EXCLUSIVE: Bill Duke Breaks Down Colorism in “Dark Girls”
The new documentary on OWN sheds light on the prejudice within the African American community.
“She’s pretty for a dark-skinned girl.” A phrase so simple can cause a world of harm.
Colorism is defined as discrimination based on skin color, and though experienced across the globe, it is still alive and well in America’s black communities.
A new documentary titled Dark Girls brings the subject of colorism to the table, as it follows several dark-skinned African-American and Latino women in a set of interviews documenting their perspectives, experiences and personal struggles climbing the corporate ladder in America. The film, which recently premiered on the OWN Network, will be available on DVD beginning September 24th.
Loop21 caught up with the director Bill Duke to discuss the film, and to address the sad reality that is all too true for people of color.
Loop21: Why did you want to make a film like Dark Girls?
Bill Duke: Being a dark-skinned man myself, it's based on what I've gone through. What I went through as a young man with not being invited to my prom or anything. Seeing my sister and other relatives along with other young women that were dark. I wanted to give their voices a voice.
Loop21: Why do you think colorism is such an issue in Black America today?
BD: I think it goes back to Neo-colonialism. Slaves were raped by slave owners and they had babies that were given privileges that were over the field slaves and as a result, that consciousness continues to this day. It is unfortunately the way that we've inherited that consciousness and thinking from days of old.
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Loop21: So what has the response to the film been like?
BD: We screened the film in a high school four weeks ago, and when the lights came up these two dark-skinned girls were sitting near the front row crying. We asked them if they were okay, and they replied saying they had not been invited to their high school prom because they were too dark and ugly. This happened four weeks ago, not 40 years, so this is us doing it to each other. I screened it at the Apollo Theatre and a woman said to me, “Why are you airing our dirty laundry?" I wasn't trying to be mean to her but I told her, "Because it's stinking up the house."
Loop21: What other issues do you want to address through the film?
BD: It's really the issue of self-esteem, and my message is that God does not make mistakes. How you were born is fine. The way you're born is beautiful. And I think we have to begin to accept that. We need a movement with parents and families and schools that say racial bullying is not over and it can not be tolerated. The irony is that white females are going to tanning salons and risking skin cancer, and getting their hair crinkled up to look more ethnic, while Black women are getting extensions and skin lightning creams.
Loop21: What do you think was the most surprising thing you discovered during the filming of "Dark Girls?"
BD: One of the most painful things was this beautiful dark-skinned Black woman who said she had never ridden in the passenger seat of a man's car. She said "Up until a few years ago, whenever I would go out with another man I would go to his apartment or he would come to mine, I would drive or we would play games like I was his secretary." That was a very hard thing to digest. This is the unfortunate reality that we face.
Loop21: What do you want viewers of your film to take away with them?
BD: I would say several things: 1. God does not make mistakes. You are beautiful the way you were born. 2. We have to continue to have dialogue about these things, because they are not going away. 3. The film is not enough. There needs to be a movement. We have to create systems that deal with this in public schools and media. 4. Media needs to take on a greater responsibility.
Loop21: What do you think can be done within the black community to fix this?
BD: I think we need to stop racial bullying. The playground can be a very cruel place. Certain things should not be tolerated. I think basically we have to begin by letting our children know that we love them and that they should also love themselves.
What do you think should be done to combat colorism in the United States? Share your thoughts in the comments below!