I recently caught up on “We’re the Campbells” like I binged watched all the shows and I love so many things about the show. #1 I love the fact that they openly show their love, affection and hint at their healthy sex life. Life for real for real I’m so tired of folks pretending like Gospel Singers, Pastors and Christians aren’t humans and sex within the confines of marriage ain’t where it’s at. Whew Chile! Before I get off subject what really caught my attention was episode 4
In this episode the Campbells had some great conversations around the light skin vs dark skin issues that still plague the Melanin Community. My favorite quote was from Warryn when he said “this skin is just wrapping paper who we are is on the inside”. If it were just that simple Warryn, and everybody just got over it already…
This episode brought up a lot of memories in my life and started great conversation between my husband and I and even prompted me to have the conversation with my kids. I’m now letting you in on these essential conversations in the McGhee household and looking to continue the conversation with YOU.
I remember growing up my entire immediate family was “light-skin” and the ones that had a little more brown were cousins and Aunts so they were just family. I never even realized or looked at our skin-tones, let alone judged any of us on them. Then it happened. I went to an all black Militant elementary school and immediately I felt like I wasn’t black enough to be black. (Like what does that even mean) I only remember two of us lighter skin folks and she had an African name, locks or twists and I thought she was Muslim because her last name was Mohammed. Here I was with my super anglo saxon name Jennifer and my slave master’s last name Davis with my skin complexion that could pass the brown paper bag test without any issue and I pressed my hair (screaming shocked emoji). I honestly can’t remember anyone ever saying I wasn’t black enough or even ostracizing me for my skin color but I darn sure felt it. Maybe it was because I didn’t grow up in a home that was pro-Black, not that they were pro anything really we just lived. Maybe, it was because when I did straighten my hair I was asked why I wanted to be white. Maybe, it was because they (my classmates) just seemed to know who they were, their identity was heavily formed on their melanin and I just had no clue. Whatever the case this was definitely the beginning of me feeling some kind of way because of the way my melanin came through. But, that school gave me the real deal education on my lineage, my people, my roots heck they taught me Swahili and shaped me into the Melanin Proud woman I am today.
After elementary I went to several “white schools” and finally ended in a mixed public school. I joined BSU (Black Student Union) and was very active with Latinos Unidos (I’m not Latin at all but I loved my Spanish teacher, and the culture was dope). But even here in a mixed setting I remember being told countless times how I thought I was better than everyone because I was light-skin and had long hair. Deep down on the inside I just wanted to be one of the cool kids and pretty girls but they seemed to think I had a leg up I didn’t even know existed. This idea that I was better didn’t stop in high-school. I’ve heard it over and over again in social settings. I’ve dealt with it in business. I literally made it a point to say I was a single mom of 3 with 3 baby daddies so women would stop judging me as a woman who has never struggled and see me as a woman just like them. I have been told by more than one person that they saw my picture and thought what does this light skin pretty girl know about struggling, overcoming, and being messed over by men. Chile I could write a book oh wait I have a couple of times.
Colorism still wasn’t something I talked about though until I became pregnant with my 1st child. I remember my mother asking me what color did I think my baby would be, and I was like i dunno because I had never thought about it. She went on to say if she did come out brown like her father I might need to have a conversation with her making sure she didn’t feel any kind of way because she would look noticeably different than the rest of us. I mean her dad is medium brown, but black people come in all shades of Melanin so what’s the difference. Well, after I had 2 more kids (yes by 2 different men) and she was the only one whose Melanin showed through she brought it up to me. I remember the day she asked why am I darker than you guys. I was stumped. This is when the color conversation started in my life, and I began to try to unpack some of the things associated with all the shades our Melanin comes in.
Today my daughter is a Freshman in High School and she is often referred to as the light-skin girl with curly hair. And so the cycle starts again. Because at 34 I finally am confident in my skin and LOVE my shade of Melanin and all the others, I hope that I can instill in her a true sense of Melanin Pride.
When Erica sat on the porch and talked to her daughter, Krista, and realized that she was having issues with her weight and her skin tone, it was a moment that my heart dropped just like I’m sure Erica’s did. And then Krista dropped a bomb on her with you don’t understand because your light-skin and was even able to list all the couples within the family and how they were one light and one dark, I knew exactly how Erica felt. Like, what do I say. But this is exactly what happens every time the color conversation comes up. No matter what side of the Melanin ombre you are on, and what you have experienced the other side thinks you don’t understand. The truth is we don’t understand it from their perspective but we’ve all felt the effects of it. Hopefully, through conversations like Erica and I had with our children and conversations we can all have with one another we will begin to let go of “our side” and embrace the fact that we are ALL Melanin, no matter how much shows through.
We discussed colorism over dinner the other night and I think I’ve imparted some pretty dope things in them and some other things we still have to work on.. Watch the whole conversation below…
The biggest problem and where colorism comes from is in situations like Warryn experienced with the executive regarding his sister, Joi. They use our color to seperate us, to decide what is marketable and what’s better. But at the end of the day we are all Melanin enriched. The fact that we do have this colorism issue within the Black community is the main reason why when we decided to create the Melanin Family Signature Collection we made sure that all shades of melanin were represented, hence the ombre of Melanin on every shirt.
Have you had the colorism conversation with your family? Have your kids experienced any of the things the Campbells or I have talked about? Don't be shy tell me all about it below?
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