“You’re cute for a dark skin girl,” was said to me one too many times growing up. And every time, it stirred up mixed feelings. Flattery that, “I’m cute”, and confusion that, what was really being said, was that I was the exception to the rule. The rule, was that normally, darker skin women weren’t attractive, and yet I had somehow figured out the secret formula to defy that rule🙄.
Boyfriends have said, “You’re the first dark skin girl I’ve dated, or, I don’t usually date dark skin women, etc…” I remember one night out with my girls and meeting a guy. It was his birthday, and somehow we had crashed the party. He and I hit it off on the dance floor and the rest of the night enjoyed one another in conversation. But when we all headed out to IHOP for an after party late breakfast, he distanced himself, making it a point to say that he only liked “light skin” girls. I was hurt, even though I knew he was speaking out of his own immaturity and brokenness. I also knew that he really did like me, but didn’t like the fact that he liked me, hence, he had started being rude.
These are just a few instances that have occurred over the years in regards to my complexion. When I shared them with a guy I had dated more recently in my adulthood, (before making him sit through the hour-long documentary “Dark Girls”), his response was to brush off my concerns as being immature nonsense that happens while growing up. “Then why are there rarely strong, beautiful, darker skin women portrayed in our media? Why is the typical light skin woman the one on the videos or in the BET (Black Entertainment Television) rom com?” To that, he had no response. Because he knew. Our people are still ashamed.
I grew up in a home where I did not look like the women in my family. They were light skin and petite and the total opposite of me physically. But you know what? They never made me feel unattractive. In fact, my mother saw my insecurities and rejection issues and made it her goal to affirm me. She is probably one of the largest reasons I’m way more confident today. God bless that woman.
Even though I didn’t agree with my ex’s assessment regarding the blatant colorism that is still running rampant in Black culture, I will admit that most of my experiences with others pertaining to the color of my skin have been very positive in my adulthood. Overly so actually, to the point that I know it has to be God trying to heal me from those past wounds.
I was talking to the mother of a friend recently and she was affirming me in my complexion. I refuted her statements and listed the numerous occurrences of colorism in the media. She looked at me and said, “But when they see you, they can’t deny the evidence.” She was insinuating that my dark skin complexion was evidence that beauty is in dark skin, and I was the example of that truth. Wow. I didn’t have words.
I am grateful that Black people are starting to awaken to our own beauty.
The happenstance of colorism clearly stems from slavery when we were separated by the hue of our skin tone: “Darkies” in the field, “Lights” in the house. Sadly, those historical systems in place still affect us today and have secretly evolved into a sort of self-hatred within the Black community, (in my opinion). In our overall society, since we are the oppressed people group, those in positions of power favor those who look like them: the lighter your skin, and the straighter your hair, the more you are accepted, or seen as “beautiful”. I worked in corporate. I’ve seen it in action, and have been the recipient of blatant racism. But we will talk about that another day.
The issues of social injustices and Black men and women being senselessly slaughtered by those in power has finally opened the eyes of the nation, and even the world, to these systems of oppression that still function in our communities. I feel like people of color are finally being heard and others are actually moving in action to be advocates and supporters for racial equality. Yet and still, the internal conflict of African Americans resulting in colorism is largely at hand. It’s cool that you think I’m attractive, but let’s just leave it at that. And honestly, I won’t be satisfied until I see several women who look like me with natural hair, full lips, and curves, killing it in the next music video, or starring in the leading role on the next hit series on BET.
I guess ultimately, I don’t want to be the exception. I want to be the rule.
I can say that I’ve come a long way in my own self-perception regarding the color of my skin, but there are certain things I have to think about in regards to it that others do not, such as, if someone else is going to do my makeup or hair, do they have the right foundation or lipstick? Do they even know what 4C hair is? Or, if we are taking a picture, I need to make sure that the flash is on in a dark lit room, or the sun is positioned behind the lens so that I don’t come out the color of charcoal. (This has happened more than once, and I cringe every time I think about it). I also understand that those of lighter complexions have their own challenges. (For those interested, there is also a documentary out there called “Light Girls” that tackles this subject). But I think we can all agree, darker skin women have been perceived as being “lesser than” in our society, and unfortunately, we have historically repeated this false narrative into our own community.
I’m grateful that God has healed me and is healing me by His many affirmation through others. I know that I am an attractive Black woman, I just want others to know that being an attractive darker skin woman is not an exception to the rule. The rule was made my white men and women who perceived themselves as being the ideal. But we know different. We are all created in His image, and that means beauty is clothed in a variety of skin tones, shapes and sizes. There are too many women out here who are the evidence of that truth. There are too many of us who exude beauty and attractiveness to not each be represented in media. Let’s start advocating for those representations. In doing so, we will be creating our own rules.
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