Light Skin vs. Dark Skin

When you see the title “Light Skin vs. Dark Skin”, you may have assumed that this was about White people vs. Black people. Well it’s not. What if I told you it was about Black people vs. Black people? What if i told you it was about an online war between Black people?

When the issue of online racism was introduced in class, I was very quick to argue that it did not exist. Racism, however, takes a number of different forms that I failed to acknowledge. One of these forms is called “colorism”. Colorism is the idea that people are not only racist against other races, but against different pigmentations within their own race as well. For example, in 2011, a Twitter war sparked between “light-skin” and “dark-skin” Black people. Roots trace this disagreement back to the days of slavery when the dark skin slaves were supposedly given harder labor; but this disagreement has recently gone viral as a result of the rapid changes in web technology.

Twitter hashtags, such as #TeamDarkSkin and #TeamLightSkin, have provided online spaces for these “teams” to congregate and bash each other. Their arguments tend to focus on the stereotypes that surround the two different pigmentations. While dark-skin supposedly suggests ugly girls, unfaithful men, and “ghetto”; light skin supposedly suggests better hair, better looking, and overall more appealing.

Here are some examples of tweets found from the dark-skin vs. light-skin “war”:

1.) The lightskin vs. darkskin hate goes way back to slavery times when the lightskins was in the house and darkskins was outside in the field.

2.) Light skin girls >>>>>

3.)dark skin girls are the prettiest to me. their skin is always poppin & they have this glow about them.

4.) dark skin boys >>>> Light skin boys *shrugs*

5.) Dark Skin hoes only good for directions & lighting cigarettes

6.) “@steezyshatto: Dark skin girls shoplift hair at least 5 times a weak. Broke bald headed bitches ” lol

7.) Honestly To Me Dark Skin Girls Are More Beautiful Than Light Skin Girls. ♥


Celebrities, such as Beyonce, have even played into this #TeamDarkSkin vs. #TeamLightSkin in a more indirect way. The stereotype is that light-skinned black girls are more beautiful because they more closely resemble the European standard of beauty. In fact, studies have shown that people with light skin are placed on a social scale just below white people and significantly ahead of people with dark skin. So why wouldn’t all girls want to represent the more socially acceptable idea of beauty? That’s just what Beyonce did. In 2008, Beyonce was in a L’Oreal ad that depicted her with much lighter skin and lighter hair than normal. The photo seems to be digitally edited, but Beyonce denies it. Here is the evidence:

What do you think? Should technology be used to digitally enhance women? Should black women feel the need to lighten their skin to be more beautiful? Has this light-skin vs. dark-skin war gotten out of control? Should Twitter have some sort of control over this war?

8 responses to “Light Skin vs. Dark Skin

  1. To answer your first question, “Should technology be used to digitally enhance women?”, I obviously think that we should not. But that doesn’t change the fact that women have been digitally modified in a plethora of ways for a while now. Not only are they making black women lighter, but they give the really white girls tans and make them have flawless skin and photo shop them to be much smaller than they actually are. I think this is a much deeper issue than just darkening/lightening skin. Women are being made into something they are not through digital enhancements.

    To answer your second question “Should black women feel the need to lighten their skin to be more beautiful?”, well of course they should not. But again, the society we live in almost demands perfection in women’s appearance. The same question should be asked about white women. Should they feel a need to tan their skin to feel beautiful? Of course they shouldn’t have to, but “normative” beauty calls for a perfect tan. No one should have to change anything about their appearance to feel beautiful but that’s not how society views things. I know for me personally, people used to make comments all the time on my light complexion in negative ways and I always wished I had darker skin.

    As far as the last two questions go, it is hard to say whether it’s out of control and whether twitter should do anything to stop it. What is considered out of control? Are these comments sometimes offensive? Yeah, they are. But what is the difference between out of control and releasing your opinion to the world? I think that unless there are extreme cases of offensive language, or someone is actually threatened based on their skin color, then Twiiter should let these people express their thoughts on the matter like everyone else has the right to free speech. We may not always agree with people, but they still have a right to talk about the subject no matter how controversial and/or ridiculous we think it is.

