Negritude: Colorism Among Lupita and Dencia

by Wednesday, April 9, 2014
photo credit:

photo credit:

By Madame Mk

Sometimes I get sick of our debates. I have so many words and thoughts about the social storm that brought colorism to global discourse in the last month. But, before I get into my editorial, let me explain what has been happening. Over the last two months an uproar has exploded about a bleaching creme, called Whitenicious. The creator, African pop singer Dencia, released the product after obviously bleaching her skin and making herself lighter. Dencia has been targeted for promoting colorism to the public by multiple venues in the media and in the bloggersphere. The concourse surrounding Dencia and her creme became global when Oscar-Award winning actress, Lupita Nyong’o used an anecdote about a fan purchasing Whitenicious in a speech. Dencia has fired back at the media and Nyong’o for making her a martyr for an industry dominated by “White Companies”. The singer went on various news outlets defending herself and her right to change the color of her skin.

Okay, where do I begin? I thought that it was absurd for one woman’s choice to bleach her skin to become the table for every woman’s insecurity about her complexion. Colorism is a major issue not just in the African Diaspora, but in most cultures. The outcry and anger directed at Dencia baffled me because colorism is in no way her fault. She is only a drop in the very large bucket labeled “Colorist”. The battle of colorism has been fought across ages and cultures. Some of the news anchors were so busy stirring the pot that they were being a bit baseless. I also thought the backlash was unfairly swelled because Dencia is not the first public figure to blatantly lighten her complexion.  When popular Reggae artist, Vybz Kartel, bleached his skin two years ago, there was humor spread instead of dissension. Kartel was not interviewed on national news stations about his choice to bleach his skin and how that would affect young men. I immediately wondered, “Why is everyone so mad?” There have been numerous examples of celebrities bleaching their skin without this kind of response.

Then I realized this issue was not just about the scapegoating of colorism on one woman. This discussion is illuminating a litany of issues in the global Black community. One small bottle of creme has highlighted how Black communities all over are quick to be offended by one another and slow to support each other. When this Dencia/Whitenicious debacle leaked over into the gorgeous hands of Lupita Nyong’o, it became about much more that the differences in skin color. The debate became about the hatred that exist inside the Black race; it became an example of the angry black woman. It became a portrait of the Black inability to get past itself.

You guys should know, I am not one of those sisters who think we should put down our picket signs. In fact, I feel quite the opposite way. But I believe that the Black community often gets lost in its own desire to defend itself. The way that we have attacked Dencia has created this illusion that one woman’s choice is the catalyst of an argument that has been in progress for centuries. I believe that the underlying pain of colorism has made Dencia the focus of this debate. Instead of making a solution for that pain, we have chosen to downplay Dencia’s savvy business choice. Dencia’s whitening creme is not the first to use white in its title. Even Lancome, the line that Nyong’o’s face now represents, has white in its whitening cream’s monocer.

I would like us to move away from throwing on the cloak of destitution. We are not defined by how dark or light our complexions are; and until we actually start to portray that in our own lives, White portrayals of Blacks in the media will continue to favor lighter complexions. I never experienced colorism because my own family complexions range from hot yellow to dark and lovely. Frankly, colorism is social debate about a personal issue. The only way colorism can rear its head, is if we allow insecurity to make us feel inferior to others around us. If you were offended by Dencia, it may have more to do with your own personal demons than it does with her actions.

*Caution progressive Christian thinking ahead*

I never understood why there is so much debacle about God ordained things like complexion. I mean really. Why are so many women torn about an issue that they came out of the womb experiencing? I have no idea what it is like to be a light-skinned girl BECAUSE I ain’t never been anything but this Mocha Caramel Drizzle. HA!. Ladies, we have to get to a place where we are so bold in our purpose, that we don’t allow insecurity to get in our way. If we insist on beating each other up because we are lighter or darker, then we might as well lift our heads and curse God. When you remove yourself from the noise that is colorism, you can rest in a place of assurance; knowing whatever shade your flesh is, that you are wonderfully made. We have been dealt a hand by God. How our complexion compares to others in our race should not be one of the cards that matter. Let’s stop focusing on the poo poo created by the hind parts of racism. And lets start wiping the derriere of destruction from our homes. Lets leave the foolish assumptions that lighter is better to the dogs and lets stop making women pretty “for a dark skin girl.” Lets finally declare that all shades of brown deserve to celebrated and reflected. Heck, it is 2014, for pete’s sake.

Madame Mk is the editor and founder of Against the Stream Magazine

1 Response
  • Mambo
    December 2, 2014

    Let the church say amen! This article is truth! So glad there is another sister who gets it!

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