Dear MAJ: Your Remix To “Brown Skin Girl” Is Not As Empowering As You Think
As you altered the lyrics to Beyoncé‘s “Brown Skin Girl” to cater to fairer-skinned women, you probably thought that you were doing nothing wrong. You felt inspired to remix this powerful anthem for dark-skinned beauties because you wanted to feel more connected to this message of the song and “spread love.” So as you proudly uploaded your rendition, “Light Skin Girl,” to Twitter (complete with a white girl emoji), you were probably confident that you’d get widespread approval from countless light-skinned ladies who, because of your remix, suddenly felt seen and empowered. As you said: “At the end of it all, we are all Black women,” right? So what harm could it do to make a fun remix for your fellow light-skinned sisters?
Several Twitter users were more than willing to answer this question for you. In fact, just one look at your mentions may have given some insight on why your ode to light-skinned beauties is so problematic. But still, you insist that your intent was “all about inclusion” and your song wasn’t meant to be “divisive.” I completely understand that your intentions weren’t bad, but we all know that having good intentions doesn’t always lead to good outcomes. My biggest concern, though, is that you still don’t seem to understand the negative implications of your song.
Dismissing people’s criticism and concerns with a simple “all Black women matter” tells me that you don’t understand the deeper issue here. You’ve claimed that your remix “blasted open the doors on the conversations about colorism and inclusion,” but the original song already succeeded at doing just that. You also mentioned that it “brought dialogue to the forefront.” However, you seem to care more about racking up attention and ‘likes’ than you do about actually listening to these dialogues.
I know you’re disappointed about the backlash you received, but I want to help you understand why all those angry responses were justified.
First off, dark-skinned Black women have had to deal with colorism for centuries, and several studies have actually proven how this has always benefited light skinned women. For instance, studies have shown that light-skinned women are perceived as more intelligent, more likely to get a higher income, more likely to meet a spouse with higher education, and more likely to receive lighter prison sentences.
Add to these eye-opening inquiries the fact that lighter skin tones were (and still are) constantly associated with society’s ideal standard of beauty. The vast majority of makeup brands cater specifically to fair-skinned women, and in the fashion and beauty industry, “nude” is generally considered a light beige. It’s also worth noting that dark-skinned Black models face more discrimination and that darker Black women in general rarely ever see themselves represented in the media.
So you can imagine the excitement of millions of dark-skinned, kinky-haired girls as they discovered the gem that is Beyoncé’s “Brown Skin Girl.” A song that directly challenges society’s definition of beauty by uplifting ladies with rich, ebony skin. She even goes as far as calling out famous examples like Lupita Nyong’o and Naomi Campbell. And for once, us dark-skinned Black girls feel like we matter. Like we aren’t the lowest on the totem pole when it came to beauty and desirability.
As a Black woman who’s been mocked for having darker skin and encouraged to use bleaching creams to “look even prettier,” the lyrics to this song nearly moved me to tears. Beyoncé confidently sings that skin like mine not only “glows like diamonds” but also “shines and tells my story.” My dark skin is not a mistake that needs to be corrected but rather, a rare gem that will never lose its value or beauty.
This special tribute to dark-skinned beauties is as rare as pearls themselves. We needed this anthem because we are so often ignored or overlooked. So when you took it upon yourself to rework the lyrics and make it a tribute for light-skinned Black women, it truly felt like a desperate plea for the spotlight to return to you and your light-skinned sisters. Yes, there are Black women of all shades and we all have struggles, but this doesn’t erase the fact that a particular subgroup faces even more hardship and discrimination because of their skin tone.
See, fair-skinned women can easily find validation by listening to countless songs. For example, take Omarion‘s “Do It,” where he passionately sings “Girl I’m real impressed, and it ain’t just because you’re light-skinned.” Or Fabolous‘ “Lights Out,” where he rhymes “Bottles of Rosé keeps finding its way to my section / And groups of pretty b*tches with them light-skinned complexion.”
Consider Lil Wayne‘s blatant colorism in “Right Above,” where he raps “beautiful Black woman, I bet that b*tch look better red.” These are just a few of dozens, if not hundreds of songs that praise and romanticize light-skinned women. But when Beyoncé finally came out with a song that highlighted the beauty of dark skin for a change, you decided to take it as a mold to create yet another anthem for a more privileged group of women than those who were being represented in the original song.
If you truly cared about colorism and inclusion, you’d have recognized by now that while you had the best intentions, your song actually isn’t as empowering as you might’ve thought. Sure, it got people talking, but it also sent the message that dark-skinned girls, who continue to be marginalized in nearly every aspect of their lives because of their skin tone, aren’t allowed to enjoy their moment in the spotlight.
Feeling excluded from a song’s message might have been a new experience for you, but keep in mind that this has been the norm for dark-skinned Black women for a really long time. After years of being inundated with light-skinned references in songs, movies, books, and ads, we were finally blessed with a tune that actually celebrates us. So, on behalf of countless dark-skinned women who still have “Brown Skin Girl” on heavy rotation, I’m kindly asking: Could you please let us have this moment?