War of The Beauty: To Redbone or Not Redbone???

This post is a part of a continuous series on Woman and Beauty.  Read the others you missed here. Throughout this series I have looked into myself and at the world around me. I have went on a journey of deconstructing and then reconstructing my idea of beauty.

To Redbone or Not to Redbone??…That is the Question. The term Redbone has always been used to describe a woman of light complexion. They say that men who are closely attracted to lighter women are  trying to get something as close to white as possible (without actually having to marry/date a white girl). I don’t totally agree with that notion but I understand the historical roots of the idea. I’ve always thought this conversation between two characters in the movie Chameleon Street was  funny, but real:

“You like what?”

“I like girls with that light complexion look.”

“You’re a moron.”

“Man I can’t help it.”

“What, being a moron?”

“Yeah that too.”

“You’re the first one out there with a dashiki talking that shit.”

“I’m a victim!”

“Good hair” (laughs)

“Nigga you so brainwashed.”

“I’m a victim brotha!”

“You’re a victim?”

“Yeah! I’m a victim of 400 years of conditioning.  The man has programmed my conditioning.  Even my conditioning has been conditioned.”

The big question: Are we, as a society, conditioned to believe that beauty is more attributed to women of lighter complexion?

English: Actress Halle Berry at the 83rd Acade...

The Black Community has had a long battle within the culture when it comes to skin complexion. Going all the way back to slavery there has been the light skin vs. dark skin debate. There has always been the dynamic between the field slave (dark skin) and the house slave (light skin). This skin complexion battle goes all the way back to the Willie Lynch Letters where he states: “You must use the DARK skin slaves vs. the LIGHT skin slaves, and the LIGHT skin slaves vs. the DARK skin slaves.”

There has always been issues when it comes to skin complexion, not only in the black community but the world at large, particularly relating to women’s beauty: the lighter (and closer to white you were) the better. For a long time our society has put more stock in  light complexions as inherently being more beautiful than darker skinned women. However, we are not the only culture that does it (Brazilians, Indians, etc.). Even Europeans have a higher opinion of a woman with blond hair and blue eyes.  Our culture has put value in beauty being the closer to white the better.

Black America even had organizations, colleges, clubs, etc. that would harp on complexion but instituting things such as the paper bag test. If you look at advertisements from the early 1900s they even marketed skin lighting cream to black women. If you look at Hollywood (and the few films African Americans were involved in) there were not many women of dark complexion cast in non-domestic roles.  So, of course these factors will permeate in the conscious of culture over time. The images we see of beauty have changed much from the past. We have a lot more different ranges of beauty displayed when it comes to complexion. We have seen more darker skinned women displayed as forms of beauty throughout advertisements, movies, television, and our consciousness. But, at the end of the day, it’s still something about them Redbones that does it for men. Meshing different cultures in the world, the ideal will definitely change when it comes to complexion. We will see which route society takes with their views of beauty, in the future…

I have a brother who is addicted to Redbones. I mean truly addicted.  You can be telling him about a girl you met the previous night that you thought was attractive and the first thing he will ask is “She light skinned?” It’s comical because you can always count on him to make that comment. Even if you tell him “So  & so kind of like you”…you can guess the first question he asks about her. Its funny, but at the same token I get upset with his inability to see beauty in all hues of women. He hardly ever gives a darker woman a chance to date him. I shake my head at the notion but maybe its a family trait…

I will personally go on the record:  some people could say (Hell, will say) that I have more attraction to Redbones. Admittedly, I have dated a lot lighter skinned women in my life. BUT, I have also dated a lot of women of darker complexion as well. I love women of all hues, colors, and shades. Actually, two of the women in Hollywood I think are the most attractive are of darker complexion: Kerry Washington and Nona Gaye. I have always been attracted to pure natural beauty and elegance regardless of complexion. However, I do understand the mental chains that the past has put on black subconscious when it comes to beauty.

With all that being said, I do believe a lot of the time light-skinned women get a “pass” as being attractive just because they are light-skinned. Have you ever seen a woman brothas were hawking about and  sat back and thought about it? Was the only reason brothas were checkin her out because she was light-skinned? I have seen it happen dozens of times in my life at different stages. The flip side: where light-skinned women take the brunt of ridicule and hate from darker-skinned women for no other reason but because they are light. It’s the Willie Lynch letters morphed into modern times. We still cannot appreciate the beauty of a black woman without looking at complexion or euro-centric ideals of it.

