Bill Duke’s “Dark Girls”: Black Women Discussing, Dissecting and Surviving Skin Color Bias

It was about a week ago that my friend Melanie of ModernMami posted this video, a preview of the upcoming documentary, Dark Girls, on the MyBrownBaby Facebook Fan Page with this message: This was tough to watch and almost made me cry, but I’m glad it’s out there. I admit I let the video sit unwatched, haunting me like a boogey man from a life past, with sickle and Freddy Krueger razor fingers ready to slash a hole through my psyche. Through my battle-scarred heart.

It’s been a long time since I really thought good and hard about the reactions my chocolate skin inspired in folk—all of the evil comments people would make to my face, behind my back. The rejection that seemed to skip hand-in-hand with my complexion too dark, even, for my own kind. Sometimes, even, for my own family. I wasn’t ready to dig all of that up to unpack it and lay it out on the table and pick over it and hold it up to the light.

Still, I pressed play.

And somewhere around the part where the one sister recalls how her own mother handed her a backhanded compliment by saying she would be really beautiful if she were light skinned, I lost it. Cried a hard, ugly, gut cry that took some time to recede back to the dark place I’d long hid it.

Something told me this would hurt.

It did.

More than I was ready to handle early on a Tuesday morning.

But I present the preview for Dark Girls, directed by Bill Duke and scheduled to be released in the Fall, here on MyBrownBaby because it is necessary to do so. Because even as black girl beauty continues to be attacked at every turn by others outside the race, we need to have the conversation with our own daughters and our sons and our men and our friends and, even, ourselves about the madness we African Americans lay on brown-skinned folk. To get us all on the same page with this simple message: Black, in all its many manifestations—from milk white to Hershey’s Special Dark Chocolate and every hue in between—is beautiful, and attacking children and adults, alike, for falling into the latter of the categories is not only asinine, but incredibly traumatic.

Have that conversation then maybe, just maybe, the trauma that is being addressed in this piece—the trauma that, to this day, haunts me—will just, like, stop.

Just stop.

[To get updates on the documentary and events leading up to the release of Dark Girls, “like” the Dark Girls Facebook Page here.]

Dark Girls: Preview from Bradinn French on Vimeo.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.


  1. Kia Morgan Smith

    Awww Denene. I’m so sorry. This is hard for me too because I endured the same kind of pain as a child. Was bullied for not being the prettiest, bullied because I was skinny like Olive Oyl. Still today now I’m not skinny but considered to be too fat. Damn if I do… We must stop and this is definitely making me look at how I respond to others. Just want to make sure I don’t make someone else feel inadequate because we sometimes can adopt these ugly behaviors because of what scars we wear. Love ya girl and you are beautiful inside and out!

  2. Thank you for posting this. I cried. Thinking about my girls and what they may encounter in the future. I will be watching this. Being a white parent to brown girls, well, I hurt too. I know I cannot feel the depth of your pain as I have not experienced it. I wish nobody had to feel that pain. It is horrible. I worry about my girls feeling that pain. I have heard comments made in front of me…..yes, indeed. I hope my girls are strong enough and willing to talk to me about it when it happens.

  3. A similar documentary was aired in the early seventies; sad, how little has changed. I love this quote by Gwendolyn Brooks which illustrates her pride in our Blackness: ” No one had to tell me that Black was beautiful; I had always thought it beautiful!” Ase’

  4. It is interesting how much dialog has been generated by this movie. I cannot wait to see it.

    I came across a blog post that asked “Who benefits?” Not that I think that is important, because it is not. But it is interesting to see people wanting this subject squashed like the movie “Good Hair” and apparently all the hair secrets that were let out of the bag. You think something might have changed the hair industry, but we laughed, belly ached and then went back home.

    Will change come?

  5. I’m sorry this video brought back hurtful memories for you. As was mentioned on Facebook, this video made the rounds in our Latina community as well, because we too deal with these types of issues. I too want it to stop…for all…

  6. Recently, I attended my son’s field day. Well, attend is not really the word. I “worked” field day on Memorial Day. It as blazing hot. Scorching. As usual, the organizer of the event had assigned me a “physical” station where I end up doing more work than the kids. LOL! I was sweating profusely. I had my water bottle and paper towels to try to keep my “appearance” intact, but it wasn’t working. Group after group, we (me and another parent) worked the “parachute” station. I was straightening out the parachute in prep for the next group when a little girl said, “you’re pretty”. I looked up and saw the most beautiful little girl with skin that mirrored mine— mocha, chocolate, dark (take your pick). I looked at her and smiled through my sweat and said, “So are you!” She beamed and so did I. She knew she was pretty. Not pretty to be darkskinned but pretty. She got that I wasn’t pretty just to be dark skinned but pretty. (Yes, I said pretty.) She knew she wasn’t pretty to be dark skinned but just pretty. Somewhere along the lines, someone had reinforced that she was beautiful inside and out. I think this issue will one day stop. However, we have to stop it. We have to stop self hatred. We have to stop hating each other and celebrating our differences. When we stop, we can truly begin….

