Sunday, July 30, 2006

The Wannabes vs. The Jigaboos II - Colorism in Dating

Because last week's topic was so popular, I thought I'd continue this week, just with a different angle. As an extension of the discussion of colorism and its effects on the black community as a whole, this week we'll focus on how colorism affects the way some of us date.

I've often heard darker-skinned black men say they prefer dating light-skinned women. I've also heard light-skinned women say they prefer dating darker-skinned men -- even I have been guilty of that before, although I have dated light-skinned men in the past. I've even heard of darker-skinned women wanting to have a baby by a light-skinned man, so their baby can have "pretty skin" and "pretty hair."

As silly as all this may sound, its definitely real. As was discussed last week, black folks are known for differentiating themselves based on the tone of their skin. But it becomes something different when we start preferring a shade of skin that is not our own. To me, its a form of self-hate. A dark-skinned person who only dates light-skinned people clearly has a problem with his or her own skin color; and the same is true of light-skinned folks who only date dark-skinned folks -- although there is really no negative stigmatism attached to the latter. I guess its okay for black folks to want to be blacker, but not lighter.

I think this preference, especially dark-skinned men who only date light-skinned women, further divides the black community. Sometimes if I am out with a dark-skinned man, sistas look at me like I might as well be a white chick, taking away one of their chocolate prospects. I really take offense to that because I'm not white, I'm black, just a different shade of black than them.

To take it a step further, I think the problem is further exacerbated by black men who think that any woman who is light-skinned with long hair is cute. I've heard brothas make flattering comments about light-skinned women who were clearly not that cute (not to be hater or anything, but let's be real), and when asked what they like about these women, the answer is always that she is light-skinned with long hair. Whereas I've also heard comments like, "She's cute for a dark-skinned girl."

I realize that these issues with self-hate stem from problems that probably run deep into childhood, but again, I just think its silly that we continue to perpetuate the white man's ideology that "lighter is better," and that we allow ourselves to be divided as a result.



ljh1999 said...

You're right girl. Bein light skinned sho don't make you cute. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Lighter maybe better, but then why is the white man (and woman) spending countless hours under the sun trying to get darker? I guess the differece is that the darkness they seek is "fashionable" and they can always revert to being "pale white" should the need arise. That is unless you are George Hamilton!

Ruminations of a Racial Realist said...

This is a really interesting topic. I haven't had alot of experience of the colorism issue in the black community because I was brought up in a white environment and only recently moved to a black ex boyfriend who is African American told me the various terms they have for the different shades ie chocolate, caramel, high yellow etc.

I'm seen as light skinned by black people, but I'm considered as black by whites, so I identify with what you are saying. I wouldn't be comfortable getting into a relationship with a black man who only went for light skinned women, particularly if they were dark skinned ex boyfriend is dark skinned and he had to convince me that he would still be interested in me if I was his color - he had previous partners of all shades so there was no problem. lol

Interesting blog. My blog covers issues of race, racism and racial identity - please visit sometime!

The Thinking Black Man said...

Hello Notta Golddiger (absolutely love the name!)

I have had this same discussion with countless people myself. So, it's great hearing [reading] almost the exact same words coming from someone else.

Lot's of times, I've heard people say, "She's cute for a dark skinned girl..." and I jump on them every time. "What the h*ll does THAT mean? Why can't she just be cute?!?!" They usually either back off sheepishly or they take the denial defensive, "Oh, I ain't mean nothin' by that." Sometimes it's not what you meant - its worse - its how you look at your own Brother's and Sister's!!!

I tell people all the time... [because I love to rattle people with straight forward, uncomfortable subjects] There is more racism within the Black community being directed at ourselves than there is being directed towards us from white people! And, I believe it has a tremendous amount to do with the self-hate [self loathing] that is ingrained in so many of us. We are just so driven and so motivated into thinking light is right.

This young lady at my job comes to mind as I type this - she is a nice person, she is a light complexioned black woman, very sharp, very smart but not very attractive in the physical sense. However, she has these amazing hazel colored eyes and very long straight hair. You should hear some of the Brother's in my building, they absolutely RAVE over her like she is the most beautiful Sister on the whole planet! Whenever I used to see her, I'd look at her real hard trying to see what all the hype was - and I just couldn't find it. I think the color, the eyes and hair cancelled out the rest of the face!

I'm going to flag this blog and put a link on my own - I really like what your putting out! Take care!!!

Notta Golddigger said...

Thanks to "ruminations of a realist" and "the thinking black man" for introducing yourselves to the Wake Up Black Folks readers. Welcome! I checked out both of your web pages and its almost like the three of us are soulmates! :) Don't get me wrong, I like to hear someone's argument when they disagree with me; but its nice to know I'm not all out there by myself in my thoughts!

