Having dark skin has always been somewhat problematic. Not necessarily for me, but certainly for the people in my life. When I was a young child I recall family members teasing my brother about his deep complexion, so I knew from an early age that being labeled as having dark skin meant that something was terribly wrong. As the years went on my complexion grew even darker, much to the dismay of  my aunts who insisted that my dark skin had developed due to my failure to properly wash my face. They presented me with bleaching creams to correct the problem.

By the time I hit high school I was still wrestling with my dark skin, often wondering why black people would routinely use it to describe me. I thought I was perfectly normal, and I just couldn’t understand how my skin color often placed me on the outside looking in. Of course all of fair-skinned girlfriends  managed to keep a steady stream of boyfriends, while I would look on, feeling trapped in my own blackness.

When college rolled around, “chocolate” became the preferred word used to describe my skin color. At first I dismissed the reference as something men would say to be flirtatious, but soon I began hearing even women use the term. I’d even hear grandmothers use the word to describe their grandchildren, often preemptively using the description before producing a picture of the child. While I can appreciate that “chocolate” is meant to be complimentary, it has never felt like a compliment to me. When men use the term I feel completely sexualized, and when I was dating it was a deal breaker.

Whenever I hear “chocolate” used as an adjective to describe someone’s complexion I’m both frustrated and puzzled.  Why is skin color, particularly complexion, still so front and center? Why must dark skin be  attributed to food in order for it to be acceptable? Why must we feel so greatly the stigma attached to dark skin that we use gentler synonyms to make it easier to swallow. Why is dark skin so hard to swallow?

History tells us that complexion was used to divide us, with the majority drilling into us the belief that the more European our features, the more beautiful we are. Since then we have publicly declared, “Black is Beautiful,” the hashtag #melanin is always trending on social media platforms, and when we see celebrities like Cicely Tyson, we proudly declare “Black don’t crack.” So if we can reclaim our blackness, we must also be willing to reclaim our dark skin and stop using other words to describe it. I am not now, nor have I ever been, a piece of chocolate.

I'm a Lipstick-obsessed Journalist and Fashion Blogger. You can find me over on my blog or youtube channel swatching lippies and strutting around in 5-inch heels. I'm a also a brand coach, specializing in video marketing and digital brand development. Find me @lisaalamode.

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21 Comments on "Do You Call Me ‘Chocolate’ Because You Don’t Want to Call Me Dark Skinned?"

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Melancholy Sunshine

In current English usage ‘dark’ is UNIVERSALLY used to describe books, films & attitudes that are negative, evil, violent or macabre.

To use something symbolically favorable like sweet candy or majestic trees to describe people is definitely an improvement.

The fact that the universe is 90% dark matter & dark energy is a universal & cosmic restructuring of language and melanin that is 2500 years overdue for return.

Yours in dark matter dreams…

YEYE AKILIMALI FUNUA OLADE
YEYE AKILIMALI FUNUA OLADE
BLACK-SKINNED WOMEN: QUEEN MOTHERS OF THE BLACK RACE AND ALL BEAUTY! Why do I sing Praises of your Beautiful, Black, ebony,velvet skin,”Blacker than the sky at midnight”{1},your full mushroomed mouth, your beautiful broad nose, your generous “Congo hips” {2}and full-flowered backside? Because for too long many of the Black Race have abused, dishonored you, degraded and denied you your crown, Queen of Queens,Queen Mother of the Black Race, Black Beauty Supreme! From you all the beauty of the Black Race springs forth.In fact all the world’s beauty springs from you,Mother of all beauty of all the races of the world!… Read more »
YEYE AKILIMALI FUNUA OLADE
YEYE AKILIMALI FUNUA OLADE
BLACK SKINNED WOMEN-QUEEN MOTHERS OF ALL BEAUTY! # 3 Updated over a year BLACK-SKINNED WOMEN: QUEEN MOTHERS OF THE BLACK RACE AND ALL BEAUTY! Why do I sing Praises of your Beautiful, Black, ebony,velvet skin,”Blacker than the sky at midnight”{1},your full mushroomed mouth, your beautiful broad nose, your generous “Congo hips” {2}and full-flowered backside? Because for too long many of the Black Race have abused, dishonored you, degraded and denied you your crown, Queen of Queens,Queen Mother of the Black Race, Black Beauty Supreme! From you all the beauty of the Black Race springs forth.In fact all the world’s beauty… Read more »
Shee

I’m a “dark skinned” woman, and have never had a problem with the term chocolate. Chocolate is beautiful and brown, rich. I often even say that I want “chocolate” children. I’ve never been offended at the term, but that’s just me *shrug*

Dana

Chocolate is sweet

CurlyQ

People I love dearly have beautiful dark skin..my great grandma is the color of coffee, I call my man chocolate, we use to call my cousin our little chocolate drop but that’s out of affection. I’m even called caramel or french vanilla..they’re just endearing terms and we don’t consider them offensive. Two of my fave things are coffee and chocolate! Lol

Cosita

I was not aware chocolate was exclusively for dark skin. I’m not dark but have been called chocolate, caramel and the like. I have teasingly called white friends “vanilla puddin'” and they will at times say things about ho w they’ve got that good vanilla loving. I say I’m “hot chocolate”. we all laugh about it. I don’t take it seriously. I didn’t realize there were people with a problem with it.

flexinmycomplexion

personally i don’t like being called chocolate, cocoa, caramel or any of that. I’m a woman not food, call me as such. My skin is brown. if you love my skin say you love my brown skin.

