My younger cousin, who was spending a year with us, came home from school crying one day. When I asked her what was wrong she looked up at me and said, “I hate being dirty.” I had no idea what she meant, but my mother quickly sat her down and had a heart to heart with her. I guess I was too young to understand what it all meant…but in time it came to surface…
I…was fortunate enough to grow up in a household in which I was taught that everything about myself was beautiful. When I wanted to experiment with my hair, be it braids, straightening, etc, it was a choice…not a necessity. And as far as my skin…I NEVER ever looked in the mirror and didn’t appreciate my skin color. In fact I loved it. But despite this, I did through experience become highly aware of the divide within my community regarding this issue. It wasn’t until junior high when a friend of mine said, “you’re that pretty brown, not too light, and not too dark.” that I realized why I hadn’t really been affected. I was in some sort of “safe zone” of a skin color. Wtf, ya know? What’s safe about color and the human being that inhabits it? Now, as an adult, I laugh at such an idea as safety within a neutral home on the spectrum of brown women. All I do know…is that I am, and have always been proud of being a black woman. I don’t care where my family came from, or what blood resides within me, I will always stand beside, behind, and with my sisters.
When this comes out