“The most disrespected person in America, is the Black woman.” – Malcolm X.
A common theme of the blog posts I write, is my ability to share vulnerable and personal experiences that I’ve had in my life. Last time I wrote about being a dark skinned Black girl, it was a letter to myself addressing the trauma being dark skinned has caused me throughout my life (I posted it on an external blog and I can’t remember where it is at this time).
Reminiscing on that trauma happens often when I think about how my niece sees herself as a dark skinned girl. She goes out in the summertime in jeans and long sleeve shirts or talks about how she doesn’t want to be in the sun too long because she doesn’t want to get darker. But as a 30-year-old woman, I’ve accepted my dark skin as an integral part of my identity. I love the way my skin makes colors like yellow and lime green dance in the sunlight. Diving into communities of other Black folx in my transition into adulthood in college made me love being dark skinned even more. It made me see Blackness differently.
But last week, a viral video of a beautiful, little, dark skinned, Black girl getting her locs retwisted surfaced. In the video, the little girl, Ariyonna, calls herself ugly and her hair stylist immediately stops and tells her not to say things like that. The stylist immediately began to tell Ariyonna how beautiful she is. Ariyonna started to cry and as did I. I felt every inch of that pain and that emotional turmoil that I felt most of my life growing up. I, too, felt ugly as a Black girl.
I hated going to school and the kids I went to school with, reminded me daily that I was ugly and undesirable. Some names I was called were so harsh that to this day, I still can’t bring myself to say out loud or type. That sense of humiliation finds a way to creep back up.
While I cried for Ariyonna’s pain, my pain, and the pain of other dark skinned girls, I also cried out of anger. I was angry that in 2020, someone probably told little Ariyonna that she was ugly. I was angry that in 2020, we still don’t see ourselves represented in mainstream media. We have the Lupitas and the Viola Davises here and there but beauty is still being defined by a Kardashian/Jenner (who spend all their money to make themselves look Black) or a Black couple of T.V. that has a dark skinned man with a light skinned woman. Taking in all of these unconscious messages can tell our subconscious that we aren’t beautiful or can tell us that we are not deserving of love. Hell, I even had a Black man tell me one day that he “normally doesn’t entertain Black women” but for me, he would “make an exception”. Finally, I was angry that in 2020, I still felt the sting. I thought I healed from it all. I thought I forgave the people who said anything horrible about me in the past. But I still feel it. Reflecting on all this now, reminded me that I felt it months ago when folx on social media said Ari Lennox looked like a “dog”.
Colorism and the experiences of being a Black woman in general have been part of our history since slavery. Societal standards of beauty and privilege go beyond the borders of America and extend into every facet of the human experience on every continent and in every country. We’ve been socialized to believe that white people and lighter skinned people are the superior beings and we must all look that way to be beautiful. As much as I try to debunk this ideology, it continues to be the norm in our culture. Social media has given internet thugs and shitty people access to be shitty people to others they don’t even know. Psychologically, it takes a toll on our mental well-being. We hear statements from Black men like “I want to have mixed babies…” “I prefer white women/Latinx women so my kids can have ‘good’ hair…” while beautiful Black women are pushed to the side and ignored.
But no more. Begin speaking LIFE into your Black women and young Black girls. We experience some of the most horrendous attacks on our looks and our character than anyone. No one can me that they’ve experienced worse situations than Black women. We are expected to accept that we aren’t beautiful as fact and we carry this with us internally. For me, it’s been a constant struggle but I recognize the beauty I possess. I see the beauty in my niece and other Ariyonnas around the world. Black girl. Black woman. YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL.
❤ Queen T