‘Pretty for a dark-skinned girl’

Columnist Tanzania Ralph.
Photo courtesy of Mia Lewis.

A phrase that can make a child question true beauty is often given with an admiring tone, accompanied by a smile. It can be heard from the mouths of loved ones or complete strangers, but it still raises the same questions.

As black women we are taught that black is beautiful. For some it happens at an early age; for others it happens while they are on the cusp of adulthood.

But if our black is beautiful then why are we defined by our skin tone? Why is beauty associated with how fair we appear, and if we happen to be one of the “lucky few” we are considered “pretty for a dark-skinned girl.”

“Pretty for a dark-skinned girl” screams colorism to the third-degree. For some people this phrase is not just a phrase but an actual idea of a way of life, a way of thinking and a way of living.

People assume that this phrase is a crown that has been bestowed upon darker skinned girls, but in truth it is a backhanded statement with a hurtful effect. This phrase is a form of colorism that continues to circulate through the black community.

It teaches young girls that their skin color defines them, and if they want to fit the standard of beauty, skin bleaching or other means to achieve lighter skin is necessary when it is not.

Society's view of beauty is so stuck in a Eurocentric mindset that it seems impossible for someone of a dark complexion to be considered beautiful. When society portrays a black woman, she is often shown in the likeness of her white counterparts.

Society's perception of darker skinned women is so shallow and without consideration of beauty, that when they see her associated with strength or athleticism. Only then she is considered beautiful.

Although people use counter phrases like “the blacker the berry the sweeter the juice” to gain the self-esteem that being pretty for a dark-skinned girl has taken away from them, it still fuels the fire of colorism in the black community. This notion of skin color defining the range of beauty has to be debunked because beauty knows no scale and no range.

All black women are beautiful.