At the end of the day we all are going to think what we want: “Beauty is the Eye of the Beholder”. It’s each person’s right to be able to define their ideal of beauty and attraction. I just suggest that there be a more conscious effort of self-reflection of looking into a woman and seeing why you really believe she is beautiful. In today’s world, more than ever, The Temptations had it right…”Beauty is only Skin Deep.”

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37 responses to “War of The Beauty: To Redbone or Not Redbone???

  1. Great article! Ladies please love yourself. If a man can’t look at me and appreciate my brown skin, then obviously he is not the man for me. Be stronger than society never let society dictiate what you see in the mirror. LOVE YOURSELF! We are all beautiful regardless of complexion.

  2. ……….love love love it….i get so super pissed when women us the phrase Long Haired Light Skinned… 1st off is it my fault my mother is Sicilan? is it my fault she happen to fall in love w/ a black man? I THINK NOT…….so why do other women get mad at me (not me personally) when they see a brotha looking or a women who looks like me wrapped around his arm………..but yet and still there are weaves for purchase and contacts for purchase to transform yourself INTO ME…. so who really has the issue here? personally i believe it’s a self esteem issue not a JuJu issue… the person your really mad at is yourself, ladies if you cant accept the women whos looking back at you in the mirror the i suggest you take a step back and think twice about who YOU truly are… B/C im fine w/ the way i look and i wouldnt change it for the world, AND the fact that a man would prefer to be w/ me over a women who’s darker.. what im supposed to do tell em oh no date her not me……….LMBO………YEAH RIGHT.PISHH

    • That is the mentality as why they is a war on skin tone. Bitch, nobody is telling you to beg a man to date a more authentic looking beautiful black woman. If he wants you, go head. The arogance and the dismissal of the fact that there is even a issue is what is fustrating and irritating. I chalk you up as well as many bi racial, red bone, yellow bone, half breed , dirty white what ever terminology you guys call yourselfs and let me emphasis not all but many just as bad as white folks that minimize the discrimination that blacks still go through. We do not need your understanding. Im good with my color black dont crack imma be good at 70

  3. I feel where you coming from with this post but damn I still have a thing for those LSLH chicks!!…

  4. Great post D! You did a good job touching on the roots of the issue. I also like that you acknowledge that this is not just a Black thing, because I’ve had roommates and friends of other ethnicities who deal with the same issue in their cultures. I hate that we’re still dealing with the color complex issue in 2010, but I understand why it happens.

  5. I’m so glad u posted this, I grew up lslh and I cut off alllll my hair jus so I can get out of that stereotype, can’t do much abt my complexion lol but I don’t want a guy that dates ONLY light skin women, I’d take the guy who dates women bcuz he likes a good convo and a great personality….oh and a bald head ; )

  6. Firstly, I appreciate this post (early) because I didn’t know where that BlackStar interlude came from – Chameleon Street. When I read the title of this post however, that was the clip that I defaulted to! (lol) So thanks for making that reference point.
    This article speaks directly to the stigma that over time has become deeply ingrained into the fabric of our community and overall African-American experience!

    I ask you or anybody reading… How is it reversed, and/or will it ever be?

    • Good question!! I think it has more to do with s persons self reflection and looking into what they believes is beauty on many different levels. You can let the media and historical contexts control your mind forever and still consider yourself free

  7. @The Focus Group…….. it may one day, however as long as theres jelousy and envy it wont…..the sad part is out ppl (african americans) are the most jelous race. we are the first to critize each other for the most minimal of things.. i.e her hair is prettier (oh she think she better than me)….she drive a nice whip (must be screwing a rich man) how about NO i take care of my hair how about NO i have a damn good job. therefore as long as we envy one anothor as long as we concern ourselves w/ each other insted of congradulating one another IT WILL NEVER END

  8. We are first socialized at home, regardless of who we are and where we come from. During the infant stage of life, babies spend their time watching and listening to EVERYTHING. From your facial expressions, reactions, changes in tone & pitch, and your relationships with others. Everything they reproduce is a seed planted (unconsciously or consciously) at home. It’s 2010, and if we care about the culture of the generations to come. We have to be proactive about breaking stereotypes and boxes that stunt the intellectual growth of our people. There are black people all over the world. We are a Diaspora of people. We limit ourselves and our own possibilities by denying who we are and what can become.

