Early in my career I was a DJ at an R-n-B radio station in North Carolina. I did the morning and mid-morning shows. As with all radio station personalities, there is perhaps a gap between how we sound and how we look. On one particular day, I found out that - at least for one man - that gap was as large as the one between my two front teeth.
I was in the station lobby talking to the receptionist when a man came in to claim a prize he’d won. He overhead me, stopped and asked, “Are you Rashunda?”
“Yes,” I nodded.
“Oh wow. You sound so good, I thought you were light skinned.” I could see the disappointment on his face that I wasn’t a Halle Berry sandwich with a side of Stacey Dash.
His words stung, but I smiled - and kept smiling until I walked back to the studio area and teared up. But that wasn’t the first time this had happened to me. Years before I’d done a voiceover in which I provided the voice, but the model “speaking” (they’d dubbed my voice over hers) was “light, bright, damn near white”.
Darkness: Apparently something we all must “accept”
Like many African American families, colorism has had a big impact on mine. My maternal grandmother was light skinned. My mother was a carbon copy of my grandmother, except she was dark.
“Your mom has pretty features,” I’d hear folks say as they walked a big circle around the fact she was a dark-skinned black woman, as if to ignore such an inconvenient truth. She caught hell for being her skin color. More than once she told me the story of her being sent to try out for a singing part in a school play, only to be sent back to her teacher without the staff even listening to her.
They said she was too black.
And she went to a black school. (Nope. We’re not immune.)
Perhaps this is the reason I have issues with the word “light” in particular contexts such as “beauty,” “goodness,” “angelic”, “Christ-like”, etc.
Just look at what happens when you search Thesaurus.com for “dark” synonyms; "hidden", "secret", "grim", "hopeless", "Satanic", etc:
And I’m no expert when it comes to psychology - and apologies if I’ve cherry picked this, but:
“All of us have a dark side. This dark side includes qualities we don’t dare reveal to others. It’s the traits we are ashamed of and embarrassed about. It’s the traits others have rejected. It’s the traits we believe deem us undeserving or unworthy of love.”
(The author is discussing a book.)
I don’t have issues with the concept that we have a side that we don’t want people to see. I have issues with the fact that it’s - in 2018 - still termed “dark”.
Here’s another example from Mindbodygreen.com:
“Embracing your dark side then, paradoxically supports you to being a lighter, brighter and more authentic YOU.”
But that’s not authentic to me.
I have no need to see the light
I accept that I’m basing this post purely on feelings, but my feelings are valid.
When we use the word “light” in the esoteric community to denote “goodness” are we subliminally pushing the same patriarchal definitions we’re supposed to be fighting? Are we confirming outdated, prejudiced biblical language under the guise of finding our “true selves”?
Are we carrying on the tradition of “light” being better than “dark”, a view that has caused so much pain, especially for people of color?
Do we take into account the feelings of people who, for whatever reason, have issues with the word “dark”?
Do we take into account people who *are* “dark” when we speak negatively about darkness and embrace our “shadow selves” while we hold our noses?
Light for me doesn’t mean goodness. Or my true self. When I think of “light,” sometimes I think of the bright light of interrogation.
Someone flicking that bright overhead ceiling light on when you’re dozing off into a gentle sleep.
The searing hot sun in the desert, drying out and cracking the soil. Burning. Glaring. Parched land.
The sun-bleached bones of a dead animal.
Interruption. You’re doing something “wrong” so let’s shine a light on it. Get it out into the open.
Judgement. A Renaissance-blonde angel clothed in sparkling white, ready to blow his trumpet and send us to Hell.
But “darkness” - for me - represents deep, rich fertile soil.
Looking at a beautiful night sky.
A large, inviting void just waiting to accept creativity. Ideas.
Having a pure black heart.
Did that last sentence sound weird to you?
I’m veering into political correctness with this post, which is something I dread. That fear has kept me from writing it for months. But just as we’ve correctly re-evaluated our language around other issues (LBGTQA, multi-racial designations, etc), isn’t it time for us to rethink the default connotations with the word “dark”?
I don’t have an answer. The word “dark” has been equated with evil, shadow sides, hopelessness, etc since biblical times so one blog post won't do much.
But I have a favor to ask. For just this week, try something: Instead of saying “love and light,” try “love and dark”. See how you feel saying that. If there’s any discomfort, stop and ask yourself why.
Again, I’m sure this won’t start a movement, but I hope some with finally see the dark.
I know. That last part was a stretch.:-)