Lakitha Goss

Thank You. We are all humans, not objects or food.

MidwestNija
Is it worse to have your complexion compared to the color of chocolate or ebony than it is to have it compared to that of olives? Or porcelain? Or peaches and cream, bricks, and pearls? I think people use everyday things to describe people’s characteristics because it gives a better picture of what they’re trying to explain, not necessarily because they couldn’t just say dark or light. When someone says dark, you might imagine the color black. But when someone says chocolate, I think it brings to mind a richer brown. I don’t know. It might be a euphemism sometimes,… Read more »
sharon johnson

I love being called chocolate or blk.It’s better than the old school saying negros or nigga.Now day ppl refer to blk ppl as blk.and white ppl as white. I’d rather blk than African American.

Deandra Scott

I don’t know. I have always been described by various foods: caramel, butter pecan, toffee. I find it interesting that black people are described by such a range of yummy, desirable foods. But I think it’s true of the whole range brown-skinned complexions.

I would like to say one thing. In my experience, lighter skin did not make me magically mire date-able. Guys where I lived didn’t get the memo.

Lauren

I found this article kind of enlightening. I’ve used many sweet terms to describe other African American people. I call my boyfriend “chocolate.” I call myself “caramel.” I call my mother and brother “mocha.” I’ve never thought these terms to be offensive. I’ve never used these terms to be offensive. All of these words are sweet and decadent, just as the many shades of our skin. All colors are beautiful. Reading this has definitely opened my eyes to another point of view.

LBell

(puts on editor hat) At this point, using food adjectives to describe brown skin is just lazy writing. (takes off editor hat)

I was once greeted (by a light-skinned black man) with “What’s up, my onyx sister?” lol…It was funny to me then and it’s even funnier now in light of this article.

Honey_Dipt

Far be it from me to tell someone how to feel, but perspective can make a difference. It has always tickled me that the rainbow of tones in which black skin ranges has always been described in terms of deliciously decadent food and precious materials. Chocolate, honey,caramel.cinnamon. Gold,ebony amber. Which tells me that no mater how much you try to negate my presence you intrinsically recognize my power….. Black women are sustenance and wealth!

Candy

Uhm, reaching much? It’s really not that deep. I love being called chocolate because my skin is the tone of Hershey’s…but does that somehow make me not dark skinned? No. Does me calling myself chocolate make me not want to be dark skinned. No. This is why people are annoyed by BGLH with these bait threads.

tee

I agree.

cryssi
No, chocolate is delicious. I call myself caramel mixed with cinnamon and brown sugar, yummm. My brother in law has dark skin and 2 of my beautiful nieces do as well. He’s a little sensitive though, but I’m sure it had to do with generation. He looked at his 2 light children when they were born, like where did they come from lol. They look just him though. I have an ex with dark skin, he said, “I’m not dark, my momma is dark, my sister is dark, and Tiff (his cousin) is dark”. He proceeded to say he doesn’t… Read more »
Hair Anomaly
Interesting interpretation. I’ve never thought of it that way because it never struck me as being that serious. It’s always good to hear different perspectives. I hate to see what some of my fellow dark girls have been through with their family and friends. I never took being called “chocolate” as an insult because when used to describe skin tone, both “dark skin” and “chocolate” were used interchangeably and were usually preceded by the word “beautiful” in my home. When I think of chocolate, I think of something that is not only beautiful, but rich, sweet, decadent, smooth, desirable, addictive,… Read more »
Bre
Very interesting article. As a dark skinned girl, I can appreciate both. I have called myself chocolate, dark chocolate, hot cocoa and dark skin lol. And I take pride in being dark skin. I love it, and wouldn’t change it for the world. I agree that for many ‘dark skin’ is a hard pill to swallow. I used to be like that. I loved my dark skin but hated the words dark skin. Which is horrible, and nonsensical. However, I don’t think chocolate is a bad way to describe dark skin. Chocolate, was like a stepping stone for me to… Read more »
Abuja

Well some people are called caramel or butterscotch. Both terms describe a skin tone and also food. I think the term dark skinned is relative though. Chocolate is a certain type of brown as is caramel. If you felt slighted by the term then that should be considered by others. I also love my skin tone but hate to be referred to as light skinned.

Anyway, to each their own I suppose.

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