  7. My sister is the most beautiful girl in our family. My family filled with mulatto’s, light-skinned women, women with long and lovely locks and ladies who are brown and beautiful. My sister outshines us all. She is a beauty; more beautiful than me and I say this without jealousy. My sister fails the paper bag test. She’s darker than the darkest shade at the M.A.C cosmetic desk, she’s an African queen in its finest form except we’re North American. If you tell my sister she’s beautiful, she smiles confidently. She’s never doubted her beauty. My mother is responsible for instilling that pride and sense of worth. Grooming my dark skinned sister and a much lighter me to understand our worth started from when we were too small to understand the controversy. The world, the television and some from the black and white communities may not agree, but I know for sure that black is beautiful. If I had any doubts looking at my 6’0 tall, dark skinned sister strutting down the street would convince me. Black girls rock and all sistah’s are Super!

    the Super Sistah

  8. My sister is the most beautiful girl in our family. My family filled with mulatto’s, light-skinned women, women with long and lovely locks and ladies who are brown and beautiful. My sister outshines us all. She is a beauty; more beautiful than me and I say this without jealousy. My sister fails the paper bag test. She’s darker than the darkest shade at the M.A.C cosmetic desk, she’s an African queen in its finest form except we’re North American. If you tell my sister she’s beautiful, she smiles confidently. She’s never doubted her beauty. My mother is responsible for instilling that pride and sense of worth. Grooming my dark skinned sister and a much lighter me to understand our worth started from when we were too small to understand the controversy. The world, the television and some from the black and white communities may not agree, but I know for sure that black is beautiful. If I had any doubts looking at my 6’0 tall, dark skinned sister strutting down the street would convince me. Black girls rock & all sistah’s are Super!

    the Super Sistah

  9. I agree with Lucinda. I am a dark girl myself. I think that these negative ideas were placed there by others. They are not something we are born with. I think it’s the role of parents (especially mothers) to instill that love, acceptance and self worth in their daughters. Thankfully, I haven’t had much problems/issues with my skin color. I guess I don’t think about it too much. I love the sun and I’m not one of those girls who run away from it because I don’t want to get darker. That’s silly. I’m already dark. LOL.

    I do have friends who have complexes about their complexion and sadly a lot of that was instilled by their mothers. As black women and women in general we must do better. We need to uplift each other and not tear each other down. I think a lot of these negative self images are contributing to a lot of the societal problems we have (such as teenage pregnancies, not finishing school, etc). We seriously have got to do better. Very interesting post. Thank you.

    BTW, I don’t think it’s just our responsibility to uplift our own daughters and family members, that should spread outside our families too. It takes less than 5 secs to make someone feel special and worthy–just one comment.

    • I couldn’t agree with you more. For me I’ve always been comfortable in my brown skin. When I was growing up, I’ve always been compared to “Rudy Huxtable” on The Cosby Show. It does come from home, my parents definitely did their job of instilling in me great self- esteem. The documentary does not represent All dark skinned girls in the USA, and to assume so is probably the bigger problem. Oh one more thought, I was only black girl in the classroom in a predominantly white school system, so I wasn’t teased for my skin color. I was the norm, since they had no other folks of color to compare, lol.

  10. Isn’t it interesting how the author of this article is okay with describing her skin as chocolate? (I like it and describe myself that way).

  11. Sending you some love over on my post! Thanks again for bringing awareness to those of us who would otherwise have no clue!

  12. I have two daughters through adoption. One is milk chocolate, and our newest addition is quite dark. We are often asked what country our girls are from (which is funny b/c they were born in the US). I often wonder what discrimination my younger (and darker) child will face that my oldest daughter will not. I also wonder if my youngest’s darker skin will compound issues with her being adopted by white parents. So much to think about! I look forward to seeing the full documentary. In the meantime, I instill in my girls that they are beautiful—inside and out!

