Kennedi Barnett is a sophomore journalism news major and writes "Kennedi’s Kaleidoscope" for The Daily News. Her views do not necessarily agree with those of the newspaper. Write to Kennedi at email@example.com.
“You are pretty for a dark skin girl” is the bane of my existence.
I was 9 years old the first time someone slapped me with those words. I had no idea what it meant or why it did not feel like the compliment it was supposed to.
Little did I know the phrase would become the 6-foot hole I would be buried in for the rest of my life.
There is a major difference between taking something beautiful, ripping it off and shoving it into a small box and a compliment. At 9 years old, I learned that no matter how beautiful I thought I was, people would still only see the color of my skin.
Not only did the backhanded words break my 9-year-old heart, but they never left my subconscious.
I would sit and watch movies with beautiful women like Paula Patton, Stacey Dash and Kerry Washington and pray to the universe that one day I could be as light-skinned as they are.
So, like any other person yearning to be accepted, I became insecure with myself. I replaced my curly hair with hot combs, relaxers and cheap extensions from Claire’s. My skin became saturated in makeup from brands that did not see a problem with not making foundation dark enough for my skin tone. I was left feeling shameful of my melanin because society buried me in backhanded compliments.
Ones like, “You are pretty for a dark skin girl."
I felt unhappy in the body I was given, and I cried to the sky, begging to be someone else. An actress, perhaps.
A beautiful light-skinned actress.
And I know black women are not the only ones who face this type of discrimination in media, specifically film. The same four actresses are cast for roles of black women and those are the women I grew up wishing I could be like.
Amandla Stenberg is the token light skin black girl for teen romantic comedies that wish to sprinkle in the minimum amount of diversity, like the rebellious leader she plays in the science-fiction thriller, “The Darkest Minds." Stenberg will also be featured in the upcoming film, “The Hate U Give," based on the novel by Angie Thomas. The book demonstrated so perfectly the struggles of a dark-skinned black girl, and unfortunately, I am afraid the film – set to come out Oct. 19, 2018 – will not do the book justice.
Sure, we have amazing stories like “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before," which features a strong Asian woman as the lead, and “Everything, Everything," which is one of the first teen romantic comedies to feature a white man and a black woman falling in love.
However, in 2017, Scarlett Johansson culturally appropriated a role in the Japanese manga phenomenon, “Ghost in the Shell." This film called for a powerful Asian actress, not a popular white actress.
According to a done by University of California, Los Angeles’ College of Social Sciences, white actors and actresses made up 78.1 percent of the roles studied while white people only make up 61.3 percent of the United States population. Black people came next with 12.5 percent of roles, then Asians with 3.1 percent. This is unacceptable – minority populations exist, and we must represent them.
How do we insert diversity for casting within the black community and in all minority communities as well? How do we make sure little dark-skinned girls are not sitting in their bathtubs trying to scrub the darkness away?
I was that little girl, and sometimes I still am.
There are iconic historical films like “The Color Purple” that accurately show representation in the black community starring Oprah, Whoopi Goldberg and Danny Glover. “Black Panther” is the first mainstream superhero film to have an all black cast.
My little brother was so happy to see he will have options for Halloween costumes. Options of characters who look like him, because he has never had that before.
This is why we need representation; this is why representation is important.
There are so many films and movies that had opportunities to get it right, yet once again we are caught staring at the same small pool of black celebrities.
Why not turn that pool into an ocean?