Featured Life as a Black Girl

The Secret Life of An African-American Light Skinned Girl 

By: Diamond Durant

I was always told I was black. I was black, but not quite black enough or not black black but still black to say the least. I was told that in my life, I would have certain privileges. Privileges that darker women would not be able to acquire and I should be grateful for that. I should be happy that I would be more desired for receptionist jobs and I should be overjoyed that if a white boy happened to like me, I would be eligible for a seat at family dinner because I’m not black black, remember?

I should much appreciate the automatic assumptions that I am from foreign, that if I have a weave it is my real hair, and that I’m way too narcissistic to give most boys the time of day. I should never ever complain about my skin because real black girls go through things every day that I will never be able to relate to.

I understand that my skin has privileged me in some ways. No, I was never bullied or called ‘burnt’, or compared to a monkey or a roach. I was never told by a boy that he didn’t like me because of my skin color. But, being told by people that I wasn’t black or I wasn’t black enough took a different toll on me.

I remember going to a camp when I was younger, where I became friends with a girl who happened to be white. We had gotten close, well, as close as two 12 year olds could be. She came to camp one day and told me that her father said we couldn’t be friends anymore. “My father told me that you’re still a nigger even though you look different. He said you’re the sneakiest kind of nigger because you never know what side you’re on.”

I let her walk away and I never spoke about it again. According to him I was the worst kind of nigger because I couldn’t pick a side. I never told my mom or anybody because I felt like I couldn’t. I never wanted to complain to the women in my family because I thought my struggles would never equate to theirs.

When I was in high school, I had never stared at my mother with as much admiration as I did when I started to hate my skin. Her melanin glowed to me and at a time where some girls my age wanted a boyfriend or bigger breasts, I wanted dark skin like my mother’s. I would often look at her and wonder how someone could call her skin ugly or unappealing when I looked at it and saw pure gold.

I grew up repulsed by the way my skin left visible acne scars all over my face and the way hair showed so easily on my body. My skin had became a sheet of just utter hate on my body that I wanted to tear off. I couldn’t tell anybody because it was unheard of, you know?

You never hear about a little light skinned girl wanting to be dark skin. It’s always the other way around. It’s always the little dark girl picking the light skinned baby doll and believing that it is the most complete and fascinating thing in the world.

The girls I went to school with growing up didn’t like me. I never blamed them though. It wasn’t their fault rather what they were taught, maybe by their parents and then from their grandparents and then their grandparent’s parents. They were programmed to believe that my black was beautiful and their’s wasn’t. It’s crazy how they hated me due to my skin tone and due to preconceived notions about me ‘thinking I was all that’ when I would have traded skin tones with them in a heart beat.

Once I graduated form high school I attended a HBCU, still self-conflicted about my skin. I thought to myself that I would fit right in without a second look. See, at a HBCU the colors vary from white to the most chocolate brown and it doesn’t matter what color you are. In college, people are much more mature and educated.

There wasn’t blatant colorism but it still existed subtly. It was being in History 101, learning about the Bantus and speaking in class and everyone turning around with a face I knew all too well. The face is 50/50. It says “Are you even fully black? Why are you talking?” mixed with “The light skinned girl is woke and she is interested in something besides her ownself? Wow.” It all comes down to this; colorism is another thing that was not created but forced upon us.

The white man separated us: darks and lights. We’re so caught up on these preconceived notions of each other, we fail to realize the big picture. Not to mention, black men sometimes don’t make it any better. As black women, we are pitted against each other based off of how we look: lightskin, darkskin, slim, thick, tall, short, weave, natural and the infamous good girl vs girl who shows a little more skin comparison.

Hate has been so imbedded in us, blacks hate other blacks for being black. We forget that as black women our struggles are much more alike than we admit. No one women’s struggle is less important than another one’s.

When it comes down to it we all share bloodlines with greats like Fanny Lou Hamer, Ella Baker, Dorothy Heights and Harriet Tubman, and each day we stand in the merit of their work. We progress and prosper while at the same time facing adversity, from being told we aren’t quite enough of this or too much of that. Despite these things and the various shades that we may come in we are all still black and are the similar in essence.

I grew to love the skin I’m in. All the acne scars and all the hair. I still look at my mother in amazement. I still watch her glow and I know that I glow too. That’s the great thing about black women, we all glow in different shades like crystallized stars across the darkest sky.

Know that your black will never be like her black. Your black is your black for a reason. You were coated in the most beautiful color so that you can be you. Look at the variety of shades of black women you see everyday with admiration and not spite. Her beauty does not take away from your own.

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49 Comments on "The Secret Life of An African-American Light Skinned Girl "

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Dajai Saunders
1 year 9 months ago

amazingly talented.

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Hunter
1 year 9 months ago

This was amazing. It opened my eyes, being darkskin because my struggle is the exact opposite. Amazing job Diamond!

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CocoPudge
1 year 9 months ago

Beautiful Article! I love it!!

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Tanya
1 year 9 months ago

Really great story!

