Whiter Shade of Black

Rating: NNNNNi'm in love with ms. lightskin. I'm talking about that "bright-skinned" African-Canadian female, that golden-brown, honey-covered, caramel-coated object of.

Rating: NNNNN

i’m in love with ms. lightskin. I’m talking about that “bright-skinned” African-Canadian female, that golden-brown, honey-covered, caramel-coated object of my desire, that “redbone” skin tone that looks sumptuous when intertwined with my own dark chocolate hue.

I have no problem, I repeat, no problem with my darker-skinned black women. Admittedly, there is something to be said about a silky-skinned, jet-dark-chocolate-covered sister.

But I’ll concede that if I had to choose between an attractive, intelligent dark-skinned woman and an equally capable “cafe au lait” female, it’s probably the chocolate sister who’d be out in the cold.

Here’s where I get confused. Is Ms. Lightskin attractive because it’s simply what I like, or is it because she’s “closer” to a supposed (read white) ideal? Do I really equate Ms. Lightskin’s frizzy-yet-yielding hair, the seeming incongruity of her straight nose beside her full lips, slim hips but cocked behind, sometimes blue-green or hazel eyes but always caramel skin tone with some antiquated societal notion of “real” beauty?

Centuries of slavery, miscegenation and racism have relegated even dating to an exercise in race relations. It’s almost as if on some demented plane of subconsciousness we covet the black woman who has some inherently white features to assuage our perceived inferiorities.

It’s in the way some black men refuse to date anyone darker than their own complexion. You see it in the way society oohs and aahs over “beautiful” mixed-race children. You see it in the way long, straightened, nappy-free “good hair” is often valued in the black community. You see it in the way the mainstream puts a premium on chicks who look like the lead singer in Destiny’s Child.

Some of my actor friends tell me that when Toronto casting calls request a black female, they really mean a light-skinned black female. Looking at the representation of blacks in the entertainment industry, I’m inclined to agree. Ms. Lightskin is less rugged, less threatening, less black.

I sometimes wonder if I’m just caught up within a self-conscious, self-defeating mire from which I can’t escape. All I have to defend my preference, all that separates me from the culturally and historically ignorant, is a heightened self-awareness of the racial and societal connotations. That should be enough to continue my affair with Ms. Lightskin without guilt.

Shouldn’t it?

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