I am going to tackle a subject that has been the bane of my existence for as long as I can remember. And because there are so many components to it, I am going to address it and readdress it in future posts to come from different perspectives and views, because it is a really deep subject. What I am referring to is that horrible whole conversation between light skin and dark skin that we have in this country. I think the beautiful shades of color that we have is something to be cherished and celebrated. However the problem is the value that we put on those shades and the habitual differences we make when it comes to light skin verses dark skin. For as early in my memory banks as I can go back, it has been there. In this country, among our own race we have put a lopsided value on the shade of one’s skin if you are a person of color. That value has resulted in some horrendous practices and behaviors by us and to each other.
Forget what people outside our race do, for a moment and let’s focus on what we do to each other. As a child, I would hear others tell me, “You think you are something because you look like you are white”, or “You think you are better than anyone because you look white”. I would also hear, “She got that good hair, hmmm” Thinks she is something”. Believe me, those were fighting words to me. Just ask my sister. She witnessed so many times my anger and my rage when I was told this. I felt I had to defend my self and soon that evolved into my feeling I had to apologize.
I changed my behavior to the point, I felt I had to be nicer than usual. I had to try harder so people would like me and just so I would not hear those words. I got to the point that I started hating how I looked, resulting in years and years of me trying to be something that I wasn’t just to make others like me. Ridiculous right? But it went deep.
More than anything else, I wanted to be accepted and treated like everyone else, but, just when I started feeling like my peers, here it would come, out of the blue…. “She thinks she is better than anyone else, just because…”
Now I never had these problems with my sisters and brothers, cause my mom and dad shut it down before it started and all of us kids were fiercely protective of each other. We understood that whole light and dark thing and how it is so common in families. And it was no big deal with us. Except for one thing. I hated, and I mean, I hated watching the movie “The Imitation of Life” with my mom because inevitably at the end of the movie, she would look and me and say, “If you even thought of acting like that, I would….” Well you fill in the blank. That always hurt deeply because I could not imagine responding like the woman in the movie. Passing for white and disowning my mother were horrendous concepts to me. That is why to this day I will not watch that movie.
When I went to college, I would roll my hair up on sponge rollers, rat it out into an Afro and spray it into a helmet. LOL! When I walked across the campus I never would get the nods from fellow black students or the “hello” that everyone other black person gave each other, in passing, at the time. I would go to say “Hello” and they would often turn the other way just as I was beginning to speak. But sometimes I would get a glance and a second look and an hesitation until I spoke first. And then they would give a quick hello. I know they didn’t know, because I did look different. But my point here is there was no malice or intent to exclude me, because they did not know. But the pain I felt in needing to be included was deep.
I have had friends say, “If I were you, I would pass (assume to be white) just for the experience. Or you are so lucky that people think you are white. That has never, ever, ever been my desire or been a thought that I would consider. In fact, that whole issue will be a future blog posting. I really wish we could get past the “color issue” in this world. I really wish we could be judged by the content of our character as Dr. King so wisely put it. I wish we could look at each other and not make assumptions just because of how we look. We have divided ourselves and even acknowledge the rift within us. As black people we must start loving each other collectively and wholly without the attitudes and the assumptions. Let us embrace each other, love each other and celebrate our uniqueness and our collective beauty. Let us lift each other up and stop tearing each other down. And most importantly let us stop defining our beauty by biased media and biased individuals.
So here I am, soon to be in my mid-60’s finally finding comfort in my own skin. Being satisfied with who I am and trying to find that comfortable zone of living which is not defined by skin color. Trying to live unapologetically and with appreciation for just being the person that God created me to be. For his Word in Psalm 139:13-14 says “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made”. And that is enough for me! Knowing that God’s character is part of who I am. I will not allow this world to define me, place a value on who I am or try to tell me what beauty is defined as.