  13. I’M DARK AND I’VE NEVER HAD THESE ISSUES!! Never had trouble with men, discrimination…. I’ve never experienced it and I live in Atlanta. Men love me! I’ve never had issues over my dark skin and in fact receive compliments on it. I will not watch this film… sorry but I think that people put way to much thought into skin color. God made us ALL in HIS IMAGE!!!! HE MAKES NO MISTAKES! PEACE AND LOVE 🙂

  14. It saddens me that this light skinned/dark skinned issue is still so prevalent among Black folks. I expect some Whites and/or other races to feel a certain way or say certain things. But here it is 20011 & we, BLACK PEOPLE, are still causing each other pain with this ridiculous nonsense. I was moved to write a book about this very thing in 2007 because I was tired of seeing in my own family. A dark skinned 65+ family member was taking out her pain on her light skinned granddaughter & I called her on it. I will definitely support this film & I’m looking forward to seeing it. Also, check out ‘The Skin I’m In’ by Jenelle. It’s available in

  15. Thank you to every beautiful dark skin woman who was brave enough to share their painful experiences.

  16. Samantha Morris

    For the record all people of color (latin, indian, etc.) discriminate against the darker members. It’s something that was brought during the migration of the Europeans and it lives strong today. I’ve dealt with it for 44 year and i’m at a point in my life where I say like me or go the hell on. I have flawless dark skin, but when I worked my first job had a supervisor who was a drop from being an albino tell me that light people are more attractive than dark people. When I finished with her those words will never form behind her lips again. I felt the pain of being called you black ape, you african, etc. I attempted to solve the problem in middle school by saving my lunch money and buying skin lightening cream. Messed my face up, lol My problem has always been the woman. I’ve never had a man not like me because i’m dark it has always been the opposite they liked me because I’m dark. I know what your going through but let it go it’s not worth your tears the most important people in your world now love you dark and all so the hell with anyone else.

  17. ever since i turned 13 in the seventh grade i was labeled as “that dark skinned chick” never by my name Kiah. And i was extremely self conscience about it, especially during the summer. i’d stay inside my house at all times never went swimming never walked or even played. i STAYED on the inside. Then one day my grandmother took me to church and on the way there she asked me why i never came out on these when the weather had been so nice? so i told her grandma “i don’t wanna be black anymore” and she looked at me and laughed. She said to me “sugar well u really don’t have a choice both your parents are.” i started to cry i told my grandma that i didn’t wanna be called a “tar baby” and “midnight”. Me and my grandma sat and talked and told me if “your no good daddy ain’t give you nothin else he gaveyou his skin and that it is wear and love it.” and i do i love my smooth hershey chocolate skin and now that i am 16 and more confident i love it even more in the summer and that’s my story lol

  18. I am 52 and I grew up in the 60s/70s. I honestly thought that we had gotten over the color issues. I still meet brothers who are hung up on light skin or prefer white women but I considered them a very small minority.
    I am very sorry that small minded people would define beauty and intelligence based upon color. Beauty comes in ALL shades and it most definitely does not determine intelligence. We must educate our children to accept all people.

  19. Y-Annett Joy Gadsden

    I just watched this, and I am gasping from the ladies and even more after seeing my own family member voicing her pain, I am I guess you would say a Light Skin Black girl, but knew first I was black. After seeing my cousin on this never knew she had a thing about her skin color. I am jealous of her black beauty and wished I was her complection!!!

  20. I’m a young white guy posting here from the burbs, I’d like to say that the extra dark girls are the most beautiful of all females. White or light skin doesn’t even turn my head anymore. As Pac said, blacker the berry sweeter the juice.

  21. This issue isn’t just about beauty. There’s are studies pointing out that darker complexioned women get harsher prison sentences. One study I read actually put a dollar figure on salary disparity based on skin color. Certainly if you go to some place such as Brazil, the darker you are the more likely you will not work in certain positions, especially the more visible ones. God bless those who feel this has not effected them, but it’s beyond any individual ones of us. We may want to read the book of an ex cop, Norm Stamper who writes about being trained to exert more force on darker citizens.

