Remember when I said colorism was a topic for another day? Well that day has finally come! Colorism is when you discriminate based on skin color. Someone with a lighter complexion is considered to be more beautiful or valuable than someone with dark skin. It’s like racism’s close relative. It started back during slavery. The house slave was usually a fair skin toned black person whereas the field slave was a dark skinned black person with kinky hair. This caused a rift between the two that’s still visible today. The closer to white you were, the more you were considered beautiful. Colorism affects everyone and it causes strife even within the African American community.
Colorism isn’t just an American thing. In India, if you have fair skin, you’re more likely to prosper and marry well. It’s encouraged that you marry someone lighter than you. In Latin countries, you’re encouraged to marry and have babies with someone lighter than you. When I watched the docu-series “Black in Latin America” by Henry Luis Gates Jr. , my eyes were opened to how jacked up things are. If you want to check out the docus-eries, look for it on YouTube. In fact, here’s a link to one of the videos. You even look in Africa. There are those in Africa who go through difficult measures to bleach their skin to have a lighter complexion, thereby putting their health at risk to obtain a fairer skin tone. In fact, a study from the World Health Organization (WHO) conducted in 2011 has shown that 40% of African women bleach their skin. That is nearly half the population! Imagine the numbers today.
Now of course my disclaimer: what I’m about to say is purely based on my experience and observations. Now I remember when I first became self-conscious because of the way I looked. I was in first grade and this little girl, I forgot her name, but she was in my class and had long way hair and a light brown complexion. Immediately and I do mean immediately, I felt ugly and thats when things started going downhill for me when it came to my self-esteem. Again, first grade so I had to be like seven at the time. I don’t know about you, but that’s pretty young to be concerned with looks. I began to feel ashamed of my dark complexion.
Even like in my family. Outside of my immediate family, my grand uncles and cousins are all light skinned. See, my great grandpa was half white (in fact he pretty much was white passing) and so other than my grandpa, the rest of his siblings were light skinned. I just didn’t feel like I belonged and again, I hated being so dark compared to the rest of them. It’s true, my immediate family was darker but still I was so dark, I was darker than them! I never was really told that I was pretty or beautiful by my family when I was growing up. I guess they rather me focus on my other attributes than my looks, which isn’t a totally bad thing (I mean, you have to rely on other things than your looks in life), but still, I felt ugly since the age of seven! I never told a soul until I was like 12 when I told my aunt that I felt ugly over a lunch a The Cheesecake Factory (which by the way is a great restaurant if you never went). Over some chicken tenders I told my aunt how I felt about myself.
So to me, being this dark, I felt ugly. I hated and didn’t want to be called “tar baby” or “blacky”. Things slightly (and I do mean slightly) started looking up for me: enter Destiny’s Child. In Destiny’s Child (you know, the group where Beyonce and Kelly Rowland got their start), I saw two dark skinned girls who were actually really pretty. However, sometimes, when I said that Kelly was my favorite and that she was pretty, I was quickly told that I only said that stuff because she was dark skinned. How upsetting is that? When I finally see someone, a beautiful woman at that, with dark skin and I call her pretty it’s shot down because I’m only saying that because she’s dark? Like how fucked up is that?
Anyway, I just hated my complexion for such a long time! I wanted to get cosmetic surgery to get a smaller nose. I hated how big my lips were. I hated (and honestly still do) how kinky my hair is. I just wanted to look totally different and be accepted by society’s standard. I will never forget how my childhood friend once bought products to lighten her skin and I mean she bought the whole line: body cream, face cream, a toner, everything. She’s a pretty chocolate color so for her to buy these products really came out of nowhere to me but of course, we can’t really for sure what’s going on in someone’s mind. The results were less than great. In fact wherever we went people would ask her what’s wrong with her skin. I won’t lie, I got a great chuckle out of it but it did hurt her to the point where she never used those products again. Little did she know, she planted the seed for me wanting to buy those products.
I wanted to lighten my skin. Now don’t get me wrong, I didn’t want to be super light skinned. On the contrary, I wanted to look more like Kelly Rowland’s color, so I wanted to be like a milk chocolate complexion, not a dark chocolate complexion. I was in college and the first product I bought was some Ambi face cleanser. I got it from a beauty supply store. I also got some face cream that honestly smelled like eggs. It was the TopiClear brand because my friend highly suggested it. I used the products for a good month and to my dismay, I hadn’t changed in complexion. Granted, I only used them for a month (I’m extremely impatient) and I only used face products so I’m pretty sure, I would’ve looked terrible had the products worked. I still wanted cosmetic surgery. I got perms because again, I hate my hair texture. I’ll be 100% transparent (when am I not) with that fact. I hate my hair in a ‘fro. I can’t stand braids. I just like straight hair. Now thats just for me. If it looks good on others, then hey that’s great but for me I actually prefer to wear my hair straight. Like ugh, I just remember being at work one day, at Chick-fil-A and one of the stand in managers (we were going through lots of changes at the time) said out of his mouth about a girl that walked by “she’s pretty for a dark skinned girl”. I was floored and pissed! How dare he! And he was a African American man at that! Like what a trash statement. He’s saying that as if dark skinned girls are just ugly!
I digress, it wasn’t until like a few years ago actually that I decided to buy more creams. I went to Walmart and bought various skin bleaching cream. The thing is, I never used them. I was scared. I didn’t want to end up looking like a ghost or like an ashy color. A lot of people when they use these products became an off color to me. Almost like a ghost white. (I mean google Sammy Sosa and skin bleaching and you’ll seat I mean). I was terrified that I would end up that way so I never used them. Plus, I was scared I wouldn’t get a uniform even toned skin complexion. I even bought pills (urban skin rx) last year because I thought pills! That will make me even all over and I can be a lighter (again not light skinned) complexion. Once again, I got scared because I didn’t want to end up like Sammy Sosa. Honestly, I wasted money on these products. Like I don’t want to change my race, I just wanted to be what I felt was a “normal” color.
Every day is a struggle if I’m being honest. I no longer want to buy these products. I take it a day at a time to just accept me as me. Like it’s funny. Even when guys (not black ones fyi) would compliment my skin I would cringe but then I had to tell myself that it’s okay. Just because this one group don’t consider my skin beautiful doesn’t mean every person in the world feel the same way. I remember last year actually, the first time I heard “Brown Skin Girl” by Beyonce that I cried a little bit. It made me emotional. Then I read an article where Kelly Rowland was talking about how Beyonce’s mom, Tina, made her feel beautiful about her skin tone insecurities. It did help me feel a bit better about my skin tone. I now accept my color. Especially with darker skin being more embraced in the media, it’s changed things for me. For the little girl who feels ugly because of her dark skin, baby girl know that you are beautiful and you are you and you’re how God made you.
In fact, I feel sad for those who feel the need to lighten their skin just to feel beautiful or to be accepted by society. We see it all the time in the media. People like Nicki Menaj, Lil’ Kim, Black Chyna, Michael Jackson, Sammy Sosa, etc. If you’re more fair skinned, you’re more beautiful according to society. What’s one to do in this world? Either say “fuck that” and keep it pushing or you give in with the hopes that you’ll finally be considered beautiful. The crazy thing is, people spend hella money to look like us. They want bigger lips, a more shapely figure, get more tanned, like, the world wants to look like us! It’s still a problem in the black community (with guys especially preferring lighter skinned girls) but it’s okay. You go where you are celebrated and not tolerated (this quote works in many areas of our lives).
Have you ever experienced this or is all of this new info?