I will definitely keep following up with both of your sites, and I hope you do the same!!!


Anali said...

Great blog Notta!

Very interesting topic here. I just remembered the strangest comment from an ex-boyfriend. He said that I wasn't as dark as he usually preferred. I mean how many gradations of shade must we analyze? Well, just one of his many issues.

I've also started noticing more brown and dark skinned women with and marrying white and Indian men. Is it that these men are more accepting and admiring of what many black men are not? If that is true, it is really heart breaking.

ronnie brown said...

i don't think we've even scratched the surface in regard our deep-seated inferiority issues...we should never forget that our shame in self (whether it be hair, skin color, physical features, etc.) was an act of psychological violence imposed upon us from the OUTSIDE. Our slavery, Jim Crow segregation experience was a form of humiliation meant to break our spirit, our dignity. The preferential treatment given to lighter-skinned SLAVES (they themselves being the victim of sexual violence) over their darker-skinned brethren was a CALCULATED effort to foster envy and division.

141 years since our "emancipation" from chattle bondage, our people are still suffering the consequences and repercussions of that initial crime against our humanity.

I know i'm not sayin' anything new, but i wonder if we are really, really committed to rooting out this poison in our psyche...

fortunately, blog's like this are a good start.

--Tshombe said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
--Tshombe said...

I am tired of the internal racism. You drive an excellent point. Please read my piece titled "Porch Relative"

ronnie brown said...

i guess we can say it's official now...

Notta Golddigger said...

WOW, very interesting article ronnie brown, thank you for sending it.


Evia said...

Hi Notta, great blog topic! I'm a black woman married to a white man and I write about this and similar topics a LOT because this a core issue. Pls visit my blog at:

If some of us don't even like the way others of us look, then how can we build anything together? So, if we're not able to solve this issue, we won't be able to do much else. This was a major issue in the community where I grew up and it's been an issue in every community I've lived in since although people don't talk about it. It's kinda sorta a dirty little secret that most black folks don't talk about--this colorism and hairism thing. But it's at the root of a lot of subtle decision-making that black folks do--not only mate selection.

I get so tired of black folks blaming this on the white man like we're just puppets and can't think for ourselves! This gives white people so much power over us and then we turn around and blame whites for having the power! Dag, white folks ain't gods!! Just because they told us a lie, why we gotta keep repeating it, living it and destroying ourselves? I hear this all the time--"White folks made us do this or that."

Nobody's making us do this--NOW, except for us. Some of the same folks who are blaming the white man for this are STILL chasing after light-damn near white women and men and saying they can't help it cause the white man made them do it. LOL! Just stop living this lie, Black folks! White folks regard all of us the same--as the "others."

LOL! Sorry about the rant! I just got annoyed when I read that sorry excuse once again. Yes, I'm married to a white man, but it sure ain't because he's white--it's because he's good to me.

ronnie brown said...

here's a follow-up article:

Glitzgirl said...

I'm a light-skinned professional as well. And it seems like it's usually darker skinned women who give me so much grief, just in little comments. I am attractive, have shoulder length hair, but even I myself have to admit, there are alot cuter girls than me! Just because I'm light skinned and attractive, doesn't make me the queen B of the office. And I have no problem admitting that. In my experience though, when I look in the mirror, I rarely give a thought to the fact that I'm light skinned. I really don't think about it until someone says something to me about my hair or the freckles I have and being light. My mother is dark skinned and very beautiful and always taught me that black is beautiful no matter what shade. But it seems like ever since I moved to the south, black people here are so insistant on differentiating between being light, mocha brown, medium brown, honey brown...all so they don't have to claim being darker skinned. I think it's so ridiculous. But apparently the experiences darker skinned people have gone thru have caused that sort of self hate. It also seems to me that being light skinned,in my experience, it is assumed that I think I'm "all that". I have heard so many times, that "oh I thought you were a snob" " You don't speak to people" etc. and then they associate that with me being stuck up because I'm light skinned. The notion that I'm sometimes insecure, which is the reason I am quiet at times or don't say goodmorning to every black person I see when I walk in in the morning, is not considered at all. It just has to be because I'm a snob and think I'm better. I feel that if my appearance were different, no one would have anything to say about me being on the quiet side. But because of how I dress, my demeanor and the fact that I'm light skinned and speak proper (I grew up in California) automatically puts me in that category.- just had to vent for a moment.

The counselor said...

Let us remember, that slavery has been around a lot longer than the emancipation. The seeds of slavery run very deep, when you have a damaged people like us (African-American community) psychological services is required. If parents, family, friends and love ones do not install self-love and self-worth during the early developmental years of one’s life, then the mass media will do it for you. So, it’s no surprise the actions that we display regarding what is considered desirable in that we model self-hatred behavior towards on another. I myself have several friends men and women who only date “white people”, when I ask them why is that, they have no answer, but a look of deep in thought on their face, but I have a good idea of what’s going on with them… they do not feel good about themselves, so they look for validation from society at large to say I exist too. One of the greatest needs of the human soul is the need to BELONG, how that is acquired is what one must be always conscious of.

