Light Girls: Don't Buy Into the Privilege


In a letter to caramel-complexioned black girls, Asha French, writing at Ebony magazine, encourages them to recognize the "racial project" that preferenced their light skin tone over a chocolate complexion, and warns them not to buy into the favoritism, guilt or privilege that they may experience because of color.

Dear Beautiful Daughters Who Happen to be Racially Ambiguous,

By the time you understand this salutation, you will have had years of pretty privilege you neither understand nor appreciate. Where we live, "pretty" is a racial project that began long before you were born — a project that has no foreseeable end.

You will see your kind of pretty in print ads, commercials, television and movies. Please look elsewhere. Develop a keen eye for interesting things: the shape of an eye, the slant of a mouth, or the character of hair left to do what it wants …

You need not accept the standards by which you are judged. You also need not apologize for these standards. Your confession won’t save anyone, and to barter in guilt and forgiveness is to miss opportunities to create the world you want to see. Collective work guided by this vision is so much more rewarding than deconstruction turned against your own face.

Use your privilege for good. People will listen to you, so please have something to say. Read, listen, and engage. Repeat. When you realize that other voices are missing, use your granted power to bring them into conversation. Please don’t speak for them. The tellers of hard-to-hear stories need ears, not translators …

Know that your complexion is not makes what makes you pretty, nor does the darker skin of any other girl make her less pretty. Know that there are people who believe this, and don't ever let their confusion and self-hatred become your own. 


Read Asha French's entire piece at Ebony magazine. 

The Root aims to foster and advance conversations about issues relevant to the black Diaspora by presenting a variety of opinions from all perspectives, whether or not those opinions are shared by our editorial staff.