Posts Tagged ‘colorism’

In the Castle of Our Skins: Darkies, Brownings and Red Woman

November 1, 2011

By: Tanya Marie WilliamsDarkies, Brownings and Red Woman: Female Desirability and Skin Color in the Caribbean

The proliferation of “darkie” to describe women of a dark skin tone in Trinidad and Tobago is a fascinating and complicated space within which to explore. Though “darkie” and its popular conflation with “sweet” may exist as catcalls alongside a sout [1], frequently proclaimed by men to dark-skinned women out in the street or elsewhere, this term is not solely reserved for females. Men can and are categorically defined as “sweet darkies” too. Most importantly, darkie is understood to be reserved for those of a specific skin shade and ethnic group simultaneously.

In Trinidad, where “darkie” takes root and flourishes in the local parlance with t-shirts available by a local designer proclaiming, “I love my Trini darkie,” (as well as “my Trini reds” and “my Trini browning”), the term functions as an important reaffirmation of Afro-descendant beauty, by calling attention to a certain skin tone in all its chocolate splendor. Its contemporary usage in Trinbagonian society is also markedly different from the American term “darky” (or other cultural uses, with or without a “y”) which is an old termed racial slur, rooted in the era of blackface, epitomizing the negative stereotypes of all dark-skinned people.

This is a country where “madras” refers to a dark-skinned East Indian person and a “dougla” (any person of mixed African and East Indian descent), may fall within a range of skin tones from fair to dark. Darkie functions in a slightly different way, where it serves to singularly encompass an Afro-Trinidadian aesthetic of perceived attractiveness. It certainly can be used as purely descriptive, along the lines of a general physical trait, but darkie is usually understood to be nuanced in a way that makes it different from the terms mentioned above. Darkie is flexible, in that it may solely be attributed to implied attractiveness or one’s skin tone and usually, the context involves an understood interconnection of the two. Far from simply objectifying the individual, darkie is a celebratory, verbal sound-kiss against ebony skin and represents a reimagining of who can be declared attractive.

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Images that don’t let you go

May 27, 2011

I don’t  know who she is or what she’s about but needless to say: it’s all mesmerizing. First of all, I   t-shirt dresses and peep toes, ergo, her whole look. Also, she’s absolutely stunning and the image & all the unknowing-ness around it is captivating on so many levels. Lenny should have written that song about her. Of course, there are some people somewhere, who won’t think she’s at all gorgeous—on principle, because she’s so dark. 

I didn’t plan to write about this but I felt the need to since I had planned to post this pic up today anyway, then I saw the link for the preview of the documentary: “Dark Girls”, pop up into my facebook stream multiple times today. It’s not at all something I presently have the psychological strength or interest to go into detail explicating on right now, but suffice it to say, I’ve touched on colourism before here and there and it’s a painful, difficult, unending unraveling, with almost no end in sight (for someone inhabiting my skin tone anyway, that’s what it oftentimes feel like on a regular basis).  Intraracism + racism make for formidable bedfellows, let me tell you. Which brings me right back around to local language and the power of language for transformative imaginings like that of: dark-skinned, black beauty.

While the Caribbean is no less a space for some of the exact same hierarchies of beauty & desire & Eurocentric ideals, the presence of “darkie” constantly reminds me of what is possible and why I am excited that it exists as a site for considering dark skin tones attractive and lauding dark skin, specifically. Unambiguously. And why I’ve written about it more than once. How often is that kind of reaffirmation happening? Why not? Language is not all there is to it but it helps. If you hear you are pretty enough all throughout your life; you just might believe it, because it hasn’t been my experience that we draw these constructs of beauty without input from others, devoid of context and not as a result of no-end of weighing in by the media or other people, whether we want their opinions or not, unfortunately. If I can celebrate and complicate these tenuous notions of beauty, all colour-struck and problematic and difficult and gnarled as they might be in some ways, I might as well do so, on, being a darkie—because I am one. And evidently, I can’t be sitting here, scratching & waiting around for anyone to do it for me.

Beautiful image originally espied on the awesome fuckyeahblackbeauty tumblr.