need to realize that they need to take control of their images. As long as they want to allow non-white people to define their standards of beauty, they will always be having these nonsensical discussions about hair, and skin color…

  16. Truth be told! on said:

    It is mostly seen in the celebrity world. That point is valid & true to statement. Majority of People I see & know are dating within their race. I have a dark-skinned female friend who is in a relationship with a white man. She said she tried black men & they kept on failing her. To me its who & why you attract the foolish ones. But you have to look within yourself. Don’t take any mess & the right one will coem along. Every relationship has its ups & downs….you just have to determine which person you want to ride along with in that long-term journey. Celebrity mean down talk dark-skin women but thats ok. Its their right & their opinion. Know your worth & keep it moving…we are all beautiful women in God’s eyes. We are made in his image…embrace it!

  17. Natalie on said:

    It’s more shocking to see your black male celebrities with a beautiful brown sister (whose racial identity is not ambiguous) than to see them with an ‘other’. Black women statistically are the least likely to date outside their race, which speaks volumes about our commitment to the brothers…for better or worse. The sisters are still holding out hope that Denzel or Billy Dee will show up on our doorstep with roses while our brothers are hoping for a Kim Kardashian proxy. I personally am disheartened by this. I’m not a dark skinned woman per se but you can look at me and w/o question see that I am a Black woman. I often feel invisible to Black men…like they’re looking through/around me to look at the ethnically vague woman.

    • Buckwheats Momma on said:

      Why in the world would black men look through and around you? Is this your experience with all black men? Perhaps it is not your being black that is the issue if that is the case.
      Juust because a man is black does not mean he wants to be with you. We need to stop this thought process that black men prefer white women, some do, however the majority of black men (no matter their profession) har are black women. Only a small percentage are with “other” women.
      Please stop comparing celebrities with regular folks. Celebrities are in the minority, the real folks are out here.
      If in fact you always experience black men rejecting you then I suggest you take a long look at yourself, and stop blowing it off as black men not wanting to be with black women. That is simply not true!
      Please do not take my comment as an insult. However, we are in discussion so we may as well put it out there!

      • joey on said:

        @ Buckwheats Momma, I do agree that all black men do not prefer white women, and yes your right

        about celebs, yes they can do be whatever they want. but the black men that have been my friends,
        prefer SISTAHS,, They are married to black women.

        I do agree with what you said about celebs, they make up a certain Percentage, and why are we looking at them anyway The majority of black men prefer to be with a black woman.

  18. Natalie on said:

    Pay attention to what you see and hear in the media and tell me this isn’t still a relevant issue… Your self hating rapper du jour spits lyrics laced with disdain for young ladies with darker skin complexions. The objects of media affection and attention are always the light skin, exotic beauties. It’s prevelant in every aspect of the entertainment industry. That’s not to say that we should determine our self worth by what we see & hear in the media but culture is effected directly by the media and vice versa.

    • Buckwheats Momma on said:

      Once again you are talking about “celebrities”!!
      Focus on the real world, and in the real world the majority of black men still prefer and are with black women!

    • Buckwheats Momma on said:

      Our girls would not be questioning themselves IF they were raised to have high self esteem and respect for themselves. If you were from a family that made you know you were as good as anyone you would not be questioning yourself.
      The media favors attractive people no matter what their race or color, and will continue to do so.
      It is what you have been taught about yourself, not the media that matters.
      I happen to know many really dark skinned beauties who have everything anyone else has, including good black men. We need to dig deeper into this issue and not just blame it on what the “media” is doing.

  19. Unfortunately it’s still relevant today. I still hear children commenting on skin color today. The conversation usually is someone isn’t pretty because he or she is too dark. The show is not perpetuating the light skin vs. dark skin issue. It appears to be showing that we are still locked into a standard of beauty that favors more European features than our own. Ideally we shouldn’t let Hollywood or the advertising industry define beauty for us but that’s not the case. All you have to do is watch one of the many entertainment shows and inevitably some so called news journalist will say that every woman or man in America wants to look like some white actor or actress. Blacks also play a key role in passing the self-hate on to their children who in turn go to school and tell other children they are not pretty because their skin is too dark. When are we going to get it in our heads that black is black to the rest of the world. They don’t care if you are a light or dark black person; you are still hated because you are identified as black. We are the ones who are doing most of the damage.

  20. I think you have to love yourself, I am a light color of black and I got called high yellow when I was a child and I also got beat up because they said I thought I was cute which was not true. I was told people my color worked in the master house and the darker color worked outside, well I was never a slave and neither was they. My grandmother was white and her husband was black and my dad is yellow and my mother is a light brown. I think black is beautiful because we come in all shades.

    • joey on said:

      @ Renee I’m a light skinned black woman who was beat up everyday by the dark skinned girls I was to young to understand. this was back in the 70’s

      They harrassed me everyday. until I fought back, I mean they tried to cut my hair off, and they tore up my clothes,,

      But I realized later on. that black people hurt each other, we always have hated each other and our ourselves we where taught to do that..

      We have to address this because are young black girls are being bullied about the color of there skin
      by other black girls,, its not even about the white girls,, its young black who are doing this to Our young girls,,

      But we have to realize that we make up all kinds of color’s that is the bottom line. but yes I would like to discuss it. I was bullied everyday in the third grade. and yes it bothered me for many years because I did not understand it…

      But today I cannot believe that the scar is here,, today because it has come back to haunt me.
      here it is 2013 and we are still calling each other Blackie and you are Ugly with your black self,,
      WHY? do we do this to Ourselves, we need to stop hating on OURselves and start loving ourselves,
      before we ruin our next Generation. I’m glad we are addressing it again. it needs to be talked about
      and we need to find a solution on How to learn to Respect EACH OTHER BACKGROUNDS,,,

  21. I’m over it. You can be light and ugly, dark and pretty,and vice versa. The commercial showed a lay who said that her own people didn’t think she looked good. I don’t think that’s because of her skin colour. People need to keep it real. Work with what you have. Confidence is beautiful in any shade. These shows help to continue to perpetuate this drama and give other races a conversation piece. We have to feel good about ourselves.

    • Felicia on said:

      Tami, I feel the exact same way! I was just about to click on another story and be done with the topic when I saw your post… Perfectly stated. If this is a wide spread issue in Black America, I’m not sure how this documentary is going to help.

  22. Buckwheats Momma on said:

    Unfortunately, this is a problem that has roots (among other things) from some of our own families. How many times have some heard that they were black, ugly, black as tar, and so forth from an angry parent, and also thrown in with very bad curse words. We must acknowledge that it is OUR problem to resolve, and no one else can fix it for us, no matter how we got that way.
    We know what happened to us. We know what happened to our ancestors, but now we can begin to resolve these negative issues ourselves.
    Fortunately I come from a family that had blue eyed blonds to the darkest chocolate, and we all were taught to have high self esteem. We knew we were as good as any others.
    Also understand that the lighter-hued black people did not have it all that easy. They suffered as well, but “we” never want to talk about that.
    Hopefully this doc will teach us something so we can began to put this color issue behind us. There is so much more important issues that we need to be focused on.
    And, dark skinned women, please STOP bleaching your skin.

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