Dark White: A term I created to describe a girl or guy who is deep in denial or in some cases willfully dismisses their Blackness or ethnic identity in exchange for decreasing the gap between themselves and Whiteness. Suffers from internalized racism and Anti-Blackness, a person who will do what they can to capture the White Gayze, who only use their Blackness or ethnicity as a chess piece to increase their social or monetary capital. 20,000 leagues under the sunken place...
I was a Dark White person once. Despite being Black myself, I didn’t have any Black friends. I spent my life being a token. I was so invested in whiteness that I changed my look to reflect my aspirations for racial transcendence. I was on that reverse Rachel Dolezal 12 steps to transcending race program, and I was in it to win it.
I would use S Curl and leave in my hair long past the set time (My scalp would be cussing me out ya’ll) so my hair would be straight enough to spike like the white boys (who only dated white boys) use to fall out for. I wanted them to fall out over me. It was hard on my scalp but that’s the price you pay to achieve Dark Whiteness.
My Dolezal transformation routine also consisted of a skincare regimen of a topical cream with hydroquinone, an active ingredient in skin bleach, to lighten the dark spots on my face. I told myself it was ensure that my skin tone was even, when it was really my attempt to be lighter. I wanted to match the light spots, not the dark tone that covered virtually my entire body. I would look into the mirror everyday wishing to see something different so that my proximity to whiteness would be closer and within reach.
It would never be enough though. As much effort as I put into being Dark White, my reflection wasn’t any closer to the images of white bodies that are glorified in mainstream media. My reflection would never show a lighter me with perfect hair and pretty light eyes (I would have used contacts, believe me I tried, but I couldn’t ever get them in my eyes).
How did I get to this place? How long had I been in the sunken place when it comes to self respect and love for the self? It would be years before Ethnic Studies would be the guiding light toward my liberation and self-acceptance. I suffered through years of Dark Whiteness. But I endured.
What I’ve learned since then is that “colorism” is an integral part of culture across the globe. From a young age, language itself leads us to conclude that black is bad and white is good. To be on the blacklist, to be black-balled, the black sheep or to blackmail is loaded with negative connotation. Contrast this with the color white, which is synonymous with purity and goodness. We live in a “White is Right” culture that affects children before the age of 4, providing whiteness with a false sense of superiority and cultivating self-hatred in the rest of us.
So while growing up, I was receiving messages that being Black and having dark skin were things not to be not valued. I desperately wanted to be validated by the world so much that I ran away from anything that could be interpreted as Black, including myself. I was trying to escape my Blackness by running toward a lighter version of me that I could never reach. The psychological consequences of a world constructed by and for whiteness can be devastating on the Black body, and serves as a divisive tool to further divide us as a collective. But there is hope.
There is hope when we invest in the idea that Blackness exists on a spectrum, and we must be uplifted as we all contribute to the brilliance of our collective. If we are to be the fists in the air demanding power to the people, we have to free ourselves from the constraints of colorism, where white is right and darkness is demeaned, and empower all of us from light skin to dark skin that we are in this together. I endured. We can all endure.
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