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Review of the Movie Dark Girls: Powerfully Moving But Not Entirely Accurate

June 14, 2012

Although the black community has adopted the mottos that black is beautiful and the darker the berry the sweeter the juice, from the looks of most music videos many black men prefer their women light, bright and darn near white.  The documentary, “Dark Girls”, made by Bill Duke and D. Channsin Berry attempts to explore this contradiction. 

As the co-founder of a romantic networking site for black women and all men, www.loveessence.com, I was deeply interested in seeing the film.  After all, I have invested in a dating site that celebrates the beauty and desirability of all black women from the milkier tones of Paula Patton and Beyonce to the more sepia tones of Naomi Campbell and Ajak Deng.

 

Bill Duke and D. Channsin Berry have done a heroic job of tackling the controversial topic of colorism and they have done so with both compassion and intellect.  The movie begins with a historical perspective on colorism which covers the tension between the light-skinned house slaves who were often the illegitimate children of the masters versus the dark-skinned non-mixed field slaves.  Most profoundly, the documentary points out that for the vast majority of black people’s history in the United States the mainstream culture did not even recognize black people as human, not less physically beautiful.  

But the movie’s power derives from its elucidation of how this sordid history of slavery, Jim-Crow and internalized racism has impacted the collective black psyche, with particular emphasis on the emotional states of the darkest women among us.  The movie powerfully shares the heart-wrenching stories of many dark-skinned women who have been ridiculed, humiliated and deemed invisible by other black people as a result of their skin tones.  The most tragic scene occurs when a little dark-skinned girl points to a picture of a darkest little girl in a lineup and states that the darkest girl is ugly and least intelligent because “she black”.   Many decades late the Brown v. Board of Ed test of children’s perceptions of white superiority and black inferiority appear to still hold true.

Sadly, the movie reveals that self-hate surrounding darker skin is a complex shared by people of color all over the world.  The film discusses the phenomenon of skin bleaching, a $40 billion dollar industry, in the former European colonies of Africa and Asia as well as the notion of “advancing the race” by marrying lighter in Latin America.  

Any film on colorism would be incomplete without a discussion of how the media perpetuates the “light is right” image.  “Dark Girls” includes this discussion but the viewer is left frustrated because the film-makers never confront media decision-makers. There are few to no interviews with casting directors and hip hop moguls who are so instrumental to shaping those perceptions of beauty.  Also glaringly absent are interviews with wealthy black men who, according to studies, tend to be more likely to employ the paper bag and snow and blow tests in their romantic lives.

In the end, the movie calls for self-healing and for darker-hued women and states that the healing has to come from within and black women cannot wait for black men to affirm them.  Further, the film advises families and communities to affirm the beauty of young dark girls.  The documentary ends with the uplifting message “dark girls rise”.

Although I applaud the film-makers and would whole-heartedly recommend this powerful documentary to all people, I believe that the movie failed to give a completely accurate representation of what it is to be a dark girl.  The movie included testimonies of dark-skinned men who admired dark chocolate beauties and desired to affirm their own image by having dark-skinned children.  It also had testimonies of white men who adored dark-toned beauty.  However there was not one testimony of a dark-skinned woman who has always been confident of her beauty and who has been consistently complemented in the black community.

It is true that most dark-skinned women are acutely aware of the glorification of light-skinned women, but that glorification has not completely defined our experience.  I’m very dark with natural hair and seldom is there a day in which I walk down the streets of New York City without a black male complimenting me on my beauty and that experience of being affirmed by black men and women has held true during my visits to places as distant as Ghana, Barbados, Brazil and the Dominican Republic.  I think I am pretty but I know that I’m not unique as it would take fewer than ten minutes in Detroit, Kingston or Accra to spot my look-alike.  Further, my experience is far from the exception among dark-skinned women. 

 

I know many dark-skinned women who were the “it” girls in high-school and college and remain highly sought after as relationship and marriage partners by black men.  I think that providing such examples of deep chocolate toned women would have been inspirational while serving to accelerate our collective healing process by demonstrating that common acknowledgement of dark-skinned beauty is not just possible but actual.

