We (Black People) Have No Idea What Complexion Any Of Us Are (…And This Bothers Me Very Much)
I’ve tried already. Twice, actually. I’d try again if I thought something would come of it. But, I know it won’t. So I won’t. I know it will never happen. I have no hope. I am hopeless. Devoid of hope. Hope deficient.
But, despite this hope abyss, I can’t help but be bothered by its presence. It is my albatross. The thumb in my eye. The fly in my cheese. The Big Sean in my speakers. And it reared its ugly head again yesterday afternoon.
I was on Facebook, killing time and editing old status messages, when I came across a hundred comment-long thread on a friend’s page about Kerry Washington’s recent Lucky cover. Apparently, it’s not the most flattering picture of everyone’s favorite Bougie Black Girl, and the first 30 or so comments in the thread were related to that.
Then, it happened.
Someone made a reference to Kerry being “browner” on that cover than she usually is. Someone else responded by saying that she actually is that brown. Then, someone else responded by saying that she is actually light-skinned, and most magazine covers go out of their way to make her seem darker. Then, someone else responded with “one dark-skinned sister gets some Hollywood love, and ya’ll trying to say she’s yellow?” Then someone else responded that she’s actually “brown skinned, not dark brown skinned.” Then one of my testicles disappeared for spending too much time in that thread. I still haven’t found it.
Perhaps it’s just another unfortunate byproduct of the lasting effects of colonization, slavery, discrimination, and Erica Mena. Maybe we’re just so varied in hue that we defy any type of complexion consensus. And maybe I’m the only person who gives a fuck about any of this. But, I will forever be haunted by the fact that Black people (collectively) have no idea what color any of us are. There is no concord. No agreement. No concession. Just haphazard guessing. Pisses in the wind. Stabs in the dark. Or, more appropriately, stabs in the dark-brown.
Despite centuries of practice, paper bag tests, colors named after candy, and Delta conventions, none of us seem to know the difference between brown, or dark-brown, or light-skinned, or light-brown, or light, or dark, or…
…you know what? Fuck it. If ya’ll don’t care anymore, neither will I. Figure this shit out on your own. Call Drake dark-brown and Nia Long yellow. Continue to pretend that Beyonce and Jay Z aren’t the exact same color. Argue with your sister when she calls you light-skinned (despite the fact that you are), and raise your hand in the club when the DJ shouts out dark brothas (despite the fact that you’re not).
Just make sure that when you refer to me, you get it right and call me a dark-brown-brown skinned shade under a bite-sized almond Snicker bar. With chocolate sprinkles. Don’t forget the fucking chocolate sprinkles.
—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)