The first time someone called me a “light-skin ting” to my face I wanted to punch him in the mouth. My male friend couldn’t understand why I was getting so angry over a “compliment”, and I was a teenager at the time, so I didn’t have the language to describe exactly what it was that had provoked me. But I do know that I had always found conversations around skin tone and features very uncomfortable.
“Are you mixed?”, “That’s not how her hair is naturally?”, “I’m one-eighth Indian, quarter Irish, quarter Spanish, half Jamaican…”, “You don’t look African!”
The hierarchy of skin tones that exists in diaspora communities around the world isn’t up for debate, although how individual black people with lighter complexions interact with that hierarchy varies. Some embrace their privilege openly, some secretly enjoy it but downplay it’s prevalence, some self-deprecate, some get defensive and others think they can just pretend it doesn’t exist at all.