Is life different for women who are darker than most?

That’s the question that Bill Duke asks as he directs and produces and amazing documentary, Dark Girls, that explores our attitudes about skin in the Black American culture. The film is set to be released in the Fall/Winter 2011.

I applaud films that make us think and question why something is the way it is. Sometimes that saying “it is the way is” doesn’t have to be the norm. Similiar to Chris Rock’s Good Hair this film takes a deep look into how Black Americans view each other. Searching for solutions surrounding our own racist behaviors. In the trailer below, Bill Duke takes the testimonies of several dark skinned women who recall their experiences as a young child.

A little black girl is given artwork with illustrations of little girls with skin complexions ranging from the lightest skin tone (a white girl) to the darkest skin tone (a black girl). She was asked to point to the pretty girl, the ugly girl, the smart girl, and the dumb girl. Guess where she pointed to when asked about the ugly girl and the dumb girl. The black girl!

What solutions could we offer? Being better role models for our young girls. Eliminating the negative views of women in music. Reinforcing the importance of self-esteem.

Start the commentary here and let me know what you think?!



  1. May 27, 2011 / 9:33 am

    so sad that there is so much social conditioning.

    to see that little girl who hasn’t experienced anything in the world yet, already thinking that black means dumb and ugly is astonishing.

    and we are so brutal to ourselves…

    and sadly i just don’t see this ever really ending.

    for some people, they validate themselves as better when they have someone else to look down on.

    at this point in our black lives, the only solution would be that we move beyond this ish but i just don’t see that happening.

    the only hope is to be more visible and vocal when we hear these negative comments, to call out ignorance where it stands.

    it’s always been weird for me…i don’t consider myself light skinned by any means but both of my sisters are darker than me but just like weight was never an issue in my family growing up, skin tone wasn’t either, so when i hear these stories and see the pain, i am appalled.

    but i know from stories from my ma mere that she was tormented in a lot of ways being dark skinned growing up in the 50’s and 60’s and she still has issues related to it and there have been plenty of times where i have had to bring something to her attention and call her on something she has said, not out of malicious intent but more out of an unconscious breeding from having been so bombarded with being told there was something wrong with her for her skin color for so long,

    my only suggestion for people who experience this, is especially as they age, is that you have to love yourself, as you are. i know it sounds like such a simple idealistic concept but it’s the only way to live a life…you can not let others define you, because they will define you to a slow painful death.

    • Gorgeous In Grey
      May 27, 2011 / 9:50 am

      The realistic part of me agrees with you. It probably will not change. We’ve been soooooooooooo brain washed for 100’s of years to fight amongst ourselves we now believe that it’s normal. Other cultures pull together in so many ways yet we are left behind because we are focused on what the next person has or hoardering information because we don’t want the next person to gain.

      The hopeful side of me believes that if there are more people like us and like Bill Duke that address the issues and talk about them it will change. And not only talk about them be really try to create solutions. We could see a change in the Black American culture.

      XOXO for your comments!

  2. May 27, 2011 / 9:36 am

    I’m not surprised. I have heard of equal situations my entire life. My initial thoughts go directly to the importance of validation within our homes, from our parents and loved ones. However, when you look at the generational lineage of us as a people, it makes sense. The sad part is, Black Americans continue to perpetuate the idea that dark skinned people are not worthy. The entire thought is equal to the oppression that dominated our people during slavery. I believe that when you know better, you do better. I hope that Black Americans begin to learn better, so that we’re able to lend answers to those coming behind us. I hope that this documentary brings awareness and empowers us to change.

    • Gorgeous In Grey
      May 27, 2011 / 9:46 am

      I totally agree with you. It begins in our homes. We have to teach our young children the importance of self love. And that validation only comes from self not someone else!

  3. May 27, 2011 / 9:40 am

    I’ve never looked at or spoke of women this way. Beautiful is beautiful no matter the shade. Never pretty “for a darkskin girl”. I think that’s a sad an unfortunate learned behavior within our society as a whole not just within our community and race. I’ll definitely check this movie out.

