Singer DaniLeigh has been at the center of a social media storm after posting a snippet of her song “Yellow Bone” last week. In the since deleted video, the singer bops to her track, mouthing along to the lyrics, “Yellow bone is what he wants…yellow bone is what he wants.”
Social media was quick to point out the problems with the song, naming the colorism and anti-Blackness at the core of “Yellow Bone.” Others postulated that it was a diss track aimed at the ex-girlfriend of DaBaby, who is currently dating DaniLeigh. Despite the callouts, DaniLeigh doubled down, writing on her Instagram (in a now deleted post), “Why can’t I make a song for my light skin baddies?” In a Twitter post, she continued, “Only God can ‘cancel’ me...that sh*t don’t mean sh*t to me.”
The singer, who identifies as Dominican, later backtracked and issued an apology on Monday, appearing on video in a fresh set of box braids. “It wasn’t something that I looked at deeply…. I’m sorry that I wasn’t sensitive to the topic…. I definitely feel misunderstood.” But many didn’t feel her apology was sincere, especially since the singer used her relationship with a “chocolate man” as a reason why she’s not racist.
The “topic” DaniLeigh references is colorism, a by-product of anti-Black racism that results in a system in which those with lighter skin tones are treated more favorably. Colorism doesn’t just appear in the Black community but throughout the Afro diaspora: It manifests in better job opportunities, housing, and overall social and class mobility that is often denied to dark-skinned Black people. Popular examples of colorism include the “paper bag test,” “blue vein societies,” and the erasure of dark-skinned Black women and men in media and popular culture.
What does this all have to do with DaniLeigh? The singer, who identifies as Dominican American, is referencing “yellow bone,” a Southern AAVE (African American vernacular) term used to describe light-skinned Black women. But “yellow bone” isn’t simply a physical designation—it comes with a hefty legacy of colorism behind it. Light-skinned Black women are venerated as the standard of Black beauty. We see ourselves represented in the media, more often than not, while enjoying all the other privileges that come with racial ambiguity.
Colorism isn’t a new phenomenon. Across North and South America, dark-skinned Black women and men have been calling out light-skinned privilege for centuries, pointing out the disparities both within and outside Black culture that continue to foster colorism. Light-skinned women don’t need an anthem when society already dictates and affirms that we are beautiful and valuable simply because of our skin color.
Beyond that, DaniLeigh isn’t Black. She’s Dominican, which is an ethnicity, not a race. There are white and Black Dominicans. Racism and colorism exists in the Dominican Republic, as they do in the United States. The Dominican Republic’s history is fraught with enacting anti-Haitian and anti-Black laws, namely Rafael Trujillo’s dictatorship during which he ordered the genocide of thousands of Haitians. In light of this rather recent history, DaniLeigh, who is not a Black Dominican, exalting her skin color and racial ambiguity seems even more grotesque.
The argument that DaniLeigh wasn’t “aware” of the nuances of colorism seems flimsy. Non-Black Latinas like her are often able to co-opt Blackness (like her box braids) while simultaneously being able to shed Blackness when it’s convenient to do so. Afro-Latina artists like Celia Cruz, Amara La Negra, and Victoria Santa Cruz have spoken up about the challenges they faced as visibly Black women in music.
Colorism and racism within the industry means that DaniLeigh, along with a cadre of artists like Jennifer Lopez and Camila Cabello, reap the bounties of colorism. Not only that, they’re allowed the space to not be “sensitive to the topic,” as DaniLeigh put it.
Whether or not she meant it to be, “Yellow Bone” is a clear weaponization of skin color as a marker of desirability and worth.
Arielle Gray is a multimedia journalist based in Boston.
Originally Appeared on Glamour