I recently wrote about 6 different types of privilege. I must confess, one that really hits home for me is light skin privilege. If you need a refresher, stop right now and go read my last post.
Anyway, as a child I wasn’t oblivious to this treatment in comparison to darker toned peers. It was even more clear since I lived with my brown-skinned cousin.
My eyes opened when my cousin (who’s way more like a brother) and I were classmates. In our elementary classes, white and black teachers alike showed preferential treatment to me over my brown-skinned cousin.
My 9-yr-old brain didn’t know that it was light skin privilege at work. I just knew I didn’t always like it.
I vividly recall teachers unfairly punishing my brother-cousin. And on many occasions, I served as a “witness” to refute his unfair treatment to our parents.
In a weird way, I was aware that people treated me differently because of my skin tone. But the word “privilege” never came to mind.
After to listening to one of my favorite podcasts – shout-out to The Read – I started hearing the word “privilege” in association with my light skin. It just didn’t sit well with me.
Actually, I was really against it. My instinct was to immediately defend myself (just like most light-skinned people).
“I’m still black”; “I encounter racists too”; “Light-skin people get treated unfairly like dark skin people”. All these things are true. But so is the fact that I’ve always had an upper-hand as well.
On any given day, I walked into the administrative building of my university and received greetings from everyoe – from the President down to the Mail room lady.
This is because my light skin made me seem less “threatening” than some of my darker toned friends.
I always knew these things. But I still cringe at that word privilege. So I’m taking action. (I’m also considering a therapy session or two).
My light skin privilege means I am perceived differently than many other Black people.
For me, that means that certain doors will be open to me that won’t be open to others.
That also means I need to learn how to hold the door of opportunity open for those coming after me (something I also learned in Elementary school).
Grappling with the term light-skin privilege is not easy for me. It’s made me uncomfortable. It’s made me cringe a lot. (I haven’t cried because I’mma real OG.) It made face some hard truths about my place of privilege in society.
Like I said last: we all have privilege. But who are you serving with the privilege that you have?