Home Beauty Sound Off: Discuss the “Dark Girls” Documentary

Sound Off: Discuss the “Dark Girls” Documentary

by Erika Nicole Kendall

Now, I totally missed the documentary, so I’m wholly unable to contribute my own thoughts and feelings… and I originally blogged in anticipation of this a while back, which was met with many of y’all sharing your stories of colorism and the traumas you might’ve experienced because of it. In fact, I learned more about colorism through this blog than I did in the first twenty-sneeze-years of my life.

"Dark Girls" documentary on OWN

“Dark Girls” documentary on OWN

That being said, I’m seeing some real concerning commentary on the documentary, so I’d love to know your thoughts. What did it do well? What did it leave out? What stood out, frustrated, drew tears for you? Where do you think viewers should go from here?

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LA Red June 24, 2013 - 12:26 PM

I am interested in everyone’s view especially after reading what was on Twitter.

Erika Nicole Kendall June 24, 2013 - 8:05 PM

Word. Twitter was brutal. LOL

Gail June 24, 2013 - 1:35 PM

I watched the first 20 minutes. Then I turned it off and went to bed. I don’t know why. If I figure it out, I will come back and express my thoughts.

BrownBunny03 June 24, 2013 - 7:30 PM

I’m a woman with a darker hue and I know I’m beautiful with question or validation from ANYBODY. It has always irked me that some folks (mostly our own) catagorize being light-skinned as automatically being more attractive. I’ve seen some light-skinned chicks that are straight busted! I dont need some n*gga that I dont know to validate if he thinks I’m wife material or not just because I’m not high yellow. Another thing I’ve noticed is half of the men that say those things are not that attractive either! Besides, why would you allow someone elses ignorant opinion affect your happiness and the way you live your life? I don’t allow ANYONE to make me feel less than what I am.

Jame (@jameane) June 24, 2013 - 9:29 PM

I was excited about this because I contributed to the Indiegogo project, and I wasn’t able to go see it when it premiered in my city.

I think Tika Sumpter’s comments sum up my own thoughts quite well. 🙂


I wanted to see more people who didn’t have negative experiences, or were unaware untl later (I didn’t know until I moved to the South)

I wanted a deeper conversation. Colorism isn’t a black problem. It is a south asian problem, and east asian problem, a latin american problem, a Mexican problem and so on.

I really wanted someone to go unpack that issue that all “ethnic” women seem to have this problem, and work on some suggestions on combatting the nonsense. It is really stupid to all of us women of “color” are taught that you really can be too colorful…..and tries to diminish our shine.

I was expecting a little less narrative and a lot more analysis.

There are a lot of Dark Girl experiences that just weren’t addressed.

ebony campbell June 30, 2013 - 1:20 AM

I agree, I wanted to see a more positive view from darker toned women as well. I am a very dark african american woman and I never really went through any thing that stopped me or traumitized me due to my skin tone. I really would have likes to see a variety of stories instead of just ones from a negative standpoint.

Mochamajesty June 25, 2013 - 3:40 AM

The documentary was, in a word, ignorant.
They focused more on the opinions of men than hearing the stories of women who actually “suffer” due to their skin color.

I would have loved to hear more from Viola Davis. I would have loved more focus on solutions rather than the uneducated, ignorant opinions of Pookie and dem.

And they could have left out the white men’s opinions entirely. Instead of focusing on the way that white people actually contribute to colorism, it’s almost as if the mockumentary were touting white men as our saviors, because “hey, your our men don’t want you.”

I am disappointed (can’t you tell)? I would love to see Melissa Harris Perry do a panel on this.

dominique June 27, 2013 - 10:57 AM

I saw the promo and was very turned off. I have to agree with the respondent who called it a mock-umentary, very much like Chris Rock’s piece on black hair. Skin color, the hair issue, the single woman’s issue get airtime when the space is used for further criticism, self-victimization, and mockery (i.e. handled by comedians).