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Sophia
1 year 9 months ago

I relate to this so much!! I really loved this and needed to read it!

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Kayla Walters
1 year 9 months ago

You might have just changed my life

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Anonymous
1 year 9 months ago

I love it go sis

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Teresa
1 year 9 months ago

Truly amazing. I am light skinned too and I can relate to a lot of things you wrote about in this article. Beautiful job!

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Lindsay
1 year 9 months ago

Great read!!

Guest
1 year 9 months ago

Thank you for sharing. I’m clueless on the whole subject somehow. I never paid attention to light or dark etc.

Guest
1 year 9 months ago

I am a medium brown color and my daughter is vanilla colored she is only 8 and has shown a disdain for her skin since she was old enough to voice an opinion in my family we have all shades and so I never knew of colorisim till I went to college my mother a dark brown woman bought my sister and I beautifully dolls that looked like us ex. me the nikki barbie and my sister the thersa barbie she taught u so love the skin were in and I do the same with my daughter telling her that… Read more »

Guest
1 year 9 months ago

Thank you for this article !!

Guest
1 year 9 months ago

Fantastic piece! Thank you for this great share. My favorite line is this one: “When it comes down to it we all share bloodlines with greats like Fanny Lou Hamer, Ella Baker, Dorothy Heights and Harriet Tubman, and each day we stand in the merit of their work.” – Diamond Durant

Guest
1 year 9 months ago

Yes!! This is my life!!! Thank you for bringing awareness to it!

Guest
1 year 9 months ago

I could have written this! From childhood experiences, growing up in a house where the philosophy of the Black Panthers was taught, where Black History classes were taught and being not black-black but light black with “thin” hair, oh how I wanted an Afro. Same experiences with some white friends parents and then attending an HBCU and being called “white girl” as a term of endearment, because I was so light and spoke “proper English, (I am from Rhode Island). Explaining, yes, I am Black, my mother is from North Carolina originally, her siblings range from Black Black to light… Read more »

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[…] This post was originally published on MyBlackMatters.com […]

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[…] This post was originally published on MyBlackMatters.com […]

Guest

This could have been my story. I’ve come across this post twice in the last few days – grateful for the validation. xx

Guest
1 year 9 months ago

Racism comes in all colors no matter who’s side one is on until after high school or college when a person grows up and realizes what others think or believe about them has no affect on their lives. The peer pressure is no longer unless one is still immature and allows it.

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Jennifer
1 year 9 months ago

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I have never been more touched by an article about blackness than I have by this one. This so eloquently captures what I struggle with daily, and as a child.

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Geenee
1 year 9 months ago

I couldn’t comment on HuffPo (workplace restrictions) but I had to come here to say THANK YOU! I am light-skinned, the product of two light parents who each had a light parent. This article hit home to me. I was bullied and called names growing up. My sister had her cut off at school, etc. It hurts that my own people hate me before getting to know me because of something I didn’t choose, all the while, I wish I had their beautiful skin. I have always been prejudged because of it by older folk and young people alike. I… Read more »

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Ashley
1 year 9 months ago

It’s comforting to read this knowing I’m not the only person who grew up like this. I relate to every single word! Thank you!

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Theya
1 year 9 months ago

Excellent article! I have felt this way in my younger life as well. It’s a sad fact in our community, but I’m glad I’m not the only one who has felt this way

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Anonymous
1 year 9 months ago
Guest

Ms.Durant, I can relate to your experiences. I too was harassed and called “yella” because of my light skin, to the point that I started wearing a bronzer to give my skin more color and laying to the California sun to tan. But, soon I tired of that and decided that I was going to let my light golden skin shine forth whether it was liked or not! I still get comments from strangers about my light skin but I just ignore the haters. It’s a shame we are still discussing this in 2016!

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kh
1 year 9 months ago

So much of this is my story. Fair skin, green eyes, blonde hair. Always having to prove my blackness and convince you that I’m not stuck up. It wasn’t until my 40’s, when you stop worrying what people think, that I came to the place that your preconceived notions of me belong to you. Those are your prejudices and they have nothing to do with me. Don’t assume things are easier for me. You don’t know me.

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Anonymous
1 year 8 months ago

Love It !

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Briana
1 year 8 months ago

Amazing. I cried. I have incredibly light skin and red hair but I’m 75% black and i “look” mixed and I have always identified as black until everyone told me otherwise.

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Anonymous
1 year 7 months ago

I’m so tired of light-skinned thinkpieces that only focus on the beauty aspects of colorism. It’s very shallow and shows that they just want to talk about how much society adores them. Talk about colorism and whiteness. How about you talk about how less likely you are deemed to be aggressive or angry when you express your opinion? Talk about how society has shaped you has worthy of more protection because of your proximity to whiteness. Talk about how you’re perceived as more intelligent than a darker skinned woman. Talk about the exotification vs perceived savagery when it comes to… Read more »

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Anonymous
1 year 6 months ago

I felt the same way. Especially since I’m mixed Hispanic and black, but I’ve always been the lightest in my family. I’ve always been to light to be black, I always wished to have darker skin. But I’ve come to realize that being mixed doesn’t negate the fact that I am black, my own unique black, and that’s beautiful

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Hawa
1 year 6 months ago

It’s really funny how this was shared 9.3k times, but dark skins telling there equally inspirational story got less shares….kind of ironic! But this was a nice piece!