  22. I am at work now….for the last few weeks have been pulling up different websites about Bill Duke and Dark girls..unfortunetely..I cannot hear what is being said on the trailor…I have been following the issue of colorism and intra-racism sense I have been a senior in high school..I am 32 years old….When I grew up, I attended magnet schools which allowed me to go to school with blacks, whites, mixed, and hispanic kids…Not once in all my years of schooling was I ever put down by Whites, Mixed or hispanic kids…My tormentor in elementary school had a jerry curl, glasses, and butter teeth..She had the ability to make people laugh…especially at me. As a child, I knew deep down that she was really jacked up..I never had the heart to defend myself…She too was a black girl, but about a shade or too lighter…but what’s funny is that she hung with a dark-skinned girl…but she was pretty and wore all the name brand she didnt get the backlash I did…

    I saw this woman at the age of 25…..We knew each other immediately…
    When she saw me…she smiled and hugged me….which threw me off guard…(sometimes she was cool..most times not)..but what really tripped me out, was that she had just had a baby…and her baby was beautiful..but he was very, very fair skinned…almost white..with blue/gray eyes…So at that very moment I forgave knw why?.Because someone was at her home making fun of her…She too was insecure about her skin color…and i think that’s why she ended up with a fair skinned child….She hated herself…and she wanted me to hate myself too..

    I grew up in St. louis, Mo..I believe tht alot of people here are colorstruck and stuck in a slave mentality…I dont knw everyone..but on a regular i run into some of the most negative, evil, and wicked people I have ever seen in my life….I have heard it all; From being clld Blackie, Skillet, Tar baby,Darkie, Midnight,..and my absolute freakin fav: You are a pretty Black girl…or you are sooo cute to be dark……

    My grandmother kept me alot as a child…She was born in Mississippi….she used to always tell me to stay out of the sun….I never could understand why…I thought she hated my dark skin at times…But I realize now, that she was trying to protect me….
    She was trying to shield me from hurtful attitudes and comments from my own people..
    We didnt wake up picking cotton people…..We can vote…..We have the freedom to make our own choices and not have somebody tell us what we need to do;
    Our spirit was not “beat out of us”
    We were not left scarred, abused, or defeated…

    One of my best friend’s is light skinned with long hair…We wld go out..and she wld get all the numbers..Im talking like, she’s casual..and Im dressed to impressed; …I always knew the skin color thing played a part..but I was not confident and it showed….I was putting out a vibe that said, :” Im not good enough…no one wants me…”..I didnt go out with my friend to clubs for almost 5 years…..
    but, she went through it too…people teased her for being light…but put her on a pedestal at the same time..I went through years of confusion…See, I never wanted to be light skinned….I just wanted to be treated the same…Like I am special too….Black women here are sooo hateful….we dissect each others hair, skin color, and clothes….we dont uplift ..we put down..

    Join me in saying, “Enough is Enough!”;..Oprah is beautiful…To me..Whoopi is beautiful…To me..Halle is beautiful too….I am done letting ignorant people in society…tell me who I should be and how I should look.My mother is caramel skinned; She always told me how beautiful I was..but when I got to school, the self love I was trying to form inside was being torn down; I have realized that ….My skin runs deep baby…and it has a history…So, if you are dark or light..and have experienced this sick twisted notion…..Its time to hold your head high…and start a new trend…They say black girls are ghetto…loud, and have attitudes…Its time for all of us to display a proud attittude..I mean…..we have a black president! That alone makes me want to say….F the haters……I can be anything I want to be…including beautiful…We didnt wake up picking cotton people..and for that I am thankful…I thank my mother for giving me life..I thank my Dad for blessing me with my hair texture( thick thick and mo thick..and my skin color…(Hot chocolate!) We need to start uplifting each other..and making each other feel good about ourselves..who else is going to do it! Instead of pointing out what we dont like..lets point out the positive things….
    We didnt wake up picking cotton yall…lets start acting like it..Peace Love Wisdom. Choc

  23. It saddens me that in these days we are still trippin on light and dark skin!! My skin I guess would be so-called yellow but I love dark skin, light skine, brown skin and the beauty of it bros and sistahs is that us as African Am people, we have all of these choices to choose from. We are every color in the rainbow. Wow as the Sistah stated earlier I grew up in the sixties and instead of going forward we are going backwards. We are our Yellow Brick Road when Mr Duke puts it out there. Aduni

  24. Man that is crazy. I think that Darker skinned women are the most attractive. If you are pretty you are pretty skin color has nothing to do with it. Look at all of the not so atiractive people of different races. This is all bull crap. The Ethiopian people are the most attractive people on the planet and the are dark skin. So stop all the self hate about skin color., The red headed freckle face Irish are some of the most unattractive. Get up off of your knees and be proud. BLACK,BLACK,BLACK.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.