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?
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.”