Thursday, November 28, 2013

DVD Review: Dark Girls

Produced and directed by D. Channsin Berry and Bill Duke

       Dark Girls is a brief (just over an hour) documentary consisting primarily of snippets of conversation with various folks about the skin color of women of African descent in general and "colorism", the phenomena of preference for lighter skin that exists in the American black community, in particular. The preference for lighter skin in cultures around the globe is also explored.
It is produced and directed by D. Channsin Berry and Bill Duke and consists of eight chapters. Chapter 1: THE HISTORY, Chapter 2: THE IMPACT, Chapter 3: FAMILY, Chapter 4: MEN: ON WOMEN, Chapter 5: WOMEN ON MEN, Chapter  6: GLOBAL, Chapter 7: THE  MEDIA, Chapter 8:

       The DVD begins with a pretty little dark-skinned black girl being asked what she thinks about being called  a "beautiful black girl", to which she replies "I don't like it". Why? "Because I'm not black'.  We then enter Chapter 1, "The History", wherein we see the background of American slavery promote the master/slave psychological dynamic that promulgated pathological inferiority.

       In Chapter  2,  "The Impact",  actress Viola Davis describes being called  a "black ugly nigger"  in her predominantly white neighborhood, and being called  the same thing by other black  kids when she went  to summer camp for lower-income children. On the other hand, another woman describes being affirmed by white people for her skin- an affirmation she doesn't get  from the black community.
         A tearful account of  a dark-skinned woman's (unidentified, as were others, though the notables- psychologist, actress, therapist- are named) visit with her friend, a new mother, who says to her that she's so glad her baby "didn't come out dark".  A lack of  unity, rather than racism, is named as the cause for the black community's colorism.
       In a heartbreaking scene a very young (dark) black girl is presented with a drawing of five dancing girls, identical except  that their color gradates from very light to very dark.  When asked to point to the smart child, she points to the lightest girl on the  left. "Why is she the smart  child"? "Because she's white." When asked to point to the dumb child, she points to the darkest girl on the right. "Why is she the dumb child?"  "Because she's black." Then she is asked to point to the ugly child. Again, she points to the darkest, and says she's ugly "Because she's black." "Show me the good-looking child." She points to the lightest and says it's "because she's light skinned".  We then see the girl from the preface with her lighter -skinned mother describing the battle she has getting her to think she's beautiful.

       In Chapter 3, "Family", random hurtful things said and attitudes held within families are recounted.

       4, Men: On Women presents  various black men voicing a preference for light-skinned women, some dark. A grandmother tells her grandson to find, in  kindergarten,  "a light-skinned girlfriend". One man at a subway stop says he prefers darker women. Two white men with black wives describe their attitudes to race and fair versus dark.

       Chapter 5, Women on Men:  darker women describe generally frustrating experiences being shunned by men for the fairer skinned. A brief clip of stampeding wildebeest is presented as the narration describes men making a bee-line for light-skinned women. (Graphic interpolations of this sort are sprinkled throughout.)

       Chapter  6, Global, describes through more interviews the world-wide trend of fairer skin being desirable. A Korean-American girl speaks about discrimination in Korea. Skin-lightening ingredients can be found in many products that ostensibly have nothing to do with lightening one's skin.  The pervasive images of western culture that are disseminated throughout the world is seen as the likely culprit, though Tsehaie from Ethiopia says because her country never went through colonization, chocolate is seen as the highest standard of female beauty.

       Segue to Chapter 7, The (aforementioned) Media, and Beyonce is probably getting her skin brightened up by corporates who wish not  to offend. Dr. Cheryl Grills, The president  of the National Association of Black Psychologists qotes her favorite African proverb: "Until the lion has a historian, the  hunter will always be the  hero" , meaning that the stereotypes of the minority will be perpetuated until they have a voice at least as strong as that of the purveyors of the saturating images emanating from the majority fair-skinned west.

       Chapter 8, Healing, finishes with hopes: of forgiveness, enlightenment,  affirmation. We visit Poughkeepsie for some wise words from another unidentified woman (Bill Duke's mom?). It ends with the pretty little chocolate girl from the the prologue saying,  "My mommy and daddy say I'm beautiful." The darker the berry, the sweeter the juice.”

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