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What Beyoncé’s “Brown Skin Girl” Teaches Us About Colorism

From the moment I heard Beyoncé’s new hit on @anythingforlatinas‘ feed, I was hooked. As a mixed race Latina I’ve been accustomed to being qualified by my skin tone, which in my household earned me the nickname, “Negrita.” To my family this was a term of endearment, reclaimed by my mother who had always been demeaned as the darkest in her household. Today, I can clearly see this as evidence of how deeply colorism has been internalized by our culture.

Colorism, prevalent in both the Latinx and African-American communities, is a form of discrimination based on skin color, one that persons of color also perpetuate. For African Americans, it dates back to slavery when slave owners decided who would be relegated to the fields and who would be allowed in-house.

The Latinx bias is based on the European caste system implemented by the Spanish during colonization. The qualifier across cultures is a proximity to whiteness embodied by lighter skin, straighter hair, Eurocentric features and white skin privilege. Qualities which often entitles those in possession to greater access and less institutionalized prejudice.

Beyoncé’s song rightly centers Black women in an anthem to uplift those who are often denigrated, fetishized or ignored by mainstream media. The music’s release set-off a Tweetstorm debating the song’s meaning and a call-out from dark-skinned Black women claiming the song’s dedication.

Listening to “Brown Skin Girl” as I walked to the gym on Saturday morning lifted my spirit in a way I’ve never felt before. I cried as I thought about my younger self and how much I’ve needed this kind of acknowledgement and inspiration for so long.

And while the debate over the song’s appropriation did open my eyes, it does not diminish my feelings of identification. I respect that it was not created in my image and I celebrate those women for whom it was written. Having been on the receiving end of colorism because of my brown skin, I believe that it’s message carries me in its arms as well and includes me as an honorary member.

I am a brown skinned girl. Anyone who has worked hard to feel beautiful within the constructs of that label would be infinitely grateful for this song.

Jessica Hoppe

Jessica Hoppe is a New York-based writer and social media strategist who founded her blog, Nueva Yorka, in 2015. She has been featured in Vogue, Yahoo, HuffPost, PopSugar, Who What Wear, Ravishly and worked as Lifestyle Editor for StyleCaster. Jessica has been passionate about writing, diversity and Latin American culture from an early age. Having grown up in a Spanish speaking home, her father is Ecuadorian and her mother is from Honduras.

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