Skin shade preferences are a global phenomenon and that was one of the most disappointing pieces of truth reiterated by “Dark Girls,” a most excellent documentary film. Brought to the screen by the director/producer team of D. Channsin Berry and Bill Duke, “Dark Girls” is well thought out. The film lays out the full circle of light skin versus dark skin without vilifying or pacifying.
A very pretty girl of about 9 years of age opens the film with a sad, almost whispered declaration: “I don’t like being called dark because I’m not Black.” That statement is the entrance into the world of “Dark Girls” all over this planet.
Duke and Berry have enlisted various Psychiatrists, historians, educators, entertainers, spiritual advisers and compelling people to tell the story clearly, with emotion and reason. Society didn’t just land here in the world of white preference on its own.
The history segment breaks down just how long Black people were enslaved and the small amount of time they’ve been truly independent; it’s quite a consideration. The timeline through colorism, plantation mentality, the paper bag test, and generational damage runs smack dab into today’s westernized wall of preference for lighter skin. Actress Viola Davis (“The Help”) recounts being taunted by Blacks and whites as a young girl.Â She asks, “When you’re getting it from both sides, what do you do?”
Your heart is sent on something of a pinball ride when you hear what men have to say regarding dark skinned women. The pinball is shot out by the force of a young man’s statement: dark skinned women look funny next to me. This young man is neither dark or light; he’s a middle brown complexioned man, about 20 years old. Other men espouse their love of and preference for darker complexioned women, even though their preferences are no less nonsensical than that of Mr. 20 year old. Ding-ding-ding! The pinball scores some points and lands in another section where the men are playing pool and telling their truths. These men are more mature, seasoned but still with their various issues relating to skin complexion preferences for their female partners.
Also documented are white men who have married Black, dark skinned women and the reactions of their families, which have not been as predictable as one might think. Soren Baker, hip-hop authority, journalist, and writer, makes an observation about the hypocrisy of hip-hop artists who study Black pride by day and light skin preference by night. The statement is stunning only because it was said aloud and it came from the mouth of a white guy. Boom!
“Dark Girls” explores the media’s game of throwing stones while hiding their hands when it comes to perpetuating stereotypes under the guise of giving their audiences what they want. International issues such as skin lightening/bleaching, inter-race relations, and skin preferences in seldom noted ethnic groups such as Koreans, are all well weaved into the “Dark Girls” story. The reaction to seeing President Obama’s wife, Michelle, is well told and thankfully canonized in this documentary, which I will be purchasing as SOON as it goes to DVD.
I can’t encourage all of you enough to get out and support this film. Both Duke and Berry admitted that Black Hollywood has not supported them in anyway. Support them so we can see more. Their upcoming film projects include “Follow the Yellow Brick Road,” an exploration of skin preference issues and colorism from the vantage point of persons with light skin, and another film to be titled, “What is a Man?”.
I’m so glad I saw “Dark Girls.” It’s a movie you could see again and one that should be seen by all.