Once upon a time Yara Shahidi openly acknowledged her light skinned privilege on Twitter during a discussion of Grownish representation. But it seems as though that confession and awareness wasn’t enough since her recent fiasco regarding her reaction to critiques of the colorism in Grownish showed that she still isn’t fully educated on the issue. Fast forward to a few days ago when Zendaya also acknowledged her light skinned privilege for the second time and the internet goes wild. Back in 2016 in an interview with Cosmopolitan she said the same thing but is it enough? Frankly put, no. It isn’t. These actresses know their privilege, but it literally stops there. No other actions are being taken to give exposure to dark skinned Black women, no effective collaborations, etc. Nothing.
There’s a pattern of mainstream light skinned, biracial actresses that have branded themselves as being “woke” and almost activists of some sort, but outside of regurgitating the same rhetoric that we’ve been seeing for years, nothing has been done. So what’s the point? There’s a lot of people, dark skinned Black women included, that praise these women for simply stating the obvious and that's where we mess up. When we praise people with privilege for simply acknowledging that they have an upper hand in society, we basically encourage them to do the bare minimum when in reality there’s nothing to clap about. They believe their words and performative activism is enough, then marginalized people like us end up disappointed that not more is being done by said people because we’ve expected too much of them when most times they can’t deliver.
But we also mess up when we depend on people to give up their privilege or use it to help uplift those below the on the social hierarchy. So really, we should stop it all together at this point. We need to stop praising people for realizing they have an institutional, systematic, and social head start in life from birth. Stop expecting them to do anything for people like us because it’s clear people with privilege are often reluctant to help those who need it most. For example, combatting and trying to end institutional racism and racism in general is almost an impossible feat because the ones with the power to change things are the same ones that hate us. They don’t want us to have the same privileges and access to opportunities as them, they don’t want the competition. They want to be the only ones on top, and the same applies to light skinned women and colorism. A leveled playing field is only a dream for one group in this situation and it’s not the dream of those who are on top sitting pretty and comfortable.
It's become clear to me that a lot of people's activism these days is all talk and no action, which was never how things get done, and we definitely shouldn't encourage it because it will get us nowhere. It would now be fruitless if dark skinned Black women kept waiting on light skinned women to step down in order to lift us up because there’s a very slim chance of it happening, especially any time soon. We disappoint ourselves each time we think something is going to be done and nothing happens. As dark skinned Black women it’s time we start making our own rules and working towards being the hero that we want others to be for us. No one else is willing to do the work and it’s time we fully accept that and keep that in mind as we move forward. It won’t be easy, but it’s not impossible either. Doing your best to navigate this world as a dark skinned Black woman while doing what you can in your own way to combat colorism are the steps we need to start taking instead of being wrapped up in the empty words of privileged people.
“Erin Dyana is a freelance writer with a focus on pop culture, criticisms, and beauty. Her work has been featured in Teen Vogue, Urban Social TV, Wear Your Voice Magazine, Clementine Zine, and Philadelphia Print Zine. In her free time she likes to create art, watch films, read books, and eat everything in sight."