Alice Walker coined the term colourism which David Knight on tolerance.org describes as “within-group and between-group prejudice in favor of lighter skin color…” The idea is that people with lighter skin complexions have a closer proximity to whiteness and therefore are seen as more desirable. In old tweets that have resurfaced today, British multi-hyphenate musician Stefflon Don, displayed the kind of colourism that is ingrained in the consciousness of not just those with light skin but is implanted in the minds of those with dark skin who in turn learn to believe they are inferior. “All you dark-skinned hating on light skin bitches like if God gave you a choice you wouldn’t change your colour lool…” tweeted Stephanie Allen, the singer’s real name in 2013. I believe Stefflon is as much a victim of this societally entrenched prejudice as she is a past perpetrator of it and should she simply hold her hands up and say “rah, you know what? I said stupid, hurtful, uninformed shit back in the day. I’ve learned and I’ll do better.” I’d be inclined to say ignore this, but this “I never ever tweeted that” nonsense denial as if we’ve all lost the plot and didn’t see the tweet from her account with our own eyes, before she deleted it, but simply decided to come for her out of the blue is jarring. So, let’s talk about this. Follow me into the kitchen, I’m serving tea.
Amara La Negra, the Afro-Latina singer and star of Love & Hip Hop Miami is currently educating the masses on the ways in which dark skinned women are discriminated against within Latin American music. Her struggle to cross over and gain the recognition her complexion has stopped her from attaining (until now) was highlighted by an uncomfortable interview where the Breakfast Club’s DJ Envy and Charlamagne questioned whether the discrimination she experiences is “all in her head” despite video evidence (episode two of Love & Hip Hop Miami) proving her point. Black women, of all ethnicities, are particularly vulnerable to internalising colourism because of how the media positions women with Eurocentric features (light or white skin, long hair, straight noses etc) as the most desirable and the gas lighting of Amara La Negra works to make the victim(s) question whether they are crazy rather than acknowledging there is a problem deeply rooted within the global society, a problem created by white supremacy to sow inequality within our racial group.
Stefflon Don is a benefactor of colourism, she has gained from what Yomi Adegoke has described as the “Kim Kardashian standard of beauty…” As a fan, I can attest to her talent, but it cannot be denied that being lighter skin affords her a level of access she wouldn’t have if she had darker skin. The fact that Ray Blk was chosen as BBC’s Sound of 2017 yet has no upcoming tour dates, and Stefflon Don has a bevy of upcoming tour dates speaks to a problem, not only within British music, but worldwide. (Ben Anderson has tapped me on my shoulder to point out the reason for Ray Blk's absence of tour dates is because she's in between projects. My arms were short and I was reaching- let me wheel and come again.)
Stefflon Don's YouTube viewer numbers boasts 80 million and Ray Blk's boasts 2 million, if we lived in a fair society that valued both light skin and dark skin women equally, accounting for her feature with French Montana, her visual aesthetic and that she has twice as many videos, we should be look at maybe four times as many viewing figures but the fetishisation and desirability of people with light skin means that despite having joined YouTube before her and her critical acclaim, Stefflon Don has 40 times the viewing figures. Both women are supremely talented and deserve to be celebrated equally.
Stefflon Don’s inability to admit that while she now thinks differently, people with light skin are taught their complexion gives them superiority over their darker skin counterparts and in 2013 she bought into that lie. There is a process of unlearning, resistance and self analysis light skin, dark skin and white people while we're at it, have to undergo in order to fight against the poison white supremacy planted within the black race through slavery, imperialism and colonialism and watch grow through the hierarchical positioning of black people in media with the most light skinned at the top and the dark skinned at the bottom or not considered at all. I can imagine what happened. Someone drew out receipts of her old tweets and Stefflon was shooketh to her core because we’ve all seen careers shattered in the blink of an eye for social media missteps. Stefflon might understand the effects of white supremacy on a grand scale but believes it’s too far away to be found in her tweets. So she deleted her tweets and lied. Fear will make you do crazy things to protect yourself instead of what’s necessary; opening up a dialogue about why “dark skinned pretty girls” is a statement rooted in colourism or “this dark skinned African woman is using foundation dat is lighter than me *confused face*...” is rooted in colourism, misogynoir and a superiority complex she has been taught by society.
I’m not cancelling Stefflon Don. It is not constructive to continually dispose of black women who don’t know how to handle crises when it would be more productive to have a conversation and get all the cards on the table. She could have handled this better because as I’ve long said, no one wakes up woke, we all evolve in our understanding of the systems of oppression used against us and the ones we benefit from and use to denigrate those around us. Not taking responsibility for words she thought and wrote disallows us from having an honest conversation about the damage colourism does, instead focusing on her poor choices, pulling us further away from the hard work we all need to continually and actively partake in; decolonising our minds and upending white supremacy.
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