    • Gorgeous In Grey
      May 27, 2011 / 10:06 am

      I hope that Bill Duke will offer a few solutions not just a discussion. I am tired of talking lets do something about this!

  4. May 27, 2011 / 9:45 am

    I think that parents need to start reinforcing positive messages at home. Building the self esteem of our young girls and boys has to be our number one priority, especially with all of the images and messages in the media. Remember when we would say it loud? We were black and proud? I think we need to bring that back!!

    • Gorgeous In Grey
      May 27, 2011 / 10:06 am

      Yes!! I need a tee shirt .. I AM GORGEOUS AND GREAT!

  5. May 27, 2011 / 10:30 am

    Oh, Ty! When I watched the video I went from outraged to just plain sad. The self-hate just brings tears to my eyes. Ty, as you know I have a very light complexion so I suppose one might discount my comments because I have never had to deal with unbridled HATE being inflicted by my own people. Still, I have my family to thank for deeply instilled pride in who I am — a black woman and that descriptor goes well beyond my skin color. That being said, I know that I have not experienced the same hatred but it hurts me all the same. It hurts me to see my sisters stuck in a vicious cycle of self-loathing inflicted upon them by their very own families, friends, men, etc. Funny thing is I was sitting with my little sister looking at pictures of her friends on FB and she actually uttered the words “she’s really pretty… I mean for a dark skinned girl,” and she must have seen the look of horror on my face because she quickly said “I mean, not like that,” and I replied like I always do when people say STUPID things like that and asked, “Really, what does that mean exactly?” Have you noticed that when you ask that question, people rarely have a straight forward, well articulated answer? the answer usually comes down to “Well, you know what I mean” as if that notion were just a known FACT. No actually, I don’t know what you mean, but sadly it’s so deeply entrenched in our culture, that we have embraced it as fact. Even sadder is that when asked to explain, no one ever just comes out and says where it comes from. It begs the question, have lost sight of where it comes from? So, again I pose the question “What does that mean exactly?” Well, this would be an accurate response…

    “I think light skinned black people are pretty because I am the ancestor of slaves who were taught that white was superior by all standards including beauty. If you can’t actually be white, the next best thing was having the lightest complexion possible. You see, during the slave era, being light skinned didn’t only mean you were more beautiful (if a slave could be beautiful at all), but it also increased your chances of being a house slave vs. being a a field slave. House slaves were taught to think they were better than field slaves. This division and propagation of hate amongst the slaved served a primary function of keeping slaves divided. The more division created among slaves, the less likely they were to unite and possibly revolt. Post slavery, being light skinned meant better chance of finding work, shelter, etc. Clearly, if you must hire a negro, it’s better to hire one that isn’t so dark. Beyond that if you were light enough, you might even be able to pass as white, at which point you definitely can’t be associating with any dark skinned black people and if you continue mate with other light skinned people (preferably mulattos) you might be able to cleanse your bloodline of blackness for good…more division. And so, the cycle of self-hate continues. Light skinned black peopled continued to think they were superior and dark-skinned black people continued to be told they were inferior. Fast forward to 2011 and this self-hate has spawned a notion of beauty rooted in slavery, which has been passed down from one generation to the next. It is so deeply ingrained in my psyche that I accidentally let that comment slip out of my mouth without even thinking about it, and sadly it reflects how I really feel.”

    Just think of how freeing an awareness like this would be? When we stop accepting “lighter is better” as “fact” and acknowledge where this ridiculous notion really comes from, maybe… just maybe, we will begin reject it. Instead, maybe we will begin to embrace the real facts. Dark skin is beautiful. I mean REALLY beautiful. I mean stunning. There is no such thing as “pretty for a dark-skinned girl” and while we’re on the subject, there is no such thing as “good hair.” We need to challenge ourselves to remove this kind of destructive language from our conversation.

    • Gorgeous In Grey
      May 27, 2011 / 11:38 am

      Such an amazing comment. Here lies why I love blogging. We can use this outlet to really begin a conversation that appears to bother us all and really work towards a solution. I think 2 ways to really correct this thought pattern of self hate would be to (1) begin giving compliments. Don’t hold on to them and chit chat about it later with your friends. When you see someone who is gorgeous whether they’re black, brown, white, green or otherwise, let them know. It feels good to get a compliment and it feels even better to give them. Teach our children the power of giving. (2) We have to correct people when they say “You’re pretty for a …” Doesn’t matter if that statement ends in for a dark skinned girl, for a fat girl, for a short girl… whatever .. it’s coming from ignorance and needs to be corrected.