Guest
1 year 6 months ago

Well said!! I could relate in every aspect!

Guest
1 year 5 months ago

I recently uploaded my latest documentary ‘Being light Skinned’ within Black and Asian Cultures and I think it will be of interest to you and your websites audience. Being Light Skinned features men and women from Black and Asian cultures discussing the misconceptions of being light skin. There is a arguably a general view within Black and Asian cultures that light skin men and women think they are better than dark skinned people and they are more successful as actors, musicians because they appeal to a mainstream audience and they have ‘good hair’. In this documentary it challenges this perception… Read more »

Guest
1 year 5 months ago

This was beautiful. I’m not black, but I am a pale Jew, and I’ve always been told I’m not dark enough to be a real Jew (despite my Jewish hair and my Jewish nose). So I’ve always wished my skin were darker. Not to mention that melanin is gorgeous. I know this article wasn’t meant for me, but it helped me come to terms with my skin, so thank you 🙂

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Anonymous
1 year 4 months ago

This article really opened my eyes. I thought I was the only lightskinned female that wanted to be more darker

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DW
1 year 4 months ago

Wow, amazing article.

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Rachelle J.
1 year 4 months ago

I love everything about this!

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Alex
1 year 4 months ago

thank you. you put into words what I’ve been feeling for years. thank you

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connie
1 year 3 months ago

I absolutely love this article because it emphasizes we should appreciate each other in our many shades of beauty. Above all, my beauty doesn’t take away from yours. Being a dark skin woman, I never felt in competition with lighter sisters, especially resulting in hostility. Some of the fiercest pro black women I know such as Kathleen Cleaver, Elaine Brown, and Angela Davis are light skin.

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Jesie
9 months 6 days ago

People would laugh at me when I would tell them I wish I had dark skin! So glad this was written! I felt so separated as a child, being told I was black then going to school and being called “White girl.” I hated my skin for a long time.

Guest
9 months 5 days ago
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Anonymous
9 months 5 days ago

Another commenter said this and I agree full heartedly because these “I am light skinned and I hurt” articles all sound just like those white tears articles we collectively rOle our eyes at. Stop pretending that our light skin is a burden to bear in the same way dark skin is. It isnt and if you are honest with yourself, you know it isnt. Yes childhood was hard. Whose wasnt? Eventually, you stop hating your skin because you realize all of the socioeconomic benefits it affords you. You stop hating your skin because it helped you get the guy you… Read more »

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Anonymous
9 months 4 days ago

Great job, diamond! You’re very talented.

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Carol
9 months 3 days ago

Colorism is the disease that black people dont acknowledge. You dont even have to be light skinned to be subjected to it, you need only be brown and not deep brown. I was in my 40s when my supervisor looked at me with distaste and announced I was the lightest skin person in the office. It stung because it came out of nowhere. Obviously he had an issue with that but I had never noticed that I was until he told me. I felt self conscious and anger. Every time I heard someone new was coming to the office I… Read more »

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Richelle
9 months 3 days ago

This is my story. I’m the black girl who doesn’t look black and it has always been a struggle for me. Most of my family is extra bright so it is no surprise that I am almost pale. I have always longed to be just a little but darker and for my hair to be kinkier. Just so that I didn’t get the looks and questions. Slowly I am starting to appreciate everything for what it is. I’m sorry that my black doesn’t fit into the box you have for blackness. But at the end of the day I am… Read more »

Guest
9 months 2 days ago

LOVE IT. I’m brown and almost 50 and was on the “hate light-skinned” girls track in high school and college. That faded away when I dated a light man and he told me his side, which was like this article. I was ashamed. Did three things: loved myself for my skin (that was one of the problems), grew locs (accept my natural hair) and appreciate every person of color. I now have friends of every shade.

Guest
5 months 16 days ago

Every shade of black faces it’s own struggles but I do feel that, light skinned black women need to acknowledge the privileges that come with the colour of their skin. Light skinned black women cannot experience colourism because they are already desired. I don’t think they should equate their struggles of not being black enough to those of dark skinned black women. Dark skinned women carry the burden of being black, being a woman and being a dark skinned one, and it’s a heavy one.

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Cristiana Alvarez
25 days 5 hours ago

Thank you so much for this post. I have been struggling with this so much that I am letting it affect me more than I should. I don’t look black and my name is Mexican, but I grew up with the black side of my family more. I struggled to want to fit…. but now, I am learning that I am me and I might not have the darker skin tone, but I know who I am in the inside. Again thank you much. This will help me heal.

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Ekaete Bailey
7 days 15 hours ago

This truly touched me. Wonderful writing!

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