    If black people born in America want to see real change, we have to strengthen the health, wellness, and self love in our children early. Unfortunately, many people are so consumer-ized that they can’t even notice there is an issue. This is a not a soapbox, this is reality and the only way we can make lasting change is to do something.

  9. I not only think that skin color is the issue, but the “qualities” that supposedly come along w/ these women. For example, SOME men associate light-skinned women w/ having “nice”, long hair. Well, what about if you have two light-skinned chicks, one w/ natural hair & the other w/ straight, long hair?? I think men that are stuck on this type of woman would chose the latter just b/c of her hair, no matter how beautiful the other girl is.

  10. Yo! This post is peace but it also is disturbing in the way we classify beauty. I appreciate your honesty but for someone that I look up to, I’m baffled and confused because I just knew of ALL THE PEOPLE, you would appreciate a “different type of sister.” Being someone who has never had to deal with the notion of very black or very light, I guess cause I’m caramel lol I never understood why men didn’t want to talk to the dark skinned sister or the light skinned sister wanted the dark skinned brother.

    This reminds me of a brother I know who literally wears African beads, Africa T-shirts, rocks a fro, has tattoos of Unk signs and a Black Power fist and up until a year ago had NEVER DATED A dark skin BLACK WOMAN! He said, “the sisters that are dark skinned are insecure and couldn’t handle someone on ‘my’ level.” I asked him what level would that be, he replied, “alot of dark skinned sisters didn’t want to associate with being pure black or down for the people.” He then went on to mention, that “lighter skinned sisters appreciated the movement more.” Being someone that prides myself on being peace with everyone I meet, I looked at the LOST brother, and told him I would seek peace for him and in the future never use the “movement” to advance his preference for a near white woman.

    I “apologize if I come off a little inconsiderate” but I urge everyone who has commented on this post ESPECIALLY one of the queens above to read “Breaking the Chains of Psychological Slavery” by Na’im Akbar. In the spirit of my people…”Waaaakkkkeeee Upppp”

    • Heyyy I said former I know the deal i have dated darker women…lol!! Just was making it some what of a joke in my post but you on point with what you are saying though

  11. loving the response from NaturalBlackQueen, we are all queens…. growing up my whole life i’ve dealt w/ being the LSLH girl from around the way, i dont put much empasis on beauty b/c that’s not what makes us queens, however i do believe some women do. The reality of it is we as ppl in general need to get past the light skinned sister or the dark skinned sister. Hell i was raised by a beautiful Sicilan women who did not teach me to be Italian and did not teach me to be a black women but taught me to be THE QUEEN THAT I AM……PEACE AND BLESSINGS

  12. I can relate totally! I too cut off my hair to break the light skinned curly hair stereotype. I lived in Florida for nine years and the attention from rappers, athletics, etc because I fit “that” stereotype was annoying! I’ve run into brothers that actually said “you’re so much smarter than you look!” WTH?! People we really need to wake up. In general, having a preference isn’t a bad thing. I prefer trucks to cars and fruity candy over chocolate. It’s just when you exclusively look for a certain physical trait that you run the risk of being ignant! I would have never experienced the awesome state of mini Snickers if I stuck to Twizzlers… Ya dig?!

  13. The state of conditioning that our race is still freely subjecting ourselves to is deep. You can take the light/dark skinned conditioning all day. I like to address the conditioning of the strong black male “buck” being taken from slave house to slave house to mate with women in order to produce the strong offspring. That way of thinking is still embedded in a lot of men today. Some saw their fathers do it, they do it and they are teaching their sons to do it. We all need to break the “conditioning” Off topic may be but conditioning was on my mind. :-)


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  16. Love it what JuJu said I total disagree I’m a dark skin woman and I love it and I also wear weave and love that to. But baby white women tan to be our color so why would I want to be someone else. What I don’t like is the ignorant comment I’m cute to be dark skin please mg black is beautiful and will always be .

