• Brenda Dixon Gottschild


Skin: so many memories—painful memories. When I was a teenager I had a close friend, lighter than me, whose father warned her not to bring any dark-skinned boyfriends home. It was fine for G—and I to be girlfriends, but she’d better not get into a situation that would imply marriage and black-skinned babies. It was a rude awakening for me to experience, first-hand, this convoluted adult practice that I’d lived with but not really been aware of all my life— black intragroup racism based on skin color. This syndrome is all the more a puzzle and paradox because many black families—even siblings—come in a range of skin colors, and many black babies are white-skinned at birth, with their “true” color settling in during early childhood. (Hair textures vary within the same family, too.) My mother was light-skinned, with what were considered white facial features (small, “turned up” nose, narrow lipsi). Her three sisters ranged in color from very light to brown to dark brown—each sister a gorgeously different shade of what it means to be black. My father had clear, unblemished, ebony-colored skin and a large, flat nose. We siblings came out in close but different shades of a rather even, smooth, chocolate brown, none of us as light-skinned as our Mom or as dark-skinned as our Dad. Although her skin color is much, much lighter than mine—lighter than some of my white friends—my daughter resembles me in ways that seem unmistakable to black people but are dubious to whites. The difference in black or white reactions when people are introduced to us is quite remarkable. Especially when she was a baby, whites seeing us together assumed I was her nanny.


Black Woman Skin Color Black People Dark Skin Black Girl 
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© Brenda Dixon Gottschild 2003

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  • Brenda Dixon Gottschild

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