 

In short, I believe that as black people, our knowledge of dark-hued beauty has amounted to more than moments of lucidity in a long-history of racism-induced psychosis.  Our knowledge of our diverse beauty has been enduring despite the fact we are still struggling to perfect that knowledge in the face of structural racism and the hip hop holocaust.  For example, the media certainly has colorist tendencies but the beauty of Kenya Moore and Lauryn Hill has been widely acknowledged.  In other words, the prospect of dark girls rising is not as remote as the “Dark Girls” documentary would have us believe.

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4 Comments
  1. .
    There is no proof that a ‘color-based slave hierarchy’
    (or that ‘color-based social-networks’) ever existed
    as common entities — within the continental U.S.
    .
    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Generation-Mixed/message/4154
    .
    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Generation-Mixed/message/4153
    .
    It was the ‘Rule of Matriliny (ROM) — [a.k.a. ‘The Rule of Partus’
    (ROP)] — and NOT the racist-‘One-Drop Rule’ (ODR) — that was
    used to ‘create more enslaved people’ on the continental U.S.
    .
    This is because the chattel-slavery system that was
    once found on the antebellum-era, continental U.S.
    was NOT “color-based” (i.e. “racial”) — but rather
    — it was actually “mother-based” (i.e. ‘matrilineal’).
    .

    .
    There were many ways (and not solely the sexual assault
    and sexual exploitation of the women-of-color) in which
    ‘white’ lineage entered the familial bloodlines of
    enslaved-people found on the continental U.S.
    .
    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Generation-Mixed/message/4238
    .
    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Generation-Mixed/message/4239
    .
    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Generation-Mixed/message/4240
    .
    An ‘Ethnic’ category is NOT the
    same thing as a “Race” category:

    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Generation-Mixed/message/4236
    .

    .
    http://www.facebook.com/notes/%C2%ADallpeople-gifts/the-facts-on-m%C2%ADixed-race/321878451159708
    .
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    .

  2. .
    There is actually no such thing as a so-called “Light-Skinned
    Black” person … but rather … such individuals and groups
    are actually people who are of a ‘Multi-Generational
    Multiracially-Mixed’ (MGM-Mixed) Lineage that some may
    have been pressured or encouraged to ignore or downplay.
    .
    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Generation-Mixed/message/4160
    .
    People of Mixed-Race lineage should NOT feel pressured to
    ‘identify’ according to any standards other than one’s own.
    .
    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Generation-Mixed/message/4157
    .
    The legal -application of the racist-‘One-Drop Rule’
    (ODR) was banned in the U.S. way back in 1967.
    .
    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Generation-Mixed/message/4162
    .
    http://www.facebook.com/groups/253286018082418/permalink/253341891410164
    .
    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Generation-Mixed/message/4187
    .
    http://www.facebook.com/groups/253286018082418/permalink/253341281410225
    .
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    .
    Listed below are related Links of ‘the facts’ of the histories
    of various Mixed-Race populations found within the U.S.:
    .
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    .
    There is no proof that a ‘color-based slave hierarchy’
    (or that ‘color-based social-networks’) ever existed
    as common entities — within the continental U.S.
    .
    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Generation-Mixed/message/4154
    .
    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Generation-Mixed/message/4153
    .
    It was the ‘Rule of Matriliny (ROM) — [a.k.a. ‘The Rule of Partus’
    (ROP)] — and NOT the racist-‘One-Drop Rule’ (ODR) — that was
    used to ‘create more enslaved people’ on the continental U.S.
    .
    This is because the chattel-slavery system that was
    once found on the antebellum-era, continental U.S.
    was NOT “color-based” (i.e. “racial”) — but rather
    — it was actually “mother-based” (i.e. ‘matrilineal’).
    .

    .
    There were many ways (and not solely the sexual assault
    and sexual exploitation of the women-of-color) in which
    ‘white’ lineage entered the familial bloodlines of
    enslaved-people found on the continental U.S.
    .
    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Generation-Mixed/message/4238
    .
    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Generation-Mixed/message/4239
    .
    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Generation-Mixed/message/4240
    .
    An ‘Ethnic’ category is NOT the
    same thing as a “Race” category:

    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Generation-Mixed/message/4236
    .

    .
    Other Topics:
    .

    .

    .
    http://www.facebook.com/notes/%C2%ADallpeople-gifts/the-facts-on-m%C2%ADixed-race/321878451159708
    .
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    .

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  4. Johnf836 permalink

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