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“We are here for the light-skinned girls”

by: Sinayo Twani - 10 September 2014

Most of you would have heard the term “yellow bone”, a word used in pop and urban culture to describe light-skinned black women, whose fair skin people consider more attractive. What most people don’t know is that the term “yellow bone” falls under colourism. It’s not to be confused with racism, which is differentiating between the races. In colourism, people of the same race but different skin colours can be treated differently.

The media plays a huge role here. We often see stars on the covers of magazines airbrushed to make their skin look lighter. Earlier this year Vanity Fair, a leading society magazine, was accused of digitally brightening the 12 Years a Slave star Lupita Nyong’o’s skin. This caused a lot of controversy when Lupita’s fans took to Twitter to express their anger, demanding answers from the magazine, asking why the magazine felt the need to lighten the actress’ skin colour. None of this controversy seemed to have an effect on the star, though, who tweeted Vanity Fair after the shootthanking them for the great shoot she had.


The stunning Lupita photographed for the February ‘vanities’ section.

Social media is, too, fast becoming a platform where people practise colourism. “We are here for the light skinned girls,” people have posted on Twitter. I’ve also read “She’s pretty, but she’s not light skinned though,” as if beauty is measured by the colour of one’s skin. And not so long ago someone tweeted “When girls are dark, boys are few”, implying that dark-skinned girls are unattractive and undesirable, which is not true, and, besides, a relationship doesn’t define one’s beauty. People have even divided themselves in groups. You’ll find users using #TeamLightSkin or #TeamDarkSkin hashtags, which is ridiculous and unnecessary because everyone is beautiful in their own way.



On Instagram some are using filters to lighten their skin, highlighting the fact that being light is better. I also came across a meme using a scene from the Lion King movie, where Simba asks his father, Mufasa, the meaning of the word “ugly”. He replies: “I don’t know son, we are light skin (sic).” Most troubling is that the meme uses a kid’s movie to portray discrimination.


Colourism is prejudice, it perpetuates stereotypes, that lighter skinned people are better off than those who are darker. It’s used by those with a superiority complex. We should see it as detestable. What the media does not understand is that a colour complex is very dangerous, as dark-skinned women go as far as bleaching their skin in order to have a fair colour, like our kwaito star Mshoza, who says her new skin makes her feel beautiful and confident, according to quotes from gossip magazines.

Mshoza before and after she bleached her skin.

Mshoza before and after she bleached her skin.

Young people need to realise that it is not the colour of your skin that makes you a better person or better than the rest. I think It is time people put a stop to this “yellow bone” talk.


Twitter: @Miss_Twani