An African American woman solemnly shares her story of a friend who immediately after giving birth, gazes at her baby girl and states, “Thank God she’s not dark.” Dark Girls, a documentary film by Channsin Berry, portrays how our own biases of skin color eats the best of us. Throughout the film, women share their own heartbreaking stories of being dark women and they show how discerning and frustrating it is living under their own stubborn and nonsensical views of skin color. Rather than pointing fingers, Berry addresses the grim yet powerful reality of African Americans’ own prejudices that they have within their community.
Within the Black community, there are tensions and biases on views of skin color. The main idea is that the more lighter skinned you are, the more attractive you are and the more darker skinned you are, the less attractive you are. And there is no logical explanation for this. It’s the simple idea in which we accept as truth. He divides his film into six parts: The Impact, Men: On Women, Women: On Men, Global, The Media, and Healing.
In “The Impact”, Berry first addresses the skin bias issue by introducing Colorism. This term refers to the prejudice and discrimination that occurs within a group based on meanings attached to skin color. A young woman tells a story of how her mother was bragging about how beautiful she was on the phone until she said, “if only my daughter were lighter skinned, then she would be gorgeous.” In “Men: On Women”, most African American men express how they want a light skinned partner because they associate lighter skin as being more attractive. In “Women: On Men” African American women express how African American men treat them differently. Because they are dark and shapely, they are looked upon as strong and this approach becomes more of a sexual approach—never a date. In “Global”, which I believe to be the most important part of the film, shows how everyoneholds these skin biases and is victims no matter where you come from. “The Media” show the pathetic stand the media takes as simple do givers of the public. And finally, in “Healing”, the film offers a simple yet meaningful solution to the problem: to love ourselves first. It gives an analogy of a water ripple. As a drop of water falls into water, it creates several rings that travel outward. We are the drop of water that falls in the center and whatever beliefs and values that we hold carries on to our children and their children and so on. Thus, it is important that we love ourselves first so that these values may be instilled in future generations.
What I loved about Berry was how he addressed that these biases don’t just apply to African Americans but everyone across the world. It is universal. He illustrates the powerful reality that we are all dark. We are all victims and perpetrators. These biases are embedded in all of us whether we admit it or not. And sadly, we let these views damage our self-worth.
During a Q & A session after the film, Berry stated that it isn’t racism that’s in us, but rather a lack of unity that we have. This lack of unity builds hierarchies and unfair standards that damage innocent souls. Berry is head of Urban Winter Entertainment, a multimedia production company in which he is involved in directing, producing, writing, and music. On urbanwinter.com, as an African American man, he states “my mission is to tell our stories from our point of view” and “we must not allow others to tell us who we are and what we have experience.”