Double Dutching in My Own Skin

A Soulful Narrative on Colorism

by LaWanda M. Simpkins (Author)
©2023 Textbook XVI, 104 Pages
Series: Counterpoints Primers, Volume 39


Restrictively more than most, the collective image of Black women’s identities are created by others. The glamorized life of Black women with light skin and the presumed likeness to whiteness has caused division within the Black community for years. Most often written and spoken of is the victimization of darker-hued women due to their skin tone. This thoughtful book explores colorism, which is a form of internalized racism, from the perspective of a light-skinned Black woman. By examining the social construction of race through the lens of Black Feminist Thought and Critical Race Theory the author uncovers a different narrative of colorism.
Intimate accounts of skin tone stratification from Dr. Simpkins’ own lived experience are shared as she engages in self-awareness throughout the entire book. A critical perspective of popular culture in movies offers insight into the origination of inscribed identifies of Black women. The traditional roles of Mammy, Sapphire and Jezebel are examined to further illustrate the perpetuation of colorism. The context of this work should be understood as groundbreaking to the field of colorism.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Titel
  • Copyright
  • Autorenangaben
  • Über das Buch
  • Zitierfähigkeit des eBooks
  • Contents
  • Preface
  • 1. Down with Fraggle Rock: Freckles, Red Hair, and Stones
  • Introduction
  • Goals
  • 2. There’s Nobody New under the Sun: Some Are Told They Can Play Outside and Some Are Warned Against It
  • Introduction
  • Race
  • Biological Origins
  • Time Overview
  • Critical Race Theory
  • Racism
  • Internalized Racism
  • Colorism
  • Early Stages of Colorism
  • Passing
  • Too Light—Too Dark
  • Which Black Is Beautiful
  • Family
  • Conclusion
  • 3. Skin Tone and Attitude: Color Stratification Amongst Black Actresses
  • Introduction
  • Film Industry
  • Mammy, Sapphire, and Jezebel
  • Mammy
  • Sapphire
  • Jezebel
  • Trinary Thinking
  • Stereotypes and Reality
  • Light Skinned Objects
  • My Fantasy and Reality
  • School Daze
  • Conclusion
  • 4. Tales of a Melanated Sistah: Journaling through Colorism
  • Introduction
  • Family
  • Why Would I Do This to My Kids?
  • Not Wanting to Be an AKA
  • Even Tanning Can’t Take the Pain Away
  • Self-Actualization—Proving My Blackness
  • She Is a REAL Sistah
  • Divided Perception: They Like Him Better
  • I Am Light Skin Darn It!
  • #teamlightskin
  • Conclusion
  • 5. You Can’t Stay in the Past So How Do We Move Forward: Education as a Form of Liberation
  • Golden
  • Liberation through Education
  • Community
  • Culturally Relevant Classrooms
  • Media Responsibility
  • Intergroup Dialogue
  • Journaling
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Index


Patiently, I sat in his office. With my heart beating and hands trembling I took my first deep breath before I began sharing my work, my passion with my classmates and professor. As I started, I stumbled over my words because my words were my thoughts, and my thoughts were intimate to me. I was nervous! Saying them out loud made them real. Writing them down would make them a permanent document, something that other people could read. As I shared with them what had been the story of my life my eyes swole with tears and my face began to turn pink. I hate that my skin always shows all.

I wondered why everyone was silent. As they left the classroom all my classmates patted me on my back. I’m still not certain if the pat was saying, “job well done” or “hang in there”, but nevertheless they all did it; every single one of them. The next day a classmate and dear friend called to check on me. She wanted to make sure that I was okay. I uncomfortably laughed at her and asked what did she think was wrong with me? She got so quiet. Her silence on the phone unnerved me. With a steady calm voice (like she was being gentle with me) she stated, “your eyes were red and swollen with tears last night.” In my uncomfortable state I laughed it off. I told her “Oh that was just allergies.” I knew my eyes had swollen with tears, but I thought it was just a little bit. Who would really cry in class I said to her. I began talking about something else all while having many thoughts. Why was she in my personal space? Did she not know I was melting on the inside? I wanted her to back off me, but I knew she was going to continue to push. I wondered if she picked up on all the things that she said because she knew me well or was it just that obvious to everyone.

The next week one of my classmates approached me before class got started. He wanted to make sure that I did not think that he was patronizing me by patting me on my back. I assured him that I had not put any more thought into it, which was partially untrue. I had thought about it but not necessarily in the way that he had believed that I had. I wondered if he too saw what my dear friend had seen. Apparently, he had. I had no idea that my topic was going to affect me like this. On our first day of class my professor said my book should be an extension of me. He told me to write about the very thing that was important and deep in my soul. He said write about what I am passionate about and not to be bound by structure and tradition. So, I took his advice not considering that in doing so it was going to affect me the way that it did last week.

I knew I had chosen the right topic, but until sharing it with my classmates, I felt that it was important to keep my personal life as far away from my work as possible. After all, I planned to write about colorism as a light skinned Black woman, who, according to the idea of colorism, have been privileged by my skin. What voice could I really give to the situation? Furthermore, who would care to listen?

Every person in the room, including my professor suggested that I do a personal narrative. I began to get very defensive. I thought who me, are these people crazy? They wanted me to talk about colorism from my perspective. Were they really suggesting that I spend pages upon pages talking about the life of a light skinned Black woman? No way! That was unheard of. Should my book not give voice, freedom, even vengeance to those people who are darker than I? Are they not the ones who deserve to be heard? Through the constant back and forth conversation all I could think of was how badly I wanted that moment to end. Maybe then I would have time to come up with all the many reasons that they were wrong about my voice being important and I was right about remaining silent. Maybe I could possibly come up with all the ways in which I could convince them that approaching my work from another angle would perhaps be more meaningful.

Then the strangest thing happened. I realized they were right. My voice could be heard. Maybe it should be heard. I felt the urgency to include my life. I felt that it was an essential piece to not only the ever-evolving development of my work, but also to myself. For the first time ever, I really began to embrace the idea of a personal narrative and the added benefit that it would give to my readers. As I thought about it even more, I also thought about how liberating it might be. I pondered a little longer on how I would map out my first literary masterpiece (in my mind at least).

The project was so big I didn’t know where to begin. I started with my safe place, journaling. I knew it would lead to something. I knew that writing would help me, explore, discover, and yes maybe even overcome my fears, complexities and anxieties about colorism. I wanted to do this all while creating a work that would make my future self proud. Like any work of fine art, I stared at the blank canvas and wondered what it would one day become. I knew my work would be special to me. Not perfect but maybe perfect in my eyes. I knew this was just the beginning. I could feel that. I had no idea what I was about to truly get myself into. I hoped that it would touch the lives of those who read it. I hoped it would touch my life as well. With excitement and fear I thought “here goes nothing and everything all wrapped up in one.”

Signed Me spring 2010


XVI, 104
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2024 (February)
Race Racism Colorism Color Struck Skin Color Color Consciousness Colorist Color stratification Shades Mammy Sapphire Jezebel Double Dutching in My Own Skin A Soulful Narrative on Colorism LaWanda M. Simpkins
New York, Berlin, Bruxelles, Chennai, Lausanne, Oxford, 2024. XVI, 104 pp.

Biographical notes

LaWanda M. Simpkins (Author)

LaWanda M. Simpkins, Ph.D. is an independent scholar and founder of Creative Justice, Inc., a non-profit organization centered on social justice and advocacy. She received her PhD and certificate in Women’s & Gender Studies from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She is a proud alumna of North Carolina A&T State University


Title: Double Dutching in My Own Skin