Brown Skin Girl: Self Love Vs External Validation
Have you listened to Beyonce’s new single Brown Skin Girl? It’s putting a smile on my melanin sisters’ faces, and they are out here living their best life to this song as if it’s the new Black girl anthem. It’s like dark skin Black women can’t believe Beyonce, Queen B, actually made a song for them and they are giving her a standing ovation, but I don’t know if she deserves it. Don’t get me wrong, I like the song and I can get down with the beat, but I find myself disappointed. Not because of what she said, but because of what people will do with it. All my melanin sisters are walking around with a new glow and confidence because they received external validation through a song, and I can’t help but wonder why Beyonce needed to say Brown skin girls are beautiful and worthy for them to believe it!
We are constantly seeking for a seat at the table, forgetting that it was made by and filled with white folk. White people who don’t feel our skin is beautiful and often provide disingenuous praise towards Black women for their own agenda, yet we still seek their validation to prove our lives are worthy of being seen and heard. And the same can be said about Brown Skin Girl, it’s the same situation, the only difference is instead of looking to white people specifically, Black women are looking to a privileged light skin woman of color. By doing this we as Black women are putting ourselves in a dangerous situation, because we are constantly seeking for those who have power and privilege to validate our existence.
Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not uncommon to seek validation from outside sources to some degree. But the question for me is always: to what degree? How big of an impact does this validation have on your self-esteem and self-love? Outside validation in small doses is one thing, I mean who doesn’t love a little recognition and celebration from those outside of our “bubble.” But if external validation is the air you breathe, you will suffocate when they move on from you or no longer sing your praises. So, the therapist in me can’t help but worry about all the dark skin girls feeling beautiful now because they’ve got a song dedicated to them who will eventually begin questioning and doubting their beauty once the song is no longer in rotation and #brownskingirl is no longer a hashtag.
Beyonce is not the first, second, third, or fourth person to have a message about Black women’s beauty, but when Brown skin folk sing about us, we ignore it. When those around us who look like us, validate us and give us accolades we brush it off as though it isn’t good enough. Black women are out here giving any and everyone who isn’t Black (but have a little power) all the honor, praise, and glory when they recognize our beauty as if it’s never been done before. When in actuality this recognition is only important because they have power and privilege. Because you feel that if someone who is not Black says that you’re cute then it must be true. Think about it, why does this same message not mean as much, if not more, from your mama, your auntie, or your friends when they express it? Why isn’t looking in the mirror and affirming your beauty not enough for you to believe it, but a woman who looks nothing like you is?
You may not recognize it but you are putting the opinions of the powerful and privileged on a higher pedestal and you’re giving their thoughts about your beauty more weight than it deserves. External validation can be damning, especially if there is a part of you which is functioning on using it as validation of personhood and being valuable. You have given power over your self esteem, value, and worth to people like Beyonce - and it’s time you take it back!
To My Light Skin Sisters
Now on the one hand I’m concerned for Black women, specifically dark skin women, seeking validation from the privileged and powerful, but on the other I’m annoyed that when you are not in the space of being praised, when dark skin women are celebrated some of ya’ll act like the world is ending. See this is the problem with external validation. Because you didn’t get it this one time, your feelings are hurt.
To all my light skin sisters pouting and throwing tantrums because you don’t feel included in the song, I just want to let you know your internalized Eurocentric beauty standards are showing (that light fragility) - and I’m going to need you to put them away. As a light skinned woman, white folks have made you the standard of beauty for the Black community, so you constantly see women who look like you on magazine covers, tv shows, and in the music industry. And just like white people, despite seeing yourself on every damn media platform, the moment you don’t receive recognition you throw a fit. Now I’m saying this with love, I constantly talk about how much representation matters, but let’s be honest it’s not as much of a problem for you as it is for our darker hued peope. Darker skinned people are still fighting against stereotypes that relegate dark skin people to being stupid, dirty, and unattractive. Therefore, we’re the ones that should be upset, because we are hardly represented like we should be. So much so that we jump for joy that a 4 minute song recognizes us.
When society needs a Black woman to be the face of anything they turn to you first, and we accept it with a smile as we think “well at least she’s Black, it’s progress.” Our little girls are rarely seen by society as gorgeous and we hardly get any praise. So why can’t you be happy for us that we got one 4 minute song celebrating our more melenanted sisters? There’s no need for “Light Skin Girl” covers to be created because the moment this song ends every other song will be right back talking about you. You’ve been validated time and time again - why don’t you want the same for dark skin women? This colorism within the Black community needs to come to an end and light skin folk need to do their part and play their role in making sure it happens.
Light skin folk have a responsibility to fight colorism wherever they can, it is an unearned privilege founded on white supremacy. We require white folk to do work and I require light skin folk to do the same. Those with privilege (in any circumstance) have work to do and are not absolved from that work because they don’t participate but benefit from the white supremacist status quo.
One More Thing
Now I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again - I like that there is another song about the beauty of Brown skin women and I will be sure to add it to my playlist that includes India Arie, Nina Simone, and D’Angelou who also have reminded us that dark skin women are gorgeous. However, as you listen and dance to this song I just want you to remember that people who look like you and me have already validated us. And while I appreciate my light skin sister for helping spread the message of our beauty, I ask you to remember that she isn’t the only one and her opinion isn’t the only truth you should already be aware of!
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