Sunday night I sat up until 1am full of emotion, mostly sad. Other words I could use are disgusted, appalled, angry, hurt, and confused. Like many other Black women in America, I watched the documentary by Bill Duke, Dark Girls, on OWN. This documentary expatiated on the prejudice that apparently many dark-skinned women face in the African American community. Actually, it also discussed how women from various nationalities face this very same prejudice amongst their own.
At the end of the documentary a lot of people on “Black twitter” simply shrugged and yawned saying “Well, that was nothing new. I lived that. I needed something more, something deeper”. I thought it was a great first step, opening the door for even more dialogue on the topic of colorism. Also, for this dark girl, it was something new. I knew colorism existed. The extreme to which it existed I did not. Yes, I am a chocolate girl, but I had an aha! moment while watching the documentary – my mother got to me before the rest of the world could. That very thought brought tears to my eyes.
Growing up my mother, a golden skinned lady that was even lighter when she was growing up, earning her the nickname Red by her peers, always complimented my complexion. She would often tell me “I love your complexion. I wish I had your color”. While some days it made me wonder if she was struggling with self hate (I’m just being honest), most days it made me throw my head back in pride. I was chocolate and beautiful. My skin color was fierce! Funny how it took me this many years to understand that she was doing that on purpose. That she knew that there were some in the world that would look at my chocolate skin and immediately decide that I was the lesser negro because of it and she was determined to build my self-esteem in that area before they could tear it down. Well played mom, well played. It worked. I’ve never struggled with my complexion. I never wanted to be light skinned. I once heard a peer say she wished to be a caramel complexion and I closed my eyes trying to imagine myself in that skin. It didn’t work for me. I couldn’t like it. My dark skin just suited me too well. God didn’t make a mistake when he formed me.
However, I did have another aha! moment, or maybe it was more of an OH NO! moment. One that still makes me tear up. Did I make a mistake? Did I make a mistake in having a preference for men whose skin looked just like mine? In wanting to have babies who looked just like me? Did I set Johanna up to be ridiculed? Is someone gonna take a look at my precious babies face one day and tell her that they don’t want her because her skin is too black? Is that going to knock her so far down that she not only isn’t gonna want to be black, but maybe she will even try bleaching her skin? My heart breaks for her and she’s too young yet to even notice the difference in skin tones. Bottom line? I feel guilty. Maybe I should’ve gone for the lighter men that were after me. Maybe I shouldn’t have freely fell in love with my husband whose gorgeous chocolate skin melts into mine. Maybe I should’ve been more shallow in my selection for a life mate. That’s the thought that nags at me in the back of my mind even though I know it’s wrong wrong wrong. I am positive that Johanna is a beautiful little girl. Not a beautiful Black girl, not a beautiful dark skinned girl, but a beautiful girl. I tell her so everyday. I tell her that she is pretty, smart, kind, and funny. Is that going to be enough to combat the prejudice she will have to face in her own community? I pray so. I sincerely do.
I don’t know if you saw the film. If not, please check it out. I will try to track down whether or not it’s coming on OWN again. I know it will be available for purchase on September 24th. Here is a clip:
Moms and dads, please embrace your children, no matter the color of their skin, and tell them they are beautiful everyday. Don’t let society tell them how they aren’t good enough. Surround them with a community that will uplift them humbly in every way possible. If my mom were still alive I would kiss her on her forehead and hug her for a very long time for the gift she gave me. Since I can’t, I plan to hug Johanna and pass the gift on.