  2. I thought your post was very interesting, and raised many interesting points. First, these comments on twitter are hurtful and not acceptable, but these people are only expressing their opinion, and, as discussed in class, our freedom of speech allows them to do so unless threats are made or the comments use excessive amounts of derogatory, explicit language. However, the way the way these opinions are expressed currently are extremely hurtful to the members within the dark skinned community, and should not be tolerated.

    Technology should not be used to digitally enhance women. Advertisements and other digital media depicting women portray an unrealistic example of what real women look like. Digitally enhanced women in digital media are harmful to real women in a society because they distort, as you mentioned in your post, our body image in many different ways and make us feel as though we need to change ourselves in some way, whether it be in lightening already dark skin, darkening very light skin, losing fifteen pounds, or even cosmetic surgery. Women should in no way feel as though they need to change their outside appearance in order to become what society believes is beautiful.

    The idea that dark skinned women feel the need to lighten their skin in order to feel beautiful is essentially the same as someone like me, with very fair skin tanning to achieve that sought after sun-kissed glow. While advertisements and digital media give us the idea that a perfect tan is ideal and beautiful, for many, regardless of skin color, this is simply not achievable, nor is okay. Every woman should feel comfortable and beautiful in her own skin regardless of the color and what society makes us think is beautiful.

  3. Obviously in an ideal society, advertisements would not use technology to alter real women and women would never feel inadequate in their skin. However, due to natural insecurities, fashion trends, and of course, at times, racism, the majority of women (not to exclude men) are constantly comparing themselves to others, and that often results in wishing they were different, in either subtle ways or major ones. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with admiring the beauty of another woman’s skin color—just as you might her hair, figure, etc.—so long as that isn’t causing you to feel badly about your own.

    Whether it is voiced or not, many people have aesthetic preferences between ethnicities and skin tones, whether that be guided by the media or not. Why is this; is it racist? Many of us are influenced by the media and society, so it is hard to say what preferences are really our own. My guess is the racism begins when someone cannot see the beauty in an entire race or anyone with a certain racial feature. Or of course, if these judgments are attached to deeper assumptions about the person.

    I think that is exactly what is alarming about the the dark-skin versus light-skin war (from what I’ve discerned from your blog post): that many of these comments imply that the tweeters have blatant stereotypes attached to the skin tones, making them inherently racist. This obviously takes the battle beyond aesthetics, when the character of the person or their value is in question.

    While these tweets are no doubt disturbing, I don’t think Twitter has a responsibility to intervene. Unfortunately, ignorant people exist, and luckily, we have a choice whether or not we want to “follow” them, in more than one sense of the word.

    Thanks for the post!

  4. You’ve raised some important concerns about this “Light Skin vs. Dark Skin” battle, such as the extent to which Twitter might control free speech, and the acceptability of digital enhancement (esp. skin lightening) of women in the media. This battle also worries me because of its implications for the goals of many African Americans to achieve greater acceptance and equality. Intolerance is present within many minority groups: lighter-skinned African Americans can be intolerant of darker-skinned African Americans, lesbians and gays can be intolerant of bisexuals and transsexuals, and women are often intolerant of feminist women. Though not all minority individuals are fighting for their rights, ethnic minorities, the LGBT community, and women, amongst other minority groups, do have histories of struggling for certain rights and acceptance. It’s always very disappointing for me to see in-group intolerance and discrimination between individuals who are already subject to endless out-group intolerance. It simply isn’t possible for minority groups to create change if they are fractured into smaller, opposing groups that are unwilling to work together.