  17. For as long as I can remember my preference (physically) has been light skinned with long hair. Ironically for as long as I can remember everytime I openly profess what I’m drawn to, I’ve always been questioned “why?” As if it’s not ok. We’re human, you’re drawn to what you’re drawn to. You have little to no control over that. The amazing thing is that whenever someone says that their preference is a darker complexion it’s NEVER questioned! There is almost an iar behind it as if thats SUPPOSED to be what you’re drawn to. You can openly state your attraction level towards a darker complexion by saying “Blacker the berry the sweeter the juice..”, but if ytou try a lighter variation then there is hell to pay. I’ve even gotten into the debates where I had to defend the fact that I haven’t been racially oppressed by meida. I just like what I like. If it were based on seeing a dominant image in media that completely shapes my presense, then my preference would be caucasian. But it’s not! In no way do I dislike a darker skinned female and it would be foolish to make the parallel that lighter = better. Then you’re skating on thin ice! I just like what I like. Good write!

  18. I appreciate the topic and see where the later “40 Most Beautiful Black Women…” list came from, but this essay only scratches the surface on the issue of Black conditioned perspectives beauty. We are all entitled to be attracted to who and what we wish, but let’s understand why we have those preferences. Some of us, who admit to preferring light-skinned, long-haired Sistas (or Brothas), seem to immediately dismiss challenges to their outlook as being conditioned, seasoned and influenced by white oppression and domination.

    It would be better to keep and open mind to allow for possible enlightenment. That’s the reason for the blog; is it not?

  19. I like this post. And I am a 16 year Black female of a darker hue, milk chocolate and I don’t think redbones look better than their darker counterparts. Look at Mariah Carey. Honestly I don’t find her pretty in the least bit! The only reason she is considered beautiful is for her White looking skin and Caucasian appearance. Halle Berry is darker and much more lovely because she has a beautiful caramel skin color that suits her face and beautiful brown eyes and everything. And she is considered ”light skinned” in Black America’s eyes. Lauren London is beautiful like Halle as well and I feel the same way. But I think Sanaa Lathan, Gabrielle Union and Kenya Moore are one of the most women in Hollywood along with Halle Berry, Laure London and Paula Patton. But it is okay to have a preference for light skin women, I don’t mind as long as they don’t put down darker women. And I am not trying to say dark women look better than light because that is not true. Lauren London and Gabrielle Unon are on the same footing in beauty in my opinion and that is truth along with Halle Berry and Sanaa Lathan. At the end of the day, we are all Black and Whites see us that way. This light/dark skin divide is stupid and gets on my nerves!

  20. When it comes to the history of African Americans I know that True Brown and Dark Skinned black women are responsible for contributing the most to racial progress and firsts in Political, Social, Economic achievement among black women. We still haven’t had a light skinned black female Billionaire (in the world) yet have we? LOL.

    To illustrate my point: Light Skinned/Mixed Women visit the White House, True Brown/Dark Skinned women live in the White House. Light Skin/Mixed Women have a babies for ball players and Rappers. True Brown/Dark Skinned Women marry Billionaires and World Leaders. There is no reason for TB/DS black women to resent her LS/M peers. Being the preference of a group of marginalized men isn’t something that warrants resentment.

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  24. Colorism can go both ways. It took me a while (19years old), but I noticed that the black people who took issue with me 99.99% were dark brown to deep black americans. Im not even that light (ciara summer complexion). They never directly talk about my skin, but It seems more than coincidence that its almost all darker black americans, not even really Africans or Jamaicans.

    IDK why this is. I legit never cared about skin color until that one moment I noticed all my life dark skinned black americans tormented me all my life. I thought it was because I was chubby or nerdy, but then again why light skin/mixed people really bother me?

    It makes me angry because colorism is feeding into the slave mentality. My tan brown skin does not confer upon me super powers! Plus I feel a strangling anxiety around darker African Americans , i feel like they are going to put me dow n and laugh at me. For no reason my grandma is dark and she is beautiful to me, thick kinky healthy hair, smooth skin.

    Is it my skin? My clothes? IDK I just wish EVERYONE dark, light and in between would cut the crap on this bull. Reddish brown skin did not give my family any special privileges, that I know about or would be Comfortable taking.

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