Monday, September 27, 2010

Not shying away from my skin tone

(My first op-ed piece in my school newspaper)

Higher Better Movement hosted a forum entitled, Light skin vs. Dark skin on Thursday night in Dickey Hall auditorium. It focused on the stereotypes and preferences that surrounded the two most noted African American skin complexions. The discussion also focused on ways to break the negative stereotypes that society has built around them.

The four-person panel consisted of what would be considered a light toned male and female, a dark toned male and myself.

Each of us were asked questions regarding our skin complexion, including a question about what complexion we would rather date.

The room filled with laughter and whispers after my response. I told the room full of strangers at the first Historically Black College and University that I preferred neither complexion, but if I had to pick it would be lighter toned men due to the fact that I prefer white men.

Not even for a second was I surprised by their reactions. I knew the whispers and laughs were because they were not expecting someone like me to say that.

I then laughed to myself. Reactions such as this make me treasure my different interest. I appreciate being outside of the box.

We were then asked what stereotypes have we been exposed to.

"The usual," is what I told them. We have all heard how light skin people are preferred over people with darker complexions. But I was quick to mention that the stereotype is ancient and long gone, that the new "in thing" was darker skin.

Not that there should be an "in" or "out" complexion, but stereotypically it would be untruthful to say that stereotypes are not what shapes our preferences.

My fellow darker skin panel member brought up the tall, dark and handsome image that the media has marketed. I spoke about how highly favored dark skin men are opposed to lighter skin men.

White, Black and Asian women all seem to prefer darker men. I mentioned how darker men are looked at as that strong black Mandingo warrior who fears no man or anything, who takes care of his mate and are the kings of their thresholds; characteristics that most women desire. I believe this to be so, based on previous conversations I've engaged in with multiple women from different races. Don't just take my word for it, but look at publicized media couples, Heidi Klum and Seal, Taye Diggs and Indina Menzel, Ellen Pompeo and Chris Ivery. And Welsey Snipes, who has dated countless Asian women.

Based on these images, I asked myself a long time ago, if Black men can date women outside their race, then why can't I?

Being a dark skin female panelist unfortunately was not an eye opener for me. Maybe because the stereotypes were not new to me and the few that still existed were barely hanging on. Or maybe it was because I have always embraced my complexion and have chosen to shun insecurities regarding it due to others and their opinions or perceptions.

But the one thing I must say after leaving that forum, is that I felt the same way about myself as I did when entering, if not feeling more empowered.

I, La'Rhonda Swales from Washington, D.C., consider myself dark skin and am proud of it.

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