AyanaM June 25, 2013 - 3:48 PM

I’m glad there is at least…dialogue out there regarding this documentary. I was really excited to watch and then pretty disappointed. It focused way too much on the melodrama and shock value around colorism for my personal taste BUT I was also educated. I appreciated the perspectives from the Korean and Latin women that I thought did expand this beyond our American borders. I was outright pained by the suffering of some of those profiles- I mean, it’s someones skin color- not their value as a human. I was annoyed with many of the men’s opinions (that strayed towards wholesale ignoranance) and the villianzation (is that a word?) of light skinned black people. Skin color cannot be helped- we are born to it. I am medium brown so colorism is not my issue but I inserted “overweight” into the dialogue on a few occasions and my empathy was right there with these women. Although being a “dark girl” not my experience, being a “fat girl” is not so far off. Either way, I thought it provoked discussion and thought- which is what a good documentary should do.

Jayde June 25, 2013 - 5:33 PM

I was not moved by this documentary. First off, Tyra Banks covered this some years ago but I am not saying that Oprah does not have the right to cover it as well. I was just…not feeling it. Instead of basing it on skin color, she should of talked about self esteem within BLACK WOMEN. We can change things such as that but to pin point on Skin color?! Oh no mam. I never had an issue with my skin color nor what others though of it. Also, I am a black women that love men from any ethnicity. As a human being, its our attitude that brings and pulls people away not the way we look ( most of the time). That little stereotype about all black women are mean and bitter…. I’m still waiting on someone to clear that up for us publicly.

Great post Miss Erica!

Tiffany June 26, 2013 - 8:50 PM

I like the documentary, mind you I also have a degree in sociology so I’ve ALWAYS been interested in society and their interactions. I didn’t know that colorism existed until….high school probably. I’m brown skin(think black coffee with a few splashes of milk) and my father is dark chocolate, my mom, her mom and aunt(basically my mom’s whole family) is..vanilla. I remember watching this documentary and thinking about stories I’ve heard from my relatives about families who would…inbreed to keep “the light skinned trait” in the family..actually people just speculate that’s what they do, they may just seek out fair skinned people, but they subscribe to the brown paper bag theory is my point. I’ve always thought it was just a black thing, but it hit me when I watched this how most cultures do it. Hispanics, even Asians. I thought it was so sad when the young woman said she went to Korea and how almost every beauty product contains a lightening agent. I’ve even heard stuff on the radio about women being forbidden from eating chocolate because they were told it will darken their skin. I mean this is so silly. There were some parts of the documentary that made me cringe, such as when they interviewed lil Pookie from round da corner and he said that he wants a woman “light skinned, long hair, don’t care…” contrast this with the white male hip hop author who found it interesting how all of the rappers talk about how proud they are of their blackness but have 0 dark skinned women in their video, all light skinned women or white women. It’s really…sad to say the least. It’s 2013, and I can probably count on 1 hand the number of hip hop videos I’ve seen this year with a dark skinned woman as the love interest. Most of those are Kendrick Lamar videos…one artist out of the many. We need to change.

kjen nu June 27, 2013 - 1:02 AM

I walked away from the doc not having learned any thing new. It was the basic, generic “slavery+Black people+current issue under discussion+modern times=why colored people are so screwed up now” type of piece.

Really wish, they would have added other impacts of colorism in particular the economics of it. (check out “The Color Complex” by Kathy Russell)

***Considering the relative scarcity of darker women in the media, it saddened me to realize that so many dark women had been ‘brought together’ to discuss how ugly they felt.

Vivian June 27, 2013 - 10:10 AM

I was amazed at how many black women hated their color! I called my mother after watching this, to thank her for not allowing this to be in issue in my life. I have always LOVED my dark skin and purposely lay out in the sun (with sunblock of course) to work on my “brown”. I was disappointed because some of the brothers seemed to think it was a joke. I think they should have included corporate america (not just the record store owner) to see how skin tone effects climbing the corporate ladder. I’m glad to see the issue being addressed though since so many women seem to be affected by it.

