Browned Skin Girl is part of a long ode and tribute to Black women from Beyonce in the form of a visual album called LEMONADE. Browned Skin Girl is part of a bigger conversation about how colorism affects non-white women. Colorism is the intracultural offspring of racism among colonized groups of people. If racism means that white is better than black, it is safe to say that colorism means light skin within a non-white group, is better than dark skin. In this case, Beyonce’ used “brown skin” in the place of dark-skinned; given that some people are deeply offended by that as a term. Keep in mind that the aforementioned explanations of racism and colorism are incredibly simplistic definitions, of incredibly complex concepts.
Brown Skin Girl
Throughout the song, Beyonce’ extols the praises of dark skin, counteracting the denigration and unwarranted criticism that is usually put on women with dark skin. Anyone given to hip hop culture and rap music will find their favorite male rapper saying they prefer women who are non-black, light-skinned, high-yellow, redbone, etc. Followed by this are the music videos that hardly feature models darker than a brown paper bag. The aversion most people in most cultures have to dark skin inspires women from Jamaica to India to bleach their skin.
In the song, Beyonce says: Same skin that was broken, be the same skin takin’ over
This is a reference to chattel slavery and the Catholic church’s justification for enslaving Africans. Their religious ideology taught that blacks are the cursed sons of Noah‘s son Ham and that their curse is the mark of dark skin. Upon this as a foundation, Europeans colonized cultures in the name of God. They believed in their concept of manifest destiny; a dogmatic belief that says it is an inevitable obligation upon the white man to enslave and colonize the savage races of the earth, as God’s chosen people. White-ness in America was designed up against its opposite which is blackness.
From this, we have in American culture, concepts like the “one-drop rule” and what used to be anti-miscegenation laws. These laws lasted into the 1960s being ended in most American states with the Loving v. Virginia verdict. Brown Skinned Girl is a form of protest. Beyonce’ is saying that in reality, black women are some of the most highly imitated women on earth and that it is the culture that black women have given birth to that has taken over globally. She is thanking her black African roots for her success. She is paying homage to the roots that gave her the voice, talents, and complete package to become the superstar she is today.
Beyonce also featured an Indian woman from the subcontinent in the music video acknowledging that colorism is not only something that Black American women face, but indigenous women all over the world are treated as inferior to their lighter-skinned counterparts. Beyonce’ is using her platform, at the peak of her success, to stand in solidarity with dark-skinned women against colorism as an insidious practice that devalues darker-skinned women based solely on their complexion.