  5. That sounds like a spectacularly silly “war.” But if people like spending their free time insulting each other on Twitter, they’re more than welcome to do so. Judging by the content of the tweets in the post, their feud doesn’t sound out of control or in need of censorship. The larger cultural conflicts that this war represents, though, are more concerning. Lighter skin does seem to be equated with beauty more often than not in the media and in marketing. When advertisers choose to perpetuate this nonsense by digitally altering images of women, they make boatloads of money, so they have no incentive to stop. Of course, making money is their only concern, and I don’t think they should be forced to stop. I do, however, think that women really ought to stop throwing fist-fulls of money at them.

  6. When I went to the Philippines in 2011, my cousins actually explained to me that the Filipinos with lighter skin actually had a better chance of doing well in politics or in the media and such. The stereotypes also reflect European values of attractiveness, as you said in your article, but it also has its roots in social classes; I think it’s because if you had pale skin, that means that you didn’t have to work or live out in the sun; if you had darker skin, it was because you lived out in the slums or you were poor. It’s really sad because whether a Filipino’s skin was light or dark, they’re still Filipino. And if you’re not familiar with the Philippines, it’s in deep poverty (a fourth of the population is below the poverty line), Such stereotypes for something as simple as skin color doesn’t help the country’s situation. It perpetuates an ‘us vs. them’ mentality and gives a reason to marginalize the other side.

    I don’t mean to disparage the African American side of the light vs. dark stereotypes, but I think it’s interesting how such stereotypes are perpetuated across other races. I’m pretty sure it exists in any sort of race that has a variation of skin tones. And it really sucks because it creates divides where there shouldn’t be. Such stereotypes are counterproductive to a better society. And while I don’t think Twitter should censor its users, doesn’t the fact that users have the ability to associate with others so easily on the Internet who agree with them simply perpetuate the problem rather than solve it? Just something to think about.

  7. I honestly don’t think technology should be used to digitally enhance a woman’s appearance. Using technology to change one’s appearance is a lot like trying to run away from one’s identity. Everyone is different and unique in their own way and we should accept ourselves for who we are. Unfortunately, just because we should doesn’t mean we will. We are always trying to present ourselves in a good way (for a job, on a date, etc.), and there is nothing wrong with that. It’s just, instead of trying to bring out the best in who they are, people go too far at times in trying to look like someone they’re not. Then again, who is to say they are who they are and who they aren’t? I’m sure there’s a lot of artists who would argue that technology helps bring out the best in their work, even if it does make their subject lighter or more disproportionate than normal. >.>

    The more the media tries to depict the “ideal” anything, the closer it starts becoming propaganda. Trying to convince people there’s only one way to look beautiful is just wrong. Just like the idiom says, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” The whole light vs dark war is a great example of this: some like light skin, others like dark skin, and still others prefer a shade in between. I say, black women should not think about what others think. Light or dark, we’re all still the same person on the inside.

    Freedom of expression is fine and dandy, but when one side starts bashing on the other, there in lies the problem. I would say the war has gotten out of control in the sense that people are taking it more seriously than they should. We are quick to judge others because its easier than judging ourselves. Hopefully, there hasn’t been anyone left scarred from the hurtful comments. Everyone might be entitled to their own opinion, but there are things that are better left unsaid and in thought. I don’t think Twitter should be held responsible as much as the people need to learn how to be more mature with their comments and realize the consequences of their words.

  8. I have never heard this topic “light skin vs. dark skin” and have never seen anything on twitter about it. But I definitely see it in ads. And it is not only for African Americans either… it is also seen in Asian cultures, a woman with light skin is seen as more beautiful than one with dark. Women are even going to the extent to lighten their skin with lotions and other lightening products. This traces back to their ancestry though (not the notion of wanting to “look american”). Browned skin was undesirable, since only the poor who had to work outside got it. Well off women used to apply all kinds of products to their skin to whiten them, even makeup that contained lead.

    I think that the editing that occurs in pictures is wrong, but can we really control it? Couldn’t we argue that it is a person’s 1st amendment right to do so? I think that as a society we need to make sure that people understand what we see in advertisements are not a true depiction of real life.

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