Light Skin and Uppity: When Did Considering Yourself Worthy Become a Crime?




Rarely do I go to the mall especially during the week. But, one of my best girlfriends invited me out on a mini shopping spree. I accepted. My friend loves to take her sweet time, I mean sweet (all day) I decided to walk to other stores. On my journey I heard someone yell my name and I recognized a familiar face from high school. I figured I’d go say ‘hi’ to him since I was trying to kill some time.

We began talking and catching up which was going fine until this man asked me whether or not I was in a  relationship. This was fine. But, the kicker came when he says, “What’s his name, Greg?” I took a double take. If you know me you know I am a sassy ball of fire sometimes. He threw me for a loop. Greg. What was he implying? I asked, “What are you trying to say?” He continues, “You know you always was the uppity type so I figured you would have an uppity man with a name like Greg.”

I was thrown! Really though? The ironic part was my beau would have laughed his a**  off at this assumption. He would be the first to raise his hand and say, “no you have it all wrong. She is the opposite of that.” He is only the second man to tell me that in my lifetime. However, what both have in common is that I wasn’t giving them the time of day therefore they took that as I am being “uppity.”

Neither of them do it for me. Add this to the fact that I am a proud introvert, pretty confident, and known to have high standards for my romantic relationships. If you were to see me and didn’t know me it could be easy to assume I am “uppity” because I am not always smiling, I rather put my head in a book then talk to complete strangers who I’m not feeling, and I walk with my head held high because I am comfortable enough with myself to do so which has not always been the case.

I just found that totally mind blowing. Not to mention that off the heels of Dark Girls I’ve been having boat loads of conversations about light and dark skin for the past two weeks! Heaven forbidden if I add in the fact that I am light bright and many boast that I have “good hair” (all of which I don’t believe in). Not saying that color plays a role in this assumption that I am “uppity,” but I am saying I think it may play a role and I don’t think it is off to assume that it might. How many times have I heard,light skin girls think they are better.”

Funny thing is I know good and got damn well I am not better. Never was and never will be. Brown is beautiful in my book. Dark is sweet to me! But equating light to uppity is not cool. Equating confidence and standards to uppity is not the look either. Yet, we still have folks doing it. When will it stop?

There is such a thing as overconfidence and there really are folks who are uppity. I just don’t think I fall into these categories. I still have more work to do on my own self and my identity will never rest on being uppity which Merriam Webster Dictionary defines as “self-important and arrogant.” Self-important—yes! Arrogant—No! However, if I didn’t believe that I was important than why would anyone else?  Confident women recognize their importance but they also recognize their humbleness because they are not the only woman in the world.

I want to hear from you:

  • Have you been called uppity before?
  • Did men react to you differently once you were more confident or changed your standards?
  • Ever had a similar experience…
  • Do you think light skin women are subjected more to the “uppity” label then darker skin women? Why is that?


  1. How silly. I’m dark skinned and frequently get called uppity. However this particular name stems from how I “conduct” myself rather than my skin tone. It was upsetting at first, but then I realized I’m not living my life to please others, I’m doing what pleases me, despite how “uppity” that may come off. If uppity means graduated with a bachelors, perusing my masters, maintaining a stable job with great pay and benefits, then I’ll laugh my uppity self all the way to the bank.

    I’ve yet to meet one light skinned person who acts “uppity.” People act how they want to act, skin tone should not dictate a persons self-worth. Great post!

    • Yes, it was so silly! Thank you for sharing your experiences. Happy to know I am not alone Reese. I agree with you that how you conduct yourself does play a role in how you are perceived. I do, however, think that in some cases skin tone does play a role in it. Skin tone shouldn’t and DOES NOT dictate any woman’s self-worth, and hope all black and brown girls everywhere recognize that as a fact!

  2. As a Dominican women with a black background (my father being British Black and my dad being half black)…I’v been know to be criticized especially in high school about my hair since it was very long and my skin color. The darker skinned girls would hate on the fact that I use to only hang out with black guys and use to say things like “mira mira. go hang out with your own kind.” I married a black guy and I get looks from black girls ’till this very day and my husband said it was because they were hating on me for taking their men. That’s just so stupid and ignorant.

    I have also been called uppity many a times …Sucks! but oh well…

    Keep it Touched,

    • Hey Khloe! Thank you for sharing your own experience. It is just a fact of life that light vs. dark even have to be an issue many deal with daily. People always jumped to judging a book by its cover before actually knowing all the facts. Human nature, I assume. I think it is important to acknowledge our experiences and accept that we are who we are regardless of how others people perceive us. We have to be proud of who we are and how we look, own it and rock it!

  3. I noticed that you mentioned that you are a confident introvert, I think this has a lot to do with being seen as “uppity” and I think that when people place labels like ‘uppity’ on people it has a lot to do with their own personality and experiences. I’ve been called “bougie” and when I was younger i was told that I can off as cold and an “ice princess”. The thing is, I am confident and have never had too much of a problem with loving who I am but I am also an introvert and am pretty reserved (I was even more reserved when i was younger) I’ve recently read Susan Cain’s book “Quiet” and it gives a lot of insight into how society sees introverts and I think that while introvert males can come off as pensive and mysterious, because of societies bias women are seen more as cold and perhaps ‘stuck up’, as we experienced. I think in our society there is this unfair expectation that women should be social butterflies and super bubbly. Now about the having a light skin tone– I can’t say if that has a correlation or not because I fall on the darker side of the “paper bag test” though I do think skin color doesn’t play as large a role as personality in being seen as ‘uppity’. For example my mom has a really bubbly personality and is someone who can make conversation easily with anyone and as far as i know she has never been accused of as being uppity, whereas me and my sister have been accused of being stuck up and we both have (relatively) darker skin.

