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Dating at a PWI- Observations from a Dark-Skin Black Woman

As soon as you pull out your room key and freshly printed Brown ID card from the small beige-colored envelope, there seems to be a mad dash to find companionship, “catch-up” on the sexual experience that everyone else seems to have, and find the elusive “one true love” to spend the rest of your days with. 

Naturally, new college students usually begin a journey of coming to terms with their preconceived notions of the college dating experience and understanding their personal relationship with confidence, self-love, and the need for external validation. This journey looks different for everyone, though dark-skinned Black women face a different, deeper set of challenges when thrust into the dating scene at predominantly white institutions (PWI).

Dark-skinned Black women must simultaneously fight to be respected, prove their right to be loved/cared for, and protect their peace and self-esteem. Black women are constantly being questioned and scrutinized for being their confident, authentic selves, particularly when they dare to be vocal about the issues that impact them. 

White supremacist ideals can take many forms, but they all ultimately aim to uphold systems that contribute to the degradation of communities of color fin all sectors of life. These forms of white supremacy contribute to the hostility and resentment that Black women feel from every direction, even from men of their own race. One prevalent form of harm is the framing of dark-skin Black women as “bitter” or “angry” for pointing out instances of colorism (which is discrimination against people with darker skin, particularly within the same racial group) while dating. Our valid criticism is often met with claims that “we’re just mad for not being picked over light-skins,” immediately undermining any valid attempts to address colorism.

Many Black women come into PWI’s hoping to be seen as someone capable of being loved and leave realizing that some people don’t even see them as actual human beings. 

And to those who are already attempting to shut down my argument by yelling “it just comes down to people’s preferences!” at the screen, preferences aren’t valid if they are rooted in white supremacy and an individual’s proximity to whiteness. These so-called dating “preferences” are just harmful tools used to perpetuate colorism.

Dividing people and creating a hierarchy based on the shade of one’s skin is a tactic that has been used for centuries to cultivate and keep white supremacist structures in place for centuries. Colorism perpetuates white supremacy by heralding white standards of beauty or one’s proximity to whiteness. Contrary to popular belief, colorism is not a term that Black women coined in recent years to explain away their dating woes. It has a lengthy history, dating back to slavery in the United States. 

Today, if you look closely, you can see instances of colorism everywhere: in offices, courtrooms, and classrooms. According to a study conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor, dark-skinned Black girls are 3 times more likely to get suspended in school than light-skinned Black girls. Dark-skin Black women serve more time in jail for committing the same crimes as their lighter-skinned counterparts. Ultimately, whether Black women are calling out colorism in academia, during job interviews, or because they are hurt that they are constantly being told they are not as attractive as lighter-skinned, or white women, their frustration is valid and illustrates the sweeping implications of this harmful practice. 

Colorism is prevalent and pervasive in Brown’s dating scene, so it is easy to become desensitized to the issue of colorism on campus. Recently, colorist and eugenic views were displayed blatantly in a conference room where a group of Brown football players gathered to share their views on women and who they find desirable for a recorded podcast show.

One of the dark-skinned, Black football players stated, “It’s that who can adapt the best by reproduction. By like, getting rid of different diseases and stuff which is by crossbreeding. Like obviously you’re going to be attracted to somebody that’s lighter-skin because it is like an evolutionary thing.”


I’m begging this man to take one biology class. To read a single chapter of a biology textbook. 

It always hurts to see Black men upholding eugenic white supremacist views, especially when they seem to think those views only degrade dark-skin Black women.

Little do they realize colorism impacts dark-skin, Black men, too! This is why these football players not only made a whopping contribution to the world of misogynoir (which is misogyny directed towards Black women) but also embarrassed themselves by regurgitating the racist views that ultimately disadvantage them in the same ways that they disadvantage dark-skinned Black women in all sectors of life.

The best part? Throughout the video, the football player attempted to save face by hiding these blatant colorist views under the pretense of “preference,” yet in the apology post that came out soon after the video was posted, said football player explained away his problematic statements by stating “…we intended to look at it from a colonial perspective and why white people, and the world, reinforce those stereotypes…”

Which one is it? Are your colorist views just your “dating preferences”, or are your colorist views simply reflections of the so-called “colonial perspective”?

Why do we need dark-skin Black men touting views from the “colonial perspective” in the name of putting down dark-skin Black women and pitting Black women against each other? 

The way that dark-skin Black women are constantly degraded and belittled by their male counterparts is appalling; it ultimately reinforces the systems that hurt Black people as a whole and contributes to a centuries-old cycle of harm. 

While I continue to understand myself, my relationship with my body, and with my self-esteem at the convoluting, complex, and sometimes incomprehensible microcosm that Brown is, it’s become clear that as a dark-skinned Black woman, I must take on the role of fiercely protecting my peace and happiness while encouraging others to actively call out and denounce any and all forms of colorism.

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