Ehav Ever said...

Maybe the problem is that the whole idea of "Blackness" is somewhat of a fuzzy and diluted concept. For example, does the concept of "Blackness" really denote cultural traits that can effectively define one's day to day life. What I mean is, is it wrong for a dark complexioned person to like, date, or marry a lighter complexioned person and vice versa? If it is wrong where is it written, or where does one reference such a law? If one claims it is African I have never seen that to be the case since most Africans were more concerned about ethnic groups and bloodlines than skin tone. (Not all mind you it depends.) Does for example dating the wrong skin tone assign one to the deepest bowels of hell? If not then why should it matter? I think the idea that skin tone is an accurate method of determining who is okay to date or marry who is a bit of a fallacy based on past problems in Western society. There are a number of peoples that marry based on culture or bloodlines. I am from a mixed family (Separdic Jewish-i.e. Spanish Jews, African American, Senegalese, French, etc.) so for me I am more concerned about culture and family in woman. Her skin tone is not important to me, because there are beautiful women in every skin tone as far as I am concerned. For example when I stayed in Israel there were Jewish women of Yemenite, Iranian, Iraqi, Ethiopian, Polish, German, Moroccon, Egyptian, Indian, African Ameican, etc. descent all of different skin tones that I would have no problem dating or marrying because as long as they were Jewish and had a good relationship with their family that is more important to me than their skin tone. Yet, because I am part African American I also understand the issue. My mother once accused me of only dating light skinned women, as if light skinned women were problematic. The funny thing about her accussation was that I only dated one girl all through high school. Also, my mother's husband (my step-father) was the same complextion as the woman my mother used as an example of how I liked light skinned women. Also, when I was kid my mother sent me to predominately white schools, and it it was her idea to move to a predominately white neighborhood. I could never get my mother to explain to me where it was written that darker complextion equalled some form of accetable acceptance of "black" culture. Because I am closer to my father's family I don't go by skin color as a rule, I am more interested in culture and family. My father's family lived in a Syrian and Turkish neighborhood and there was a Latino community nearby so they didn't have the color biases that mother had.

tragicmulatto08 said...

To my Sisters,

My name is Shawnte and I am 31 years-old. For as long as I can remember, I have always had to prove my "blackness" to anyone who questioned my roots because of my fair skin and green eyes. Over the years I also witness my mother suffer because of her complexion. She lost friends and was often falsely blamed for thinking she was superior. Being light skinned was pure hell. At times I use to wish that all of my family members could accompany me every where I went. That way everyone could see that I was really black. Last year I decided to study African American history in college. I learned a wealth of information about our heritage as well as our plights and struggles. After researching this information, I learned how famous people such as, W.E.B. DuBoise and James Weldon Johnson struggled with being light also. They were able to use their pain as a means to educate our people. For the first time in my life, I felt truley proud to be light. I suppose that my whole point in commenting to this topic is simple. Perhaps if it were not for the virtue of education, I would have remained in a depressed stupor over something that I have no control of. Sisters, we cannot change how we look, not matter how much we try to alter our appearance, we are still the individuals that God created and God don't make junk. I take into consideration that these intra racial prejudices have been deep seeded into how we treat one another since the old days on the plantation. Enough is enough. Pardon my frankness, but facts have proven that unless an individual was born in Africa, no brother or sister living in the U.S. is 100% black!! Sorry to tell you, but we are all mixed with something. The tone of some one's complexion should not be the deciding factor in dictating one's sense of blackness. And to my sisters who are bitter, I hope that you can see us as equals because whether you care to realize it or not, I get called a "Nigger" just like you do.

Peace and Blessings

alicia banks said...


love your blog!

see more on colorism at


alicia banks

lincolnperry said...

This is the Last Plantation for Black Folks, until we get beyond this issue, we will continued to be enslaved. Colorism is part of the status quo strata...I see lighter skinned brothas and sistas in automobiles, and darker skinned brethen on public transit and in service jobs. Is this by design.

Come on now...If Barack Obama looked like Yaphet Koto,and had two black parents we wouldn't be haven't this discourse!

alicia banks said...

ditto on obama!

see my new column on colorism:


Anonymous said...

I agree with you in that I wouldn't attribute the colorism to slavery. If you look at societies in Africa, there are still those problems among those who haven't been introduced to slavery. It is human nature, and that nature transcends color and race.
If there is a society of people of the same color with the same hair type, there will probably be a division that separates long noses from short noses.
People just have an incapacity to exist equally with one another. There has to be some form of hierarchy that allows room for a "superior."

