“But He’s So Dark”: The Light Skin vs Dark Skin Debate in College Campus Dating

“Oh, look at you. Dating a nice dark skinned boy. I never expected that you would.” The first time I heard this from a close friend of mine, I was surprised. Naturally, she probably expected me to smile and laugh it away, but all I could manage at the time was an awkward smile. It was not something that I expected to hear on a college campus, let alone hear from a friend.

This was not the first time I had been introduced to the light skin versus dark skin debate. Growing up, I was constantly reminded by my father that because I had a light complexion, some people would treat me differently, by both white and black people, whether they were light skinned or dark skinned or in between. But, at that moment, it didn’t really sink in with me and I brushed it off as another one of my dad’s pointless lectures. Little did I know that I would go back to this same “pointless lecture” years later.

But this experience opened up my eyes. Slowly, I noticed my other peers talking about it an even referring to others with these terms. “Ooo girl, he’s so cute, his little light skinned self” and “I only date girls who actually look black. They need to be real dark skinned” were comments that I would hear daily. And they disturbed me. Why, in an institution of higher learning, are we still even giving a passing thought to the “light skin versus dark skin” debate?

We could bring up the issue of slavery and how slaves were treated based on the color of their skin. Lighter skin, better treatment. Which also created a lot of resentment. And that has a lot to do with this current debate. But the real problem is the media.

The media is continually promoting this “Light skin vs. Dark skin” debate and many young people are buying into it. For example, the hugely popular show, Empire (which is my guilty pleasure I may add), promotes this light skin vs. dark skin debate. The dark skinned women on the show, like Cookie Lyon and the two assistants, are portrayed as loud, ghetto, and with no class. However, Anika, the biracial character and the wife to Terrance Howard’s character is portrayed as professional, classy, and is a debutante. Although she is conniving and cunning, she does not act ghetto to get what she wants. Although it might seem like just another TV show to many people, it’s just another aspect of the media that promotes the light skin vs. dark skin debate. And there are countless other TV shows, reality shows and music videos that do the same.

I could go on all day and complain about the unfairness and stupidity of this debate, but it not achieve as much. Like I said in my Youtube video, “love is color blind.” And this applies to all love: romantic, familial and platonic. You love who you love, no matter if they are white, caramel, mocha, chocolate, or somewhere in between all those. Just as we have fought to end racial disparities between whites and blacks, we should do the same for African Americans of different skin tones. After all, like my father always says, “Black is black. It just comes in different colors sometimes. But we are all black and we all share the same history.”

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