About a month ago, a few of my friends and I were discussing the challenges of enjoying our diversity as black women. We shared sarcastic comments and laughed about the amount of times we are “permitted” to change our hair or the types of clothes we could wear in order to not be classified to some the most sickening stereotypes created by mediocrity and the false projection in the media. Growing up I was not really aware of my color being an issue until I had my first crush in middle school and the boy that I liked told my friend that I was just too dark for him and he didn’t find me attractive. Now, I accepted the fact that he didn’t find me attractive because everyone entitled to his or her own opinion, but what I couldn’t accept was the fact that he blamed it on the color of my skin. For a middle school girl entering high school at the time, I just couldn’t help to think, “Maybe being dark skin doesn’t cut the ideal representation of true beauty”. I started recollecting moments when my mom mentioned to me, “make sure you bath yourself very well, otherwise you will be too dark.” If you are African, better yet, Ghanaian, then I am sure you can back me up here when I say, some of our parents have a big problem with being dark skinned, hence the discoloration that we see in our communities (e.g the bleaching or other non-medical processes that some partake in to lighten their skin). I also remember when Prom season came around, I was so excited to finally get my make up professionally done for the very first time. And so I was looking for the perfect foundation that I could purchase to make good use of it. I recall the make up artist at MAC, mixed several types of foundations that she felt would be suitable for the colour of my skin. After struggling to create a decent colour that matched my skin tone, she told me that they did not carry a solid colour that was dark enough for my skin. I’m sure she wasn’t being rude, but she was right, at that time, the colour selections stopped at a certain tone. At that point, I found myself contemplating on changing the color of my skin because I was tired of the negative connotations that had made me feel insecure, ashamed, excluded and unwanted. As I got older, I also realized that people of my own kind have accepted certain types of black skin that represents beauty. It is easy to blame the false representations on the media, but we are also the ones partaking and reinforcing in whatever depictions we see or hear about our self-image. As the veil was finally lifted above my eyes, I analyzed that the problem was not only about being dark skin, the problem was that there were and still are false stereotypes that are attached to being black that stigmatize the beauty of blackness.
It is inevitable to avoid such cornered moments when you feel like the color of your skin is not easily accepted even amongst your own kind. On one hand, we have the selected blacks that struggle with accepting their own color as they rate the beauty of blackness from those who are mixed (“she doesn’t count because she’s not really black”) to the light skin-tones (“wow, her skin is flawless”) to the dark-skin tones (“She’s so pretty for a dark-skin”). And on the other hand, we have the non-black communities that find almost everything “strange” “ghetto” or “questionable” about the way we look, the way we talk and the lifestyle we live.
I’d like to point out that our society has ignored and continues to ignore the social disconnect amongst people. We have allowed the false stereotypes and the social media to neglect the beauty of diversity within the black community and instead we the black people, in particular, black women struggle (both unconsciously and consciously) to appreciate one another. Let’s really be honest right now, has there ever been a time, where you found it difficult to compliment another black female? If you never have, then God bless your heart. But if you are like me, you were probably hesitant to do so because you thought she would react negatively unless she happened to be your friend, or someone you knew. Maybe you thought she would think you are odd for randomly complimenting her or smiling at her without a particular reason. There have been so many moments, where I’d go somewhere and I would smile at another black girl, just because I found her pretty or I might have liked what she was wearing. I would say only 1 out of 5, who aren’t my friends, replied with kind words or reciprocated their appreciation. Other times I was ignored or received a strange look. I mean its not by force to smile back, but I can’t help to wonder if we react differently when a black person, in particularly a black female, compliments us versus someone who isn’t black? What is hindering us from appreciating and complimenting one another? Could it be that we are “too busy” trying to fight false stereotypes that we feel like we have something to prove? Could it be that we are working twice as hard to not be pushed down the ladder of capitalism that we refuse to show gratitude? Could it be that we rather give the “stank” face so that we aren’t bombarded with repetitive questionnaire sessions that never seem satisfying? The questions can go on and on, but my point is how do we genuinely respond to these thoughts or experiences? I think one of the reasons why we are compelled to look down on one another is because of how the world has socially constructed our views. But thanks to our ancestors, they have paved the way for us to overcome, achieve and succeed in all the setbacks we face in our society and we don’t have to wait until black history month to prove our rights or how much we love being black. We also don’t have to look at stereotypes as an awful or evil concept but we should reinforce the positive statements that we hear or see in the social medias (newspapers, shows, instagram, snapchat, Facebook etc.) about our community. I am definitely tired of behaving as if the challenges that I encounter as a black woman is a burden. At times I find myself justifying why I am the way that I am. But I am black because God made me black. I am sure if He could do it all again, I would still be the black beautiful woman that I am. And that’s what makes God so amazing. We are all different because God found it in his infinite power to create us in that way. That is why I cling to that bible verse that states, “we are fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). Regardless of our skin color, the wide noses, the big lips, and the defined body shapes that our world identifies as “flaws”, we are beautiful and unique in the way God intended us to be. Therefore, to all the brainwashed blacks out there, please understand that we aren’t ghetto because we are black, to all the non-blacks, please understand we don’t wear weaves, braids or any other types of extensions because we are insecure or confused and to both my blacks and non-blacks it is definitely okay to shed some love to a stranger regardless of whatever skin tone they might be. We are a cultural group that is diverse in many ways and that is our reality. We must be proud and honored that within our black community there is diversity amongst us, whether we are mixed, light, medium brown or dark chocolate or whether our hair is perm or natural. Our blackness is “BOLD-IFUL” a.k.a beautiful. We should begin to see that although other races may not understand the possibilities in the way we rock our hair, in the way we dress, in the way we look and in the way we speak; it is essential to let them know, including our own kind, that although we are different, our skin, our hairstyles, our language and our culture makes us relatable and undivided.
Alright guys, let’s wrap this up!
So now that we can evidently see that there is diversity in blackness, what we need to ask ourselves is: are we truly embracing our own individuality as a black person, or are we comfortable hiding our voices? I would be lying if I said that I do not find it hard at times to be comfortable with my own individuality in “blackness”. Now when I make this statement, I am not degrading myself nor am I ashamed to be black. I am talking about the fact that sometimes I feel constrained in enjoying my blackness. For instance, when I change my hair, I am completely comfortable to rock it in an environment filled with other black people, because I know it will be easily accepted than if I were to have a different look at work, or outside the black community. When I am at work, I find myself validating my identity because of the reactions I am faced with. I prepare myself to respond to all the “omg you changed your hair again?” to the “Is that your real hair?” to the “can I touch it?” and several other awkward questions that gets under my skin. The only way I get a by pass is when I explain myself but I don’t have a theology or a research study, which elucidates why I change my hair. I simply enjoy and love the fact that I can do whatever hairstyles I want.
Due to the fast-paced changes that are happening in the world, we are easily loosing our basic social skills. It’s important to understand that one of the best ways to establish solid social groups is by learning about one’s culture. I am cognizant that the challenges in life exist to build a person’s foundation that he or she can stand on and not sink in. After discussing many testimonials with friends, acquaintances and strangers, I know for a fact that there are some black people out there that are overwhelmed and annoyed with the lack of awareness that we face. If you are one of them, just know that I totally understand you. However, we shouldn’t sit in a puddle of complaints about what will never change in our culture, but let’s find the beauty in ourselves and in our society, as we embrace and educate one another of our differences. I am currently aware that these types of factual points isn’t going to be enough for us to see change, nonetheless, we should continuously strive to represent our community individually and collectively!
#HardTruth2 “Stop explaining who you are, be bold-iful!”
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Until next times lovelies,