I don’t know if it’s a God thang or just an amazing coincidence that I chose to show Dark Girls (2011) as a text in my composition class this week. I say this because just this past week Samhain Publishing released my historical romance that was partially inspired by Dark Girls. If you don’t know the film, it is a documentary that explores the colorism, or prejudice, that dark-skinned women face throughout the world.
I’ve always been interested in exploring a colorism theme because it has long been an integral part of Black life. Some years ago, when I started to get back to my writing and I wanted to write about colorism in a contemporary romance, I pitched the idea to an editor. She was very excited about my overall idea, but then said, I needed to make the hero and heroine the same shade. Or don’t mention it their color. She said: ”Oh no, we don’t deal with colorism in romance. It’s too painful. The conflict is good enough anyway. Better to stay away from all of that.”
I need to thank that editor because that comment was one more thing that nudged me toward writing the historical romance. I knew that colorism was something I could deal with in much more pointed terms if I dealt with how rampant and pernicious it was in the early 20th century. It’s an issue that appears from the very first page of the first book, A Virtuous Ruby. However in the second book in my series, it is Margaret Bledsoe as the heroine in A Most Precious Pearl who has lived colorism as a personal issue. Her hurt and pain as the darkest Bledsoe sister is the key source of her internal conflict. The story is, in part, about her struggle to love herself so that she can be loved by Asa at the end of the story.
The film is not perfect, but I credit Dark Girls with bringing some healing to this issue in the 21st century. Since I pitched in 2011, I have seen other writers in that same line take up discussions of colorism in their romances. To me, I saw a real turning point happen when I revealed the cover of A Most Precious Pearl. There was a great deal of approval and support for it. I was pretty stunned at the number of people who commented that they loved the cover. I cannot have imagined such an overwhelming phenomenon happening even as briefly as 10 years ago. There has been change and I’m happy to see it.
So it may be that society is turning a corner on this issue. I certainly hope so. It’s time that we work past it. There are times when I still see some comments in some of my social media that make me wince. However, it is clear to me that we all deserve love. I certainly hope that some of you want to see how that love comes to fruition between Mags and Asa in their love story.