I was supposed to be at least a month into my positivity journey. I was cleaning the negativity out of my life, first by ridding myself of people who were not uplifting and ambitious and also practicing ways of being kind. This included writing apology notes to people I may have wronged in the past and also vowing to use less profanity, among several other things. That all went out the door when I decided to watch my recording of "Dark Girls," a documentary.
The title alone made me roll my eyes. The trailer, full of darker-toned black women remembering their days of ridicule, a child choosing a white cartoon as the safest and most attractive and shots of dark-skinned black women crying, almost sent me into a rage. Thankfully, it is hard for me to reach that point these days.
I feel like a traitor, I should be supporting a documentary that is made by and for African-Americans and the most marginalized of that group, the darkest-toned group. I want to embrace the story it is trying to tell, but I cannot. Instead, I want it to go away or have a part two that actually gets the job done.
The movie trailer that still disappoints me.
The most troubling aspect of the documentary is its title. As if the views of the people involved in the film are representations of the entire population of dark brown women. Like Lena Dunham’s "Girls," the title fails in its generality. As an African-American, I try to combat notions of one person representing a whole group of people. Minorities already lack representation, so I find it very problematic and dangerous to support any piece of work that would support one person, or a couple of people speaking for an oppressed group. It’s as if we can never be seen as individuals.
The name of the documentary should instead be "A Couple of Dark-Skinned Black Women Who Remember Suffering Because of Their Skin Tone and Others Who Comment on Said Dark-Skinned Women."
The documentary for me also fails because of its defeatist attitude. All the crying, discussions of bleach and bullying rubbed me the wrong way. Not because I do not believe it’s true, I do believe it is. But because it lacked balance.
With a world so polluted with Western-white beauty ideals, it is hard to always jettison these ridiculous standards of beauty. I get that. Thankfully, my self-esteem has never really suffered because of colorism. I’m not sure if it’s because my parents are foreign and actually cannot even begin to understand the concept of colorism. I actually tried to have a conversation with my mother about it, she concluded that I was making the whole, light-skinned versus dark skinned “divide” up. Or if it’s because I had a father that always told my siblings and me that we were beautiful with my mother in agreement.
Where are the women who are proud of their shade? The women who, despite the ignorant beauty ideals, continue to day in and day out look in the mirror and proclaim that they are gorgeous? The women who fight societal stereotypes by refusing to see themselves as ugly? Or the women like me who actually wanted to be darker for a long time but accepted her true skin tone midway through college?
It was almost as if the people behind the documentary wanted to depict dark brown women as bitter, crying, weak people who accept their lot in life, even if their lot was determined by white supremacists. I wanted to recommend therapists for everyone involved.
Me, happy, smiling and dark-skinned.
The worst part of the documentary was the inclusion of the white males. But what would a movie be without a white male savior? Don’t get me wrong; I have nothing against white men, or any group of people for that matter, but what was the point in their opinions? It was as if they were included as some kind of glimmer of hope for black women. As if African-American females are supposed to do cart-wheels because a few white men decided to get into relationships with black women.
Newsflash to the producers and directors, white male and black female relationships have been happening almost forever. This does not fix anything or add to any sort of discussion so please, everyone out there who believes this to be a remedy and a step up for minority women, shut up. Please stop exoticizing interracial relationships. They are completely normal and operate the exact same way other relationships do.
I do not want to even get into the depiction of black men in this documentary because it would take up a whole article; all I have to say is that it did not show them in quite a great light. Not only did this movie emphasize a divide between light-skinned and dark-skinned blacks, as if every person in each group views the other as enemies, it also emphasized a divide between black women and black men.
I'll give "Dark Girls" this. With the Supreme Court pretty much voting that racism is over and therefore minorities should not be protected from oppression when it comes to voting, in what some consider a “post-racial” America with a half-black president and attacks on affirmative action, I found it at least a bit satisfying to see a production that tries to address how racism permeates and lingers. We can look to the racially coded-laws that still exist and others that continue to be passed as evidence that post-racialism is a stupid, racist myth, or we can watch this documentary.