Qualified Beauty

My response to “Brown Skin Girl” (since we're all responding :))

Once again, Queen Bey drops a number that does not just turn ears, but hearts too. And it comes at an opportune time for me.

Of late, I realised discrimination was far more complicated than black and white, or woman and man. I have since resigned to the possibility that humans are inherently segregative. And it is apparent that the only solution to this epidemic is to encourage those at the receiving end of discrimination. Something, Queen Bey’s “Brown skin girl” achieved excellently. I am very particular about the music I listen to, and only take to songs that speak to my reality. When I say “Brown skin girl” came at an opportune time, I mean it came just weeks after I had lashed back at two WhatsApp status updates, of people who had been to my side of the country, and had mockingly commented on how “Black/ Dark” the place was. One even went ahead to call-out to a popular light skinned socialite, to visit the place and give it some “light”. Despite having one of the “kindest” phone contact lists among many of my friends and family, it happened. I worry at how, those with insensitive friends [both real and virtual] feel when they finally turn off the lights to sleep, and remember all the ugly things that were said about them.

My problem wasn’t really with their observation. It is a well known fact, that the North of Uganda has more dark skinned people, than any other place in country. My problem was with the tone of their posts. With the message written between the lines, which they hoped everyone would “get”, but defended with the usual dismissive line; “don’t take everything I post seriously”. If you do not want me to take you seriously, try Stand Up Comedy. My mind goes back to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED talk about the “Danger of a single story”. My phone contacts, had generalized one place, based on the one encounter they had; one visit. I on the other hand, had lived in that very same place, and had seen people of all skin tones; some as light as the the lightest people I had seen from other parts of the country.

For me, “Brown Skin Girl” is more than a song. It is an anthem for the girl who loves and is proud of her chocolate dark skin. But, it is also an encouragement for the girl who just bought a bleaching agent and is contemplating whether or not to go down that deceitful road of, a fairer skin means more beautiful. Colorism is a complex and subtle kind of discrimination among people of the same ethnic or racial group. The underlining prejudice of it, paints those with a lighter complexion beautiful, and dark as ugly; to the extent that a beautiful dark skinned person is labelled, a black beauty. I used this term for a long time, until I realised that calling a dark[er] person “black beauty”, meant that I saw them as not inherently beautiful, hence my finding another word to qualify their beauty.

Because of this thinking, many people – especially women expose themselves to cancer inducing chemicals in the hope of becoming “beautiful”. So, how do we change a culture that is subtle and yet very destructive? How do we stand up to an ideology that divides the world into a spectrum of beauty, and sees others as less worthy – because of something they did not choose? I believe it begins with each of us consciously adjusting our mindsets and passing it on to the next generation; hoping that one day it will be ingrained in our subconscious; that beauty and worth transcend skin color.

11 Comments

  1. In life, there are things we have not choice over such as our birth places and hence our kinsmen, on the other hand we have the power to change our mindsets and view of life….

    This piece is one of so much enlightenment. Thank you Eunice

    • Yes. You are right. It is amazing how we never consider that people have no control over how some things turn out. Like where we are born, our skin color etc. If we could judge other people’s worth primarily on what they have control over, the world would be a better place.

  2. This is blunt. The Black peoples of the world have been psychologically destroyed by Whites and Arabs and they are psychologically unable to respond by taking a course of action that puts them on a path to retribution or revenge. As a result, their self esteem is beneath the gutter and so ALL the Black peoples’ of the world internalize their anger and fight and insult each other on the basis of the smallest stratification. One common example is “tribe” and I use that word very broad to include Blacks in the diaspora as a “tribe” as well. Only recently, there has been a trend on social media where a group calling themselves “ADOS” has been on an anti-Black immigrant tirade. Other recent arrivals in the US from Africa insult Black Americans even though they contributed nothing to make the country what it is today, and came solely for economic benefits after Black Americans took a beating to make it possible for them. Tribe will never ever defeat “race” ever. As long as Black people do not unite on the basis of race we will keep having this discussion. Unite on the basis of race and exclude those who do not, and if necessary do like some other groups and punish the deviants. Its amazing how that would create change.

    • Yes. Tribalism is a real problem in Africa today. It is robbing us of the fruits of unity and collaboration. Tribalism is exacerbated by skin tone more than anything, with those of a lighter skin tone feeling more superior than those with darker skin tone. This is true even in other parts of the world.
      Make no mistake, we cannot blame them for this. History, Colonialism and Slave trade have ensured that this ideology is cemented in our minds; to the extent that even dark people will judge others based on skin color; oblivious of the fact that they are breeding the same poison that will come back and sting them.

  3. Interesting article!

    Do you think this also relates to the plump/skinny, tall/short etc and all the other contemporary definitions of beauty?

    Should we just say you are beautiful the way you are or are there characteristics that people will deem inherently beautiful and people have to accept themselves depending on the trend?

    • I think it is not the same case with plump/ skinny, tall/short.
      I think the colorism has more to do with what history has taught us
      That black (dark) is ugly and it is a color for slaves, low-lifes and good for nothings.

  4. I think it is not the same case with plump/ skinny, tall/short.
    I think the color thing has more to do with what history has taught us
    That black (dark) is ugly and it is a color for slaves, low-lifes and good for nothings.

  5. Well written. When Brown Skin Girl came out I felt that, even as a black skin girl. I call myself a black beauty not apologetically but to own that I am a black dark skinned woman and I too am beautiful like everybody else is

  6. Great read. Personally i do not like Beyonce’s music but I listened to Brown Skin and its a song I will play for my daughter until she understands that there is nothing apologetic about her.

  7. The thing is from childhood our minds have been tuned to believe that being light/white is the privilege and being dark a burden your forced to carry….I believe we need more and more enlightenment so that we tooo know we are privileged…thanxs Eunice

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