Call me counter-revolutionary, but I have no desire to see the new documentary “Dark Girls.”

Not that I think it’s not a story worth being told. I believe that most people don’t acknowledge their colorism (often against women) in America, especially outside of the African American or other brown communities. (I also believe that most people don’t acknowledge that this prejudice can be aggressive and hostile).

My reasoning also does not come from a lack of will to support black filmmaking and documentaries. And it’s also not because I don’t like Bill Duke (fist pump).

My ennui to see the doc also is not an identity crisis: I identify as a dark skinned woman. I have plenty of stories of friends, family, and love interests trying to justify my beauty in conjunction to the depth of my skin’s hue:
“Yea, I saved you in my phone as Darkie Cutie.”
“I normally don’t date dark skinned girls, so consider yourself lucky.” (He’s LBS… laughing but serious.)
“You’re not dark, you’re brown (and that justifies why I’m attracted to you).”

Trust me, I’ve known rivers.

But I still don’t want to watch this documentary. Why? Well, after catching the 10-minute trailer, as a dark skinned woman, I didn’t feel uplifted or affirmed. I didn’t feel like saying, “Oh yea, now everyone get’s it.”

All I felt like doing was wondering why the world apparently sees me as an alien. I wanted to play Katy Perry’s “E.T.” in the background as well, mainly because I dig the chorus. My feeling after scoping the trailer was not of a new contentment, but this overwhelming feeling of not belonging, like being a dark skinned woman was like being of a different species, not even in the human genome. 

Sure this wasn’t the film’s intent, but there’s only so many images of black women (resembling you) crying into a camera that can be watched without doing some internalization of their grief.

These women lamented about wanting to bleach themselves, about being rejected over and over again romantically and socially, about never feeling like a person of worth or value. Then, to illustrate how they’re not just being paranoid, clips were shown of some black men illustrating their reservations about wanting a dark skinned woman while considering them unattractive. (How powerful is that message: “If your own men don’t want you, who will”?) As a result, the audience basically listened to 10 minutes of women who hated their skin, their eyes, their noses, their metatarsals, their phalanges, etc. Mood killer.

What was my first thought afterwards? It was something along the lines of: “ Is it so hard to imagine that a black or brown woman can just be happy?”

That’s when I decided I had no desire to watch the entire documentary. The prospect of sitting through it gave me the heebie jeebies.  I’ve been a dark skinned black woman for almost 25 years and aside from noticing prejudices toward my own skin tone, I can easily say that no one, regardless of color, lives in this world without facing some form of discrimination or prejudice. Thus, I have a few other things to do than watch 120 minutes of “ No one thinks we’re  attractive. No one wants us. No one values us. The documentary.” 

A long time ago I realized that the freedom and value that these women are looking for comes when one has decided to internalize that DARK does not equal UGLY.

Let me say it again, DARK does not equal UGLY.

Okay, I couldn’t find a mountaintop, so just one more time for good measure: DARK DOES NOT EQUAL UGLY.

There is a point that I haven’t really seen touched upon with this topic, so I’ll just be obnoxious and put it here. People most often REJECT what shines a light on their personal fears, failures, insecurities, and/ or shortcomings.

Thus, more often than not, a rejection of you is more about them. If someone has a problem with your skin tone, they more than like are uncomfortable being black (if they are in the community) or are shining light on a (not so dormant) racial prejudice with themselves. Any way it goes, they are projecting their view of themselves on you, and it’s obviously of self-hate.

Or more simply, as famed educator Marva Collins said once when I studied at her South Side school, “How come whenever someone rejects us, we say… ‘Oh what’s wrong with me?’… as opposed to, ‘Oh, there’s something’s wrong with them’..?”

We can talk about diaspora, the slave trade, slavery, the antebellum south, Jumping Jim Crow, Hattie McDaniel in “Gone With the Wind”, the UNIA, the NAACP, the New Negro Movement, Civil Rights, hip hop, collard greens, press and curls or anything else that happens to be a part of the story of being Black in America…

But it comes down to this: people overwhelmingly view you based on the self love that you project. I’m sure Naomie Campbell was reminded of her hue constantly while emerging in entertainment and fashion, but I highly doubt that she has allowed that prejudice to make her feel like she is anything less than impossibly beautiful in the long run.

I would have rather seen Michelle Obama talking about her life as a First Lady or Oprah speaking about being an international media mogul. I would have rather watched Lisa Leslie talk about playing in the WNBA or Angela Bassett speaking about her twins. Long story short, I would have rather seen this story as, “Dark Girls Getting It Done” versus “Dark Girls, Wednesday’s Child is Full of Woe.”

My standpoint is not to glaze over this pain, but to put more of a light on the fact that black women do live fulfilling lives. The goal and key to happiness and success is how you feel about yourself.

And there is nothing UGLY about that.

Imani Josey

Imani is a writer from Chicago, Illinois. After graduating Howard University in Washington, DC, Imani received her Masters from Northwestern University. Sometime during all of that studying, she danced professionally for the Chicago Bulls as a (Luvabulls) cheerleader, and won the titles of Miss Chicago and Miss Cook County for the Miss America Organization, as well as Miss Black Illinois USA. Read her short story “North” in the forthcoming Hidden Youth anthology, out November 2016 by Crossed Genres.

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