When I was in middle school, my friend Justine* and I were on the phone talking about a boy named Koren that liked me. He had allegedly professed his interest in me by telling her that I didn’t “look like the rest of most dark skin girls.” I don’t know why or how we remember significant moments from our childhood, and forget others, but that conversation always stuck with me, and not for the reason you’d assume. I remember vividly thinking: “but he’s...darker than me.” 

That was my first introduction to colorism. Back then, I didn’t know what to call it, and I wish around that age, or even in high school, I would have had a platform like The Darkest Hue to help me understand such a subtle, disturbing experience.

From the so-called ultimate representations of Black femininity to the overwhelming unjust treatment that our society thrusts upon dark-skinned kids, Tigidankay TK Saccoh of The Darkest Hue is steadfast on having the conversations many of us have been whispering about behind closed doors. She tackles colorism head on.

EBONY spoke with Saccoh, a Columbia undergrad who is originally from Sierra Leone, who started the social platform to amplify the voices of our darker-complected brethren. We get her take on the issue of colorism (as well as featurism and texturism) within our community and how it affects all of us, regardless of our skintone, features or hair texture.

EBONY: How do you feel the conversation around dark-skinned Black women has shifted and where do you think it should go?

TK Saccoh: I think for a long time, dark-skinned Black women and girls were just ignored. But I think recently, people have found themselves pandering to them. We're seen as the whole [face of] "protect Black women'' thing [at times]. There are these political and social capital “woke” points in discussing dark-skinned Black women and girls—but [most of these folks who spew this rhetoric] aren't really genuinely invested in our growth, success or our happiness. So, I don't necessarily think the conversation has shifted into something that's good or productive. I think people are just opportunistically talking about issues that deeply affect dark-skinned females.

There’s a very unique difference in how a dark-skinned woman with 4C hair is treated, versus a dark-skinned woman with 3B or 3C hair textures. Or, seeing Black women get shockingly different responses based on their overall profile pictures. 

So many people don't actually actively interrogate their colorism biases. They're not really doing the internal work to unlearn everything they've been conditioned to believe about dark-skinned women and girls, and all the stereotypes and all the caricatures they've been exposed to. 

Do you think our culture actually wants to tackle the issue of colorism?

I don't think people are even really taking colorism that seriously. I think Black people take racism very seriously, as they should, but when you talk about colorism and you indict some Black people as being colorists themselves and containing these biases, there's just this gut reaction to get defensive and be dismissive. 

I think work needs to be done on everyone's part, and I hope to make Darkest Hue the space where people can actually have those hard conversations and we as a culture can get beyond responses like, "Well that's just my preference," "It doesn't matter," or "My preferences don't affect how I treat other people," which I don't think is true. Preferences and colorism are systemic.

I think texturism is ready to enter the chat. 

Yeah, on my platform, I've discussed texturism and featurism and how they just intersect with colorism and create a hierarchy within people who are already dark-skinned. When you think about the most prominent dark-skinned models or entertainers overall, they sometimes share similar features. They may have smaller noses or higher cheekbones. And with texturism, I think it's interesting how the man who created the hair typing system, Andre Walker, was actually a texturist himself. He said something—I made a post about it—which was very discriminatory about Black women with coarser-textured 4C hair: how you can't really manipulate it that much and you need to get it under control or tame it with certain chemicals.

There’s also the nuance of hair length with Black women and how those of us with thicker, longer hair are preferred over the opposite. 

Yes, there is this obsession with having long hair and proving to people that we have long hair under our protective styles and our wigs and what not. I really want to explore where that is coming from in the first place.

The products that we use are so interesting to me. I've been trying to research weaves and where weaves comes from. I’m starting to learn that Black women were wearing weaves and wigs for years. It's not even just about adhering to Eurocentric mainstream culture. It just goes back way further in history connected to us. 

I do think for centuries, Black women have been told they're ugly; their hair is ugly. So it makes sense that some of us internalized pressures about our hair. It's a conflicting experience when you've been taught what comes naturally out of your scalp isn't good enough. Then you go and try to "fix" what isn't “good enough,” and then you're shamed for looking for a "solution" to what was told was wrong with you. The problem is not our hair. 

How do you feel about the overall assumption, at times, that dark skinned women are just insecure? 

I think like any other group of people, we experience a range of emotions; so of course we're going to be sad, joyful—maybe even depressed—or anxious at times. I do think people do expect Black women to feel certain [negative] ways [about themselves], and I think it can be a projection. 

On the other hand, I've noticed that with some dark-skinned women who don't necessarily like to talk about colorism and featurism it's because they know that they're going to be received as someone who's miserable or someone who's bitter or who needs healing. 

You’re in college right now. From your perspective, how confident are the dark-skinned women in your generation, with the state of society, media, social media, etc?

I can really only speak for myself and my group of dark-skinned Black female friends, but I think there's a fearlessness. A lot of people my age approach social issues unafraid of being criticized for speaking out against colorism. We see how older generations of women have been dealing with these issues for most of their lives, and we want to create a better world for women and girls to come.

Darkest Hue has spoken up about the differences in treatment of dark-skinned kids amongst society, and it opened up my eyes to so much. Can you talk a bit about that?

I'm so interested in children because they're the most vulnerable in our society, and often children are ignored; Black children are [even more ignored] and dark-skinned children are, like, thrice ignored. 

I'm just really interested in making space for kids and teenagers who have to interact with their colorist family members or go to school and have to interact with colorist friends and peers.

It’s actually the best place to start, because bullying begins so young now. Where can the audience show support for The Darkest Hue and what’s to come in the future? 

So, definitely follow us on Instagram. That's @darkest.hue. There's no website yet, but I plan to create it soon. I want to have it where people submit stories, even if it's not about colorism. I think dark-skinned women and girls want to talk about any and everything affecting us. 

*name has been changed