Dating, relationships

Is It Colorism, Just a Dating Preference, or Both?

The conversation about colorism and people’s dating preferences is certainly NOT new. Black folks and other people of color have been talking about skin color and sexual attraction for generations. While I’m a firm believer that beauty exists across the spectrum of black and brown, I’ve witnessed my fair share of individuals with a “skewed” perception of attractiveness. Those people that are firm believers in the “light is right” mantra. They believe that being light-skinned grants a person an automatic qualification of beautiful, and that those of a darker tone have got to have some damn near flawless features in order to compete. And while people are ready to blast those that have a preference for the Halle Berry and Michael Ealy folks of the world, perhaps the offended should give those attracted to our lighter brothers and sisters a break.

Not to give a full history lesson on the issue, but the biased roots of colorism can be traced back to most problems of race. Slavery. During the global era of accepted slave trade and European colonialism, the standard of beauty still lingering around today was established on an understanding at that time that the closer one appeared to be of Western European decent, the more attractive he was. So people of color with lighter skin, smaller noses, and straighter hair were by society standards more beautiful, therefore “better.” The unfair yet quietly accepted norm was reinforced by slave owners assigning lighter Blacks to housework and dark Blacks to the fieldwork.  And unfortunately, this preferential treatment based on skin tone has continually surfaced throughout the decades in the perceived advantages light-skinned individuals receive on a global scale, whether the advantages come in the form of career advances, or leg-ups in the dating world. For now, will focus on the latter.

In a recent interview, actress Gabrielle Union-Wade opened up about having a conversation with her stepsons about being color struck (color struck: process of instinctively preferring lighter-skinned individuals based solely on their skin color). You can check out the interview for yourself, but in short the Being Mary Jane star felt she had to address a concern she had about the obvious type of dating preference of her boys. As a beautiful darker-skinned woman, she wanted to educate the future on how their dating preferences may be unjustifiably slanted, and why darker women are also just as stunning as their lighter counterparts.

Also, in an upcoming episode of the reality television show, We’re the Campbells, gospel powerhouse Erica Campbell has a conversation with her dark-skinned daughter about why she feels overlooked by boys primarily because of her skin tone. While Erica attempts to reassure her daughter of her beauty, her daughter seems to have a very grown understanding of what’s considered beautiful in this country. It’s actually unfortunate that her daughter feels as if she already has a strike against her because she’s not fair-skinned.

Look, while I definitely think colorism exists, and that long-held European standards of beauty in world are ridiculous, I want to raise a counter point.  Individuals are entitled to like what they like. Men and women across the globe have the right to prefer their potential dates to be a certain ethnicity, height, weight, body type, religion, and sexual role.  Given that’s the case, is it so wrong that some people are attracted to predominately light-skinned persons of color? Should those with that preference be vilified?

Hear me clearly people. One person is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea in terms of dating. One person may prefer a Beyoncé, while another may find Kelly more appealing.

Or some may be checking for Kofi Siriboe and others may foam at the mouth for Mychal Kendricks. 

No one is necessarily wrong for liking one and not the other. Heck, there are plenty of people that like both, and few who like neither. The point is, it’s a person’s right to choose.

Lastly, I wouldn’t feel responsible unless I once again pointed out that colorism exists in both professional and personal settings.  However, for the sake of this conversation, I’m not focusing on one’s ability to get unfair advantages in her career, but simply one’s level of attraction based on one person’s view. Every person is entitled have his dating preference, regardless of how he arrived at those preferences. Because when you get down to it, no one is everyone’s beautiful; yet, I firmly believe everyone is beautiful to at least one special someone.

-Tavion Scott

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