Nicole June 30, 2013 - 8:47 AM

Strengths: Provided a hostorical introduction to colorism (never assume a mass audience knows the history of an issue), showed examples of how colorism negatively impacted people’s lives; Touched on colorism from an international perspective to show that the issue is not just affecting Black Americans; Showed the prevalence of the issue amongst not just those who are targeted by colorism; Showed colorism as a structural and not just an individual issue (I.E. Individuals can operate within a system of colorism and not feel directly impacted by it, e.g. I’m a darker skinned woman and I know that most main screen actresses who are Black are “lighter”, but I my view of myself concerning my color hasn’t been negatively affected). Limitation: I personally could have done without the commentary from men (but I understand that in a hereronormative world, men’s opinions are just as “important” or “worthy” as a woman’s [insert side eye]), Because the commentary around lighter skinned women was generalized to a degree, some people felt that lighter skinned women were demonized (which I don’t agree with at all because this was about the experiences of darker skinned women . Some of their experiences included direct negative experiences with lighter skinned women or they were directly affected by the structural privilege of lighter skinned women). Resolution: A few of my friends will be hosting dinners around the film to continue the conversation. We were surprised at the number of people who didn’t know about colorism or who couldn’t see beyond their individual “it didn’t affect me”/”light skinned women’s issues weren’t addressed” perspectives. We don’t want the conversation and or challenges to our own thoughts to end with the credits on the movie. There wasn’t enough time to cover everything, so we are doing our part to keep the issue alive so that we can work on getting people to think about the issue in hopes of ending the practices within our sphere of influence.

Natasha McLaurin June 30, 2013 - 9:02 AM

Being a 34 year old African American woman from New Orleans with a skin tone that is the mix of my mothers ebony( Oprah) complected skin tone and my fathers creole skin tone, I found this documentary to be reveling and accurate in many ways, but short sided in others.

Yes, I do think Dark Girls could have broaden their point of view. There was a lot of focus on history, particularly slavery, Jim Crow and the Civil Rights movement, looking at the correlation between our history in the USA and our conflicts as it pertains to skin tone. I would have liked to see a balance in the conversation; I would have liked to see more ebony complected women telling their stories, good and bad from different regions of the country. What this film failed to get across was that the experiences of African American women across this country varies greatly; the focus of the film was told more so from the south’s perspective.
Being on the lighter side side of “brown”, I know that in New Orleans their are advantages given historically and currently to lighter skinned blacks. Token black at the work place.. comes to mind. Being more accepted into white social structures, being deemed more attractive because your hair may be longer, more curly, not as kinky, and being more accepted into the creole culture of New Orleans, just to name a few.
I love what the movie had to say about racism within our own culture. This is very true for New Orleans, unfortunately. I remember going to a friend’s grandmother’s house when I was 19. He is of creole, black and German heritage; his grand mother was creole. I walked into the door and I can over hear her say…”his name” isn’t she a little dark.. she’s barely light skinned. To see discrimination from your own is another experience into itself. I had to remind myself that the creoles in New Orleans purposely only married creoles or mixed to insure that their culture’s completion stayed light to white. They were historically in New Orleans free people of color and being Passe Blanc meant you had more opportunities. The paper bag test was a huge part in the fabric of New Orleans society. The lighter you were the more opportunities economically and socially you were afforded with in the black community and white community. I know today their are light skinned people in New Orleans who do not date…dear not marry any one who is dark; all of this to make sure their children retain their light completion.

Karen July 1, 2013 - 9:44 AM

Some of it was gibberish but so much was true. I live in Barbados. And we have our share of “colour blocking. First it isnt only a black thing… I met women from all cultures at university… in Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka.. the lighter you are the more attractive.. notice I said lighter … just skin tone equates to beauty. In Italy where women are predominantly dark haired and olived skin.. they want pale skin,blonde hair, blue eyed women. But for us black people of African heritage we are made to feel uglier and less attractive not only for mates but for everything from jobs to socail peer groups. And yes a healthy self esteem will allow the negative comments to fall off your back but dont forget where the negativity begins. It starts with very young children many of whom are not nurtured by their families to love themselves. So its ok for adult women to say it isnt important what others think of your skin tone and beauty. Try telling that to the 6 yr old who comes home from school in tears because NO ONE talks to her at school! I could go on but will stop there for now.

Kim August 26, 2013 - 9:41 AM

I thought it was a well presented thought out Documentary that raised really good points. It is such a shame that we as a people can not acknowledge the amazing journey we have made since being enslaved. I understand the damage from the treatment of our people and how we have gone on to perpetuate further damage on one another. I liked the points made that 1619 to 1865 we were enslaved and 1865 to 1964 were without rights and in reality we have only started to realise rights in the last 50 years. 50 years is not a long time but we must persist.

My hope for the future is that we realise our greatness, because the evil one’s do which is why they hate us. I agree that it’s not racism it is a lack of unity it’s like we have Stockholm syndrome.

p.s. the little black girl in the blue top is BEAUTIFUL and people are stupid if they don’t see it. .

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