    • March 23, 2017 / 8:17 pm

      I TAKE OFFENSE TO YOUR ASSERTION WHEN I READ “Light skinned black people continued to think they were superior and dark skinned people continued to be told they were inferior.”




  6. May 27, 2011 / 10:54 am

    Ty, I am going to keep this comment a bit shorter than I planned, as I will go into deepr depths in my post next Friday, but I am so grateful for a movie like this to potentially open up a deeper dialogue about this issue.

    As I type this post, I am in tears, as I think about all of the pain, sadness, and frustration I felt growing up because of my dark skin, and even more so for the little dark skin girls growing up now who are experiencing the same things. It started in elementary school being called names like “tar-baby, black, blacky, midnight, and so much more.” By middle school, I started to hear “You’re pretty for a dark girl.” In high school, it was “lets be friends, or you’re pretty for a dark girl, or I don’t date dark girls, or lets just kick it (never in front of others). All of these things, had a detrimental effect on my self-esteem, but I am eternally grateful for a mom and some (notice I said some) aunts, and a grandma who did their best to always let me know I was beautfiul. One of my aunt’s used to call me her beautiful black doll, and in those moments I felt just that! I am grateful that my 20’s have been a great time of self-love for me, and while thoughts of my experiences growing up as a dark-skinned girl still bring about raw emotion, I LOVE my gorgeous, flawless (most of the time, lol), dark black skin!

    I believe to cure our community of this issue, it must start at home. Parents must stop distinguishing light skin as better, and parents with dark skin daughters must be sure to let their daughters they are beautiful, because if I didn’t have a parent that let me know my skin was beautiful and “blacker the berry, sweeter the juice,” something I really didn’t understand until I became an adult and began to love myself, then who knows what road low self-esteem could have led me down.

    I now anxiously await the arrival of this documentary!

    • Gorgeous In Grey
      May 27, 2011 / 11:49 am

      I tossed and turned about even posting this on my blog but I am soooo grateful for bloggers like you guys. We often focus on style posts and what’s hot in fashion (and trust me I love it more than anything) but every now and then I think its good to have a discussion with like minded people about issues that affect our culture.

      I was literally in tears from reading your comment because I can feel your pain. As I am not a dark skinned women I have family who valued that and often times gave me special treatment because I was lighter than my cousins or because I had “good hair“. The relationship I have with my grandmother is bittersweet because of her opinions and values about Black American culture. I just can’t respect her and she doesn’t budge!

      I’ve made it a point to teach my younger cousins and my son that all skin is beautiful. That beauty comes from within. Beauty comes from how you treat the person that walks along the path with you.

      I have faith and hope that with people like us and Bill Duke we can begin to change the world!

  7. MJEdwards
    May 27, 2011 / 11:38 am

    I am glad this issue is finally coming to the forefront. I struggled with this issue most of my life. I had an inferiority complex about my dark skin. This came from the constant taunting and teasing as a child from friends and family alike. That complex was so strong, that I even held myself back from fulfilling my dreams of acting because I never thought I had “the look.” Plus, there are very little representation of “dark girls” in the media. (We need more representation in the media!)

    It has taken me a long time to overcome that complex and now I hope to be an inspiration for other little “dark girls”. I am finally going after my dreams, and I feel like my black is beautiful. But my self esteem must be constantly maintained, because some of those scars are so deep.

    I have taught in the past and I still hear little dark girls wishing they were lighter. It breaks my heart. I hope we can offer up solutions to this issue and not just talk about it.

    • Gorgeous In Grey
      May 27, 2011 / 11:54 am

      After I interviewed Sam Fine and we spoke very briefly about the images of us we see in the media – I realized it was problem that we all see but don’t speak on. I encourage everyone to support this film and have more conversations and start creating solutions so that Black America can become a tight knit family. Although we lack civil rights leaders in 2011 we do not lack people who have the ability to raise awareness. We have to start somewhere!

