It started at such an early age for me.
I was a little brown girl in the heart of the white-picketed fences of suburbia.
At school, I’d watch them. They would prance around playing double dutch, flowy blonde locks whipping and swaying to the rhythm of each jump.
I touched the thick brown braids in my hair.
They weren’t flowing anywhere.
So I’d go home, and pretend to be them.
Draping a white towel over my head, holding my nose with two fingers, attempting to squeeze the pudge out, sucking the chunk out my cheeks – staring at my reflection in the mirror. Just to pretend for a moment, that I could be something other than a “The-little-black-girl-with-the-doo-doo plaits”
I remember my first crush in 3rd grade. A blue eyed, All-American boy named Mark. I was in love.
Until the day he walked right by me, holding hands with another girl. Their porcelain fingers intertwined in an indistinguishable weave. I looked down at my own hands. 100 shades darker. I touched the thick brown plaits in my hair again; tears streaming down my cheeks. At such a tender age I thought – he’ll never see me. I’ll never be pretty enough, because I didn’t look anything like her.
I remember the time I played out in the sun too long.
I came in the house to bathe, after a full day of playing on sandy beaches. I caught a glimpse of my reflection in the mirror and began sobbing uncontrollably. My mother ran in to ask me what was wrong. I yelled, “Mommy, I’m BLACK!!” Referring to my sun baked skin tone, now a few shades darker.
I remember buying foundation for the first time.
My eyes grazed across the ombre hues of nude searching for my shade. And just before I reached the very end, there I was.
Last; The darkest shade offered. I felt my heart sink into my chest.
But one winter…My heart pulsed with pride. The shade was far too dark. So I bought one a few shades lighter to mix them together. I actually felt “something giddy” inside. Just seeing that shade of creamy beige sitting there on my bathroom counter from time to time, I’d smile – flirting with the idea that perhaps next winter – I can try to wear it on its own.
I remember having jestful conversations with my friends in college about choosing a mate of another race, purely based on desiring ‘cute mixed babies.’
They were going to be “so cute”, simply because of their “mixed DNA.” We’d casually flip through the kids section of clothing magazines, prominent with photos of babies with tanned skin, hazel eyes, and loose curls…trying to determine what genetic make up made could make such a beautiful child.
I remember when my daughter was born, and she came out a very dark shade, a stark contrast to her brothers birth a few years before.
Again, I felt my heart sink. Because I knew what would follow. Comparison’s to her brother. Seemingly harmless family conversations about inspecting her ears and finger tips to determine what her “true color” will be. Perhaps she will “lighten up”. Right?
Then, there were the remarks of a few that I’ll never forget:
“Goodness…she’s so dark!”
Not realizing the implications or power of their words. I’d write off their words as harmless, nonchalantly cosigning on their ignorance. While inside part of me felt crushed, embarrassed, and rejected.
Why do I have to fight to validate the beauty of my newborn baby girl based on the color of her skin?
Why do so vividly remember the insecurities I felt as a little black girl?
For the people who don’t get it. The struggle of colorism and race for black people (and many other races) is a deep rooted issue.
Years and years and years of suppression, enslavery, devaluing of a people group, segregation, classicism, and social acceptance based on skin tone and european standards of beauty, leaves scars. And those scars can’t heal on their own. Certainly in times like these they resurface. They bleed again.
I pray the video above gives you an enriched perspective.
When I read through my words above, my whole body cringes.
These aren’t memories I’d usually dig up, voice out loud, or even admit to quite honestly. Because it’s sickens me that something so seemingly futile, like skin color, can have such an impact on me from adolescence into adulthood. I wish these sentiments weren’t real. I wish they weren’t buried deep within me. I wish they had no power. No impact. But they do.
And as a mom of (soon to be) two little black girls, its important that I address these hidden scars, and reject the lies head on.
Though I have now come to genuinely love and appreciate my unique beauty and deep melanin, the lies still linger.
I simply choose not to feed them.
And sadly, it is these same lies that society continues to spoon feed and perpetuate. Lies that say women of color, especially dark-skinned black women, are not enough for major advertisements, leading roles, or other media representation. It has certainly gotten better, but we have a long road ahead.
See, my daughters will need to know, they need to hear it from me, that they are beautiful in every way. Fearfully and wonderfully made. Created in the likeness and image of God, regardless of whether society validates or deems them beautiful or not.
You are all together beautiful my darling, there is no flaw in you. Song of Solomon 4:7