    • I agree with you. Introverts get a bad rap all the time in my opinion. I need to read Susan’s book. It could provide me with some good insight I am sure. As far as the skin might not of had anything to do with it but after watching Dark Girls and Imagine a Future and having several conversations about the topic, I couldn’t help but think it might play some part in the “uppity” debacle. Glad you pointed out that all African Americans regardless of shade have been called “uppity” before and not just light skin people. It is important to note that we all have similar issues, however, so often they are separated. I appreciate your in depth response Haley!

      • Thank you for posing the topic. I think it’s a legitimate issue and you hit the nail on the head with your title “when did considering yourself worthy become a crime?” but “worthy” of what? My answer would be worthy of any and every real life experience. I’ve noticed that everyone who responded mentioned that they have been called ‘uppity’, ‘bougie’, ‘stuck up’ before–and by who? black people. us. our own people. and this is the main issue at hand. When will “we”(black people collectively,including myself) acknowledge and celebrate each others differing personalities, interests, and experiences regardless of our skin color or skin tone? There is no one way to be “black” or to act “black”. Getting called “Uppity” was another way of putting what kids would tell me in grammar school “why do act so…white?” I feel like what the kids were trying to say is “we are black and we behave in a similar manner to each other…why do you think you have the right to be so different? Why can’t our experiences like perhaps speaking in ‘proper’ english, shopping at farmers markets, enjoying the Opera, pursing advanced education be experiences that intertwine with our experience as black people without being met with accusations (by other black people) of being “uppity” or the old “you think your so better than us…”? Don’t they realize that no one experience is greater than another, we all die one day and we all will have lived different lives. In my specific experience skin-tone (or having a light skin tone) has not played a part in these accusations (just personality and interests) but I do acknowledge that for you individually it may have been a huge part of it. All of these things (skin tone, personality, interests) all seems to intertwine under the same big issue. Getting accused of being ‘uppity’ just because your living your own experience is not cool. When will black people collectively consider ourselves worthy of living every and any experience this world has to offer? I hope all that made sense, it seemed to make sense in my head. Anyway, I think it’s a legitimate issue, and glad you brought it up.


        • Wow Haley! I don’t necessarily think my skin tone plays a huge role in being called “uppity”…I think most of it is personality and experiences and interests. However, I agree with you when will the day finally come when skin color doesn’t even have to be considered factor at all! Probably not in our lifetime. I think it is safe to say that if we worry about living our lives for others we will never be happy, and the most important thing is that we love ourselves and do what it is we want to do regardless of what others say. I will, no less, stop being an introvert or college educated or have my interest that may seem more European. I won’t stop one bit. But, I am know who I am and I know where I’m from, therefore I have no reason to not hold my head high and be proud of who I am…if that makes others thing I’m “acting white” then so be it. I don’t have to act anything. I am comfortable enough in my own skin, and I hope that young girls are learning this lesson early on in life and grown women are living life to the fullest on their own terms! Everyone must create the life they want and no one person or one group is going to change that. Be you. Do you. That’s all that truly matters. Being yourself is one of the hardest task any person can ever do, precisely because of all the noise we hear from the media, society, family, etc, but it is a must if you are to not only survive but thrive with style and grace in this world!

  4. Great post. Don’t defend yourself. If you don’t write your own standards other people will. Next time, laugh hard and walk away.

  5. Hallo Taria, The site is great and I loved this post. We are always looking for great lifestyle blogs and great writers to expose to our audience. You would be one of them, so do consider joining our bloggers community here:

    Regarding the post, your experience certainly reflects this light skin /dark skin thing rooted in the Black community, (a lot more so in the US I’d have to say), however this story could also be summed up as a simple encounter with a lightweight fool.

  6. I wouldn’t say that anyone has ever specifically used the word “uppity” in reference to me…but I have been called a “stuck-up b*tch” and other nasty names. Some of my Black female teachers complained that I thought I was better than everybody else, when I was in school.

    Being biracial (black and white) with VERY light skin and long hair, I deal with a lot of misconceptions about who I am. I’m also an introvert, painfully shy and reserved. Some men react to me differently now that I’m married. And my husband is white…some people have a problem with that, but I don’t care.

    To answer your question about whether light-skinned women are unfairly stereotyped more often as being “uppity”…yes, I would say this is true. I’ve never really heard anyone say that a dark-skinned woman was stuck-up. I believe it happens more often because of things that went on during slavery and the fact that lighter skin is often equated with beauty, status, and privilege. It is also because some Black people (and other minorities) suffer from internalized racism.

    I’ve been told by some people that I am a pretty girl, not because I’m light, but because I have a nice smile and a nice figure. I think that sometimes people see all light-skinned women as being privileged when that isn’t true. And I never felt pretty growing up…my self-esteem is still very low.

    • I am happy you could connect with this post. However, I am dishearten to hear that you still suffer from low self-esteem. Please use this site and me as a resource to help to you build your esteem and confidence. You deserve it and you are worth it! When we get to a point where we fully accept and embrace who we are regardless of what others say we have reached a place of personal peace and freedom. It’s no sense living a life full of doubt and misconception because we are who we are and no one will accept us if we don’t first love and accept ourselves flaws and all.

      • Thanks so much! I discovered this site recently and I appreciate the work you’re putting into helping people…it really makes a difference.


  1. […] writing a post in which I had an incident that resulted in being called “uppity” I reflected on what might lead one to say such a thing. One thing I reasoned was that my […]