  8. Shelly
    May 27, 2011 / 11:50 am

    Thank You for this, much needed! Ok so Oh my Goodness!!! Earlier this week , I was having a conversation with a friend about this very subject. I told her I wanted to contact Webster’s to coin a new term “NegroNepitism”. I told her that honestly, our elders cultivated these seeds that has produced some ignorant and mis guided fruit.
    I was not only appalled by the gentleman’s comment but annoyed at the little girls response.
    Apparently she too has be taught that light is right and better, and black or color is bad and wrong oh and dumb. In light of the recent article in Psychology Today about Black Women not being attractive, this is the time to address this concern of our community. Honestly, I have in passing heard someone say that about me before and I said to myself the next time someone say that around me I would respond.

    Well about a year ago I was able to respond. Annoyed, I said thanks. My son was with me & he gave me a surprised look.

    I explained to the younger sista’s that telling someone with a dark or brown complexion that they are “pretty for a dark skinned girl” is nice but to be careful of its perception. I told her it was as if she meant it to be an oxymoron and not necessarily a compliment. Pretty is just that, pretty. If a person is pretty no matter the hue of her complexion, then just tell her, she is pretty. I put on kid gloves & told them my age on top of being “dark skinned” and the benefits thereof because they assumed I was not that much older than them, so the comment would not be as offensive I guess. But all in all they were very receptive, & thanked me for what I said. I also asked that they try and remember not to say that anymore for many reasons. Someone could over hear them and assume that we perceive ourselves as beautiful if we are light skinned, etc. Moreover, because they may come across a sista that may not be so nice, hence the negative connotation, so to be careful.
    I also said think about this; would they be offended if someone told them that although they were light skinned, that they were ugly? She thought about it and responded she is automatically fly, but that yeah she would be mad, so moral of the story is if you are giving a compliment, do it with sincerity and no pretense.

    I am glad I am teaching my son certain things about color and people. At 11, its amazing how he never really refers to a person by their color, I have to ask at times to teach him things about certain situations and he is very apprehensive before he finally answers. Our family is very diverse, white, black, hispanic, Sicilian, Filipino, and we just were brought up differently. My son said that it was dumb what they said, matter of fact he asked what did they mean for a dark girl, your a beautiful Mom, my Mom you’re not a girl”! I told him that back in the day story and he nodded and understood and explained to me that its not like that now, I responded, I hope not. So perhaps this next multi-cultural generation will show that all people no matter what complexion are beautiful. I also hope that my son looks beyond the surface of people and have good discernment ——> just sharing—> be blessed

    • Gorgeous In Grey
      May 27, 2011 / 12:04 pm

      XOXO! I have yet to read the Psychology Today about Black Women not being attractive. I’m not sure if I can even politely respond or comment on that at all. SMH!

  9. May 27, 2011 / 1:05 pm

    Great topic! Since I was little I always remember guys in middle school and high school describing the type of girl they liked and majority would always say “a light skin girl”. Even today, with working in the club industry, the color complex is still present — majority of the women featured in the marketing, if not white, are lightskin women. I think that the media and the entertainment industry are the main culprits. Kids are brainwashed into thinking that beauty is defined by your skin tone with what they hear and see on tv, magazines and music. Marita Golden wrote a great book on color complex “Don’t Play in the Sun”…and this goes beyond African Americans, but other ethnicities, Hispanic, Indian, etc.

    • Gorgeous In Grey
      May 27, 2011 / 2:32 pm

      Humm never heard of the book! Sounds like a good read.

