“Brown Skin Girl” and Reimagining Colorism

One of my favorite songs on the Lion King: The Gift soundtrack is “Brown Skin Girl”. Not only does it feature Beyoncé and other great artists, but Blue Ivory Carter graced us with her vocals, and now she’s the youngest artist to top the Billboard 100. Thus giving us another reason to celebrate Black girl magic. #BrownSkinGirlChallenge is trending and beautiful black women and girls are celebrating sun-kissed melanated skin. We’re glorifying all the shades of brown that make Black people, Black women, the most divine creatures ever created on God’s green earth.
And then someone had to come and mess it up.

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Guuurrrlll?! For real?! See, it be your own people sometimes.
Maj, a Nigerian songwriter and recording artist (loosely stated because not nan tune was carried in the song) felt the need to “do it for the light-skinned beauties.”

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When probed and asked insight on why she thought it was necessary to create her personal twist on the song, Maj said, “My inspiration for remaking Brown Skin Girl was to connect all of us black women through this song by including our more fair skinned sisters. My intent was all about inclusion. I have great respect for Beyoncé and the message that she conveyed through the lyrics of this song, and I just wanted to feel more connected to the message and wanted others to feel the same.”

But sis, you were already included. Brown skin includes a plethora of melanated shades, from light to dark. So again…

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She continued to say, “I truly feel we all should be proud of ourselves as melanated women and my goal was to share the spirit of that pride. At the end of it all, we are all black women. We face the same struggles and have to overcome the same obstacles. Changing the lyrics to Light Skin Girl was never meant to be divisive…it was all about my desire to see myself in the celebration of melanated beauty.”

But that’s exactly what Maj did. She created division. Her song sparked backlash and a debate over which shades of brown this song represents.

I was immediately reminded of a time I was on a vacation with a mixed bag of folks and one of the girls with us on the first day kept trying to associate herself and other group members with “team light skin”. She was annoyingly yelling for team light skin to take shots, take pictures… team light skin this, team light skin that. I never liked her since. LOL I have very little patience for people like this.

I don’t understand why being associated with darker skin is such an affront to some people. I get so irked when people try to differentiate their blackness by saying “Oh I’m not dark, I’m brown, or redbone”.

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Take that back, I do understand why, and the answer is white supremacy.

Colorism is such a tricky and sensitive subject within the Black community. Collectively we agree on the White power structures that reinforce colorism but we shy away from the conversations in which we use colorism to hurt each other.

Although women and girls lighter than Maj included themselves in the challenge, she herself didn’t feel connected because of the labeling brown skin. However, she wasn’t the only woman who felt this way. This demonstrates how expansive and divisive colorism is.

Although not a Black American, we can infer that her classifying herself as light skin and her inability to see herself in the song is rooted in European colonization. The old adage “if you’re black, stay back; if you’re brown, stick around; if you’re yellow, you’re mellow; if you’re white, you’re all right” is deeply ingrained in our psyche. Which is why some Black people try to distance themselves from darkness and position themselves as lighter because darker equals bad or less desirable. Even the labeling of brown skin is an offense because it positions you closer to dark. In an era of #BlackGirlMagic, Black women and girls are boldly reaffirming their beauty. “Brown Skin Girl” is a manifestation of the proclamation that Black is beautiful. By reimagining the song Maj inadvertently reinforced the destructive ideals of colorism.

There is no need to classify skin tones and hues unless we’re talking about make-up foundation. The song is called “Brown Skin Girl”, not dark skin girl, not light skin girl, not honey shade girl, not redbone girl, not midnight blue girl, etc… Brown skin is inclusive of a myriad of shades. Light skin is still considered a hue of brown. Although I am certain it was intentional to specifically name dark skin women in the lyrics, I find it hard to believe that Beyoncé meant to exclude certain shades of brown especially considering this is an empowering and affirming song for her daughter as well.

When we have conversations about who is considered “brown skin” and who is not we distract from the overall empowering meaning of the song. Inclusion of darker tones is not an exclusion of lighter ones and vice versa. We’re all allies in the fight against oppression and racism. We must work together to make sure we are dismantling the systems and ideals that divide and keep us from growing and thriving together. Because if we don’t see the glory in our sister’s skin, how can we expect others to do the same?

One thought on ““Brown Skin Girl” and Reimagining Colorism

  1. Great post! We as Black women don’t realize how we get caught up in issues like this which only keeps us divided

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