In life, things happen that either propels you forward or take you a few steps backwards. You don’t always realize that a particular thing has caused damaged before it wreaks havoc on your existence and many times, the moment you understand just how horrible said thing is, it is too late. As black people, we don’t have to wait until all hell breaks loose with the new app Smoochr because I, and a host of other people, am telling you now- it’s bullshit.
If you haven’t heard about the dating app, let me sum it up for you in four words- brown paper bag test. Smoochr boasts itself as an avenue for black people to find their perfect match. Its slogan is,
“Discover black singles by complexion, hair style, moral views and more!”
No matter how the developer Larry Kenebrew Jr. and his people try to frame it, Smoochr is colorism at it’s finest. Colorism is a practice of discrimination by one’s skin tone that usually happens within an ethnic group. My personal definition of the word takes it a little further as I describe it as the practice of deliberate discrimination by complexion, hair texture, features and more for the purposes of elevating, admiring and assigning privilege to a particular group of people within an ethnic group. You can’t slice it any other way. It is a debilitating practice.
I discovered colorism when I was a young girl. I didn’t know what it was then, but I recognized it by its effect on the people in my life. In my family, my father was a beautiful chocolate Los Angelino that I adored, and my mother is a sassy light skinned New Yorker. Growing up, I was always vastly aware of the difference in my parents’ complexions. I used to look up at my mother and say to her, out of the blue for no reason at all, “Mom… you’re white.” That awareness I had about complexion as a child and how it can play a role in people’s perception of you, thankfully, didn’t warp my self-view. If I didn’t have a healthy sense of the beauty of my blackness, I could have easily grown to hate my brown skin. Not all black girls have that testimony.
Smoochr is the kind of “tool” used to further alienate the segment of the black community that has always been disenfranchised by its own members- dark skinned individuals. The app is problematic for so many reasons, and the only way for colorism to stop is if we, black folks, stop it. We have been fed an ideal, and it has taken root in the core of who we are as a community and now we pride ourselves on it. We have allowed what is beautiful about us, the diversity that exists amongst us, to become some kind of hierarchical arch by which we determine worthiness.
Black people have been divided for years on this matter. Before the current acceptance of the colorism practice, our ancestors spent centuries being separated by people who could not care less about the ongoing mental implications of the complexion hierarchy. White people created it, and today we perpetuate it.
Smoochr goes far beyond dating according to preferences. I understand preferences. We all have them. But that is not what this is. The issues come into play when those preferences are viewed as the standard by which all things compare or fail and turns into discrimination. But even in the face of that truth, some people think Smoochr is a good idea. It allows you to get straight to the point they say, and find what you are looking for because, ya know, life is short. Black love is black love no matter the complexion and all beauty should be celebrated. Right?
Wrong. Colorism does not celebrate all the beautiful ways in which we are created. No, instead it picks and chooses the traits and genetics that society says makes one person superior to another. We hear about it in rap songs- yellow bone passengers. I see it in casting notices- seeking light skinned actresses. Lighter is always preferred to darker. Or if a dark skinned woman is specifically wanted for a movie or television role, she is cast as the ghetto, loud, promiscuous, single mother stripper. By painting these kinds of pictures, it does nothing but further the animosity amongst us. And please trust and believe that when it comes to colorism in the black community, there is animosity.
This is not what we need. A dating app that divides us by skin tone is a destructive mechanism that will only worsen the harm already done to our collective psyche. In a world where black people aren’t valued by other races and ethnicities, we have to value ourselves. And this kind of application is the very opposite of that.
Let us rise above the superficial ideals that tear us apart and use our power and intelligence to heal our community.