OWN
01/22/2015 12:44 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Light-Skinned Black Women On The Pain Of Not Feeling 'Black Enough' (VIDEO)

In director Bill Duke's much buzzed-about documentary "Light Girls," African-American women share emotional testimonials of what it's like to grow up black, but light-skinned. Well-known African-American actresses and media personalities came forward with personal stories to expose the very real pain and prejudice of colorism.

For actress and comedian Kym Whitley, the confusion and shame started in childhood. While growing up, Whitley says people often mistook her light-skinned mother for white. She recalls being teased as a child and, in turn, teasing her mother for her light complexion.

"Now that we're talking about it, maybe that is the thing," Whitley says. "I'm trying to be too black sometimes. I've done the reverse thing because of my mother being so fair and people thinking that she was white, because of being teased."

Whitley says she now realizes she was trying to "make up for not being black enough," and she's not alone. In the same clip, another woman says her light skin is both a curse and a blessing. "It's a curse because you don't really belong anywhere," Shannon Taylor says. "But it's a blessing because you blend in everywhere."

She shares the pain and loneliness of going through life feeling like an outcast. "I was just told recently that I'm not a real black person, I'm not even part black person," she says. "It doesn't matter what my granddaddy did or what he was about, I don't know anything about the black experience and I have no right because my skin color doesn't match."

"I was led to believe if I were someone else, my life would be better," Taylor says. "It cheated me out of being who I am and I'm now almost 40 [years old] figuring that out."

Ndeya Walker says she was often told by schoolmates that she wasn't black, as if that were a compliment. "And I went to my dad and I said, 'Dad, am I not black enough?' And I just remember he started to cry. And he was so emotional."

His beautiful response has stuck with her to this day. "And he just told me, 'You are black enough. You are all the black that you need to be. You are beautiful, you are smart, you are caring and charismatic and don't let anyone tell you different.'"

"Light Girls" is the sequel to the "Dark Girls" documentary that premiered on OWN in 2013.


More from Light Girls: The steps we can take now to start the healing process.

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