Anonymous said...

Just because you prefer to date a diffrent skin colour doesnt mean you dislike or hate your own skin colour. Im light skinned and i prefer dark skinned men. I love being light skinned and i recognize the benifits from being light skinned. I get great jobs, i get hired faster and i get treated great. I have no self loathing towards myself. I love dark skinned me because i find them more attractive but that doesnt make me hate myself.

mef said...

"I think this preference, especially dark-skinned men who only date light-skinned women, further divides the black community. Sometimes if I am out with a dark-skinned man, sistas look at me like I might as well be a white chick, taking away one of their chocolate prospects. I really take offense to that because I'm not white, I'm black, just a different shade of black than them."

- i'm sorry, but it shouldn't matter anyway. People should be allowed to date who they want, and you using your race to defend yourself... It sounds like being white is a bad thing. Are you against interracial relationships too? Its good to like who you are, but don't dislike who other people are.

Notta Golddigger said...

Mef, although I appreciate the simplicity and idealism behind your "Mary Poppins" view of the World, unfortunately, the World doesn't work that way. Based on your statement, "People should be allowed to date who they want...", I'll go out a limb and assume that you are a white person (and possibly even a white person that dates black people) -- that's usually the type of comment made by such people. If you read carefully, my post has nothing to do with white people. Rather, it's about black love -- black people loving themselves, no matter the shade of their black skin, and despite media images that glorify pearly white skin.

To address a couple of your comments/questions:
(1) I don't think being white isn't a "bad thing", as you termed it. However, that doesn't mean I want to be viewed as a white person. I am proud of my heritage, and wouldn't want to be any other color. So yes, it is offensive to me when someone refers to me as something that I am not.
(2) No, I am not against interracial dating; however, I am against a person dating everyone except the people that look like that person. For example, a black woman who dates men of every race EXCEPT black men. My post deals with the complexity behind that state of mind.
(3) It's unclear to me what you mean by your statement that I am using my race to "defend [my]self". How is that? Thanks to the First Amendment, I am free to express my opinions, and I don't have to defend them -- and I certainly don't have to use my race to defend them.

TrueReflections said...

I'm glad we are having this discussion about colorism in the black community, because it is actually one the most dirtiest secrets in our society. I told a friend of mine 10 years ago this topic is compulsive to bubble to the surface of the American consciousness (and I'm pushing for Soledad O'brien CNN to really delve into this- she's light-skin a benefiary of this culture). Its more important for blacks to stop sweeping it under the rug and deal with in order learn how to face the underlying self-hatred,inferiority and superiority issues that comes along with it.

My real point however is not in regards to light-skins wanting to date dark-skin and vice-versa this the least of our problems, deep down we all know for fact that beautiful black people come in all shades For eg. Gabrielle Union to Holly Berry. The real deceit and betrayal is put on the light skin black. By the fact that there is no light-skin person leading the charge against the negative perspections of dark skin people especially males, tells me that you quite enjoy that postive perspections and stereotyping that "daddy" (white people) have about you. Because the real point is when you feed into "Daddy" telling you that you're prettier, smarter, less violence and more approachable than you're darker skin counter part, you drive the wedge deeper between us. The proof of this is in the economic disparity of the two skin shades, as in Bryant gumble, Hoda kotbe, Soledad O'brien, Greg gumble, will smith, (not Omar Epps a better actor) beyonce,( not India Irie or Angie stone), those two light skin anchors on CNN, Alicia keys, Terrence Howard there as been so many dark skin actors before Terrence but they get the role of the intelligent dark skin black males.
until light skin blacks start to admit to themselves dark skin people still get treated worst than light (which dark skin people already know) we still see u as near-white because in reality you're accepted into the white world with far grater ease than an authenthic black person. As longer as you're lapping up Sweet success of life by default of your skin color we can't see you as sharing our pain.

CultSphere said...

Not Necessarily, I think we tend to forget too how many of us can simply be attracted to others with trait/features unlike us, because it's intriguing and foreign to what we are accustomed to. There by appreciating it more so. It stands out greater, it doesn't have to be a direct result of self hate. The confusion is mingling it with those who are that way, and look at what others possess ,reminding them of where that they might feel they lack. But we're individuals, we don't all have the same intentions underlining our motives. Some are just attracted to difference, for the sake of difference, regardless of the cultural definitives.

Examples, white men who adore asian women, black men who love latina women, hell middle aged , well to do white men who love black women, these groups of people have specific tastes that cater to a specific group unlike what they are use to. Men who are health fanatics but gravitate towards bbw's ... I mean these people admire traits in another group, but don't necessarily ascribe to that group, or have notions of ever wanting to be apart of them. They however admire certain distinctive characteristics, traits , and features, that you'll primarily find in the other...