  10. May 27, 2011 / 8:28 pm

    i heard about this but never watched the trailer. (i went to you tube because i don’t see the vid here…) like the movie good hair, i know it’s an issue that needs to see light, but it’s always different when you watch it. the little girl picking the dumb and ugly girl broke my heart and i shed tears! i mean i know these ideas exist, but i think it’s the innocence and ignorance of children that gets me every time. i watched it with my 7 year old son and it made me tear a little harder because he was shocked that the girl was saying those things. he told me it doesn’t matter what color you are. he has a friend that (dark skin) color and it doesn’t matter. all of the girls are smart, it doesn’t matter their color. that felt good. i remember him speaking ignorantly about the difference between light and dark skin women when he was younger… yes he’s only 7. he was telling me that the blond girl was the prettiest from the cheetah girls…. we had a “teachable moment” about our dark skin friends and family members. i asked him are those things true about those people. i guess he learned, but i know i have to reinforce it every day.

  11. May 27, 2011 / 8:51 pm

    I loveeeeeee marita golden! I have to get that book!

  12. Cheryl
    May 28, 2011 / 8:21 pm

    Hello Everyone!

    I just want to thank you for the love and support! I am the Line Producer for “Dark Girls”. I saw your post on the “Dark Girls” FB Fan page and I wanted to come and support you. All the wonderful comments inspire me!

    Oh and if you are wondering, I am a dark skinned woman myself and was honored when Bill Duke and Chan Berry asked me to work on this project. I had to say yes, for this project spoke to me.

    Thank you again!

    • Gorgeous In Grey
      May 31, 2011 / 9:27 am

      Thanks so much for commenting. As you can see we all plan to support DARK GIRLS!

  13. June 1, 2011 / 9:56 pm

    Oh jezus judging from these long comments I know that everyone went into detail I will just say that too damn much needs to change we have come so far yet we have so far to go and I’ll leave it at Love ya selves ladies light, dark whatever!

  14. Kim
    June 6, 2011 / 12:48 am

    As a women who is often harragned because of her chocolate skin and ample frame, I’ve learned in this my 27th year on God’s earth, to love myself regardless of what media, men or even some of my other sisters say. We are all made in his image and I embrace the boundless beauty God has given to me. I see my beauty reflected in his warm, lush earth and in one of the finest, most-coveted delicacies known to man, chocolate. So each day I celebrate myself and uplift my fellow sisters, no matter the hue. To the women and men who don’t get me, you’ll never forget me because we hate what we fear and secretly wish we were!

  15. Monica
    June 6, 2011 / 12:39 pm

    I would say this is a movie I would like to see. I am a caramel complexion sister and never really had issues with my skin color as a child nor have I thought I was better than someone else because of my skin color. I haven’t been one to tease others either. I didn’t experience color skin teasing until an adult and ironically it was from other black women and a few black men who weren’t happy with themselves. I would say this definitely starts in the home. Teaching our children today to love each other as they are and to be proud of their heritage. Being a natural sister too, as far as hair concerns, from other black women & men I have experienced a dislike of the true texture of hair which I feel is sad. What it comes down to is not loving yourself and I don’t know how that can be taught.

  16. TEE Johnson
    July 6, 2011 / 3:00 pm

    I am elated that Bill Duke is working on this project. He’s been around since Car Wash, probably longer but that as far as my mind remembers..But he’s done several noteworthy projects since. I will be one of the first to view when it comes out. As far as healing and so on — this issue with color complexions has gone on for so long, it’s ridiculous. Some of the healing has to begin with self-love — the rest is with the media and internally in one’s own backyard.

    • Gorgeous In Grey
      July 6, 2011 / 3:12 pm

      Yes SELF LOVE is where is begins and we must show the next generation how beautiful we are. Can’t wait to see this movie.

      Thanks for commenting.

  17. Honorelle
    December 3, 2011 / 2:05 am

    Honestly I hate that black girls period don’t have unity. My skin color kind of falls in the middle im dark but I look more caramelish so I never dealt w/ the teasing part of it. But I have always heard the ” Oh your really pretty for a dark skinned girl” & im thinking to myself I wonder if they think I take that as a compliment because I dont its almost like at the same time your telling me dark skinned girls are ugly & I just so happen to be cute, I never have & never will like when people tell me that because it’s disrespectful to me. & one thing they hit the nail on the head with is that people of other races think I’m gorgeous but it is my own people that thinks otherwise. I just shake my head sometimes at my people because we have learned nothing and its really showing the more time goes on, we can’t get anywhere without the support of one another & that is something we lack so badly!!

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