Why Light Girls/Dark Girls is Problematic

In 2011, Directors Bill Duke along with D. Channsin Berry released “Dark Girls” a documentary set to explore certain stereotypes or biases that darker women of color run into within the black culture. The documentary included several tearful women recalling instances where they were called names such as “Tar Baby” “Darkie” or “Burnt” by their lighter peers, names that date back to post-Slavery days. The execution of this film allowed viewers to empathize with these women as we viewed segments of black men explaining why they wouldn’t date a darker woman and we celebrated the men who said they would.

However this year, Duke released “Light Girls” whose aim was to do the same as Dark Girls. The film set out to explore discussions of color, preference and privilege that lighter women of color experience, but I realized that there was less talk about the privilege that lighter women experience and instead the film turned into a mess of tears about how some women wish they were darker, or how they can’t help it if men prefer them. There were some great takeaways, but I found both documentaries combined to be a problem.

Neither documentary offered a solution as to how we can lessen the color divides in black culture. I feel they unintentionally played further into the color divide that separates us.

In my quest to remain neutral, I was disappointed by the large amount of male opinion in both films. The docs for me, didn’t really dive deeper into the history of this color divide. It lacked an analyzation of the historical and long term effect this divide has on women psychologically.

The fact that the films were separate forces viewers to empathize with one more than the other. As a dark girl you felt more for the women in “Dark Girls” and as a lighter skinned women you empathized more for the women in light girls. We see light skin issues and dark skin issues but fail to acknowledge that it’s a black woman issue.

Black Twitter emerged and became very heated as many darker women felt they couldn’t take the “Light Girls” documentary seriously because of the light girl privilege that’s been drilled into our culture for centuries.

How can we stop perpetuating these color divides and self-hate that we’ve created amongst each other as a gender and as a race?


  1. I think the main way to do that, or even get on the path of doing that is to see black women as simply that– a black woman. Not chocolate, not caramel, not beige etc. But to look at each other as another black woman in the world trying to make it. Though each shade may come with it’s own struggles, it’s still a struggle nonetheless and that’s where there’s some common ground. We have to uplift each other.


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