I am currently sitting jamming along to Beyoncé’s new album, The Gift, and I cannot help but get emotional at ‘Brown Skin Girl’, a song I’ve had on repeat basically since it came out. Not only is just objectively an absolute tune, there’s something about it that is so damn uplifting. (Also, let’s just have a moment. Beyoncé called her album The Gift. So iconic and to be honest, such a truth…) However, I wonder whether this song is really for me to be loving, and whether it is for me to love at all?
First of all, give it a listen IMMEDIATELY, whether you’ve heard it before or not. (If you’ve not heard it before, come on now step it UP hunny) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RXrhqhW2kiU
I’m not exactly the only one jamming along to this song. It immediately sparked the #BrownSkinGirlChallenge and along with that, numerous obviously problematic people too dim to understand the message. But I admit that it isn’t as clear cut as it may seem, and I am challenged by whether the song in intended to speak at all to me. The song is an ode to brown-skinned women, and of course though I may be brown-skinned, I am not a woman. Also, some have pointed out (Imani Bashir for example) that it is specifically for darker black women of colour, and really shouldn’t be appropriated by people even of a more light-skinned brown hue (like Beyoncé herself). A quick scan of the lyrics show that it is really a celebration of darker women of colour, with references to Lupita Nyong’o and Naomi Campbell. Therefore, as an Indian male, I do appreciate that this song isn’t really for me.
However, and perhaps Imani Bashir would disagree with me here, I cannot help but feel immense joy and empowerment hearing this song. I have no desire to take away from the intended audience of the song, but in my own little way, hearing lyrics that speak so beautifully of coloured skin also spoke to me. I shan’t be partaking in any challenges, nor do I claim to even begin to relate to the challenges that Beyoncé is specifically referencing in this song. But in a way, all people of colour should be allowed to celebrate the fact that coloured skin is being celebrated, so powerfully, if they stay aware of the specific audience that this song may be intended to uplift.
Anyone who has experienced judgement based on their skin-tone in my opinion cannot help but feel something when hearing this song. To hear language like ‘pearls’, so often associated with whiteness, being transformed into complimentary language dark skin; to think about the ‘complexities of complexion’; to understand what for me is the powerful lyric of the song – ‘Your skin is not only dark, it shines and it tells your story’: I cannot help but feel more comfortable and proud of my own skin (though it certainly isn’t the same dark hue that Beyoncé may be trying to specifically reach here). Bashir writes – ‘It is not specific to every hue, but for the Black women whose skin is full of melinated magic and hasn’t been given the floor or stage of acceptance. Maybe we should all accept the song as it is and who it was made for’. I do not disagree with this at all, but I hope in accepting the song as it is, appreciating its intended audience, and not claiming it for my own, we can be allowed to partake in the celebration of coloured skin.
Give Bashir’s article a read, and if you, like me, aren’t part of the audience that this song is really speaking to, be as mindful as you can of that. But, I don’t think it’s too wrong to still allow yourself to feel some pride about your beautiful coloured skin too!
“One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.”- Bryant H. McGill