ByMahbuba Matovu

While wandering around the aisles in the Macy’s beauty department, a sales associate walks up to me and insists I try on a newly launched line of makeup. Now you know I’m not one to turn down such an offer, so I found me a seat.

Can I just say that my Gay-Dar is usually accurate but I prefer not to come to quick conclusions? That being said, judging from his dyed hair and abs sticking out from his “top”, this fine, artistic looking gentleman could have scored a smooth 70. He laid out his tools and brushes, and while he gathered some products and prepped my face, he stopped to look at me and said, “You’re one of the dark-skinned pretty ones.”

*Hits brakes* I’m sorry, one of…? Okay, yes, I’m guessing it was a compliment, but why dark-skinned? Can’t I just be pretty? Must I always be reminded that I am a symbol of hope for people of my skin shade to not be written off as animal-looking? If I was light-skinned would I still be considered as pretty, or do the standards differ?

Growing up in Uganda, where the majority of the population looked just like you, skin-shade was never really a topic of conversation. But here I was, a newly recruited flag-bearer, blessed with the responsibility of representing the “dark-skinned but pretty ones,” because rarely did humans with this skin tone look striking.

Which brings me to my question: What is the bar for being considered light or dark-skinned? Is there some kind of universal shade, in that everyone lighter is considered light skinned, and anyone darker considered dark-skinned? Also, since most dark-skinned people are assumed to be ugly, and light-skinned people assumed to be pretty, does anyone ever say, “You are pretty ugly for a light-skinned girl?”

As a young girl, the only Indians I ever saw had a certain (tan-ish) skin color. But then came a day, when I met one whose shade gave black people a run for their money. However, just because I had seen something for the first time, I did not run up to the man and say, “Oh hey, wow, you sure are dark for an Indian.” No, I waited to get to my house, where I privately googled, “Why are some Indians dark-skinned?”

Remember in 2013 when rapper, Kendrick Lamar, released his Poetic Justice song, and the blogs glorified him for having the courage to choose a dark-skinned lead-female (Brittany Sky) for his video?

And who dare forget the Lupita N’Yongo take-over. Sometimes I can’t help but wonder, between the Oscar winner’s talent and her skin color, which is more popular. Oh I bet you some people had never seen a girl that shade, that wasn’t a super model, slaying on the international red carpets. See, skin tones like hers normally belong on the fashion runways, or in brochures looking to raise funds for starving African children.

So here I was, having to make the quick decision as to whether I should simply say thank you, and thank God for being one of the dark-skinned pretty ones, or ‘school’ the gentleman and risk going home looking like a clown. “Thank you,” I replied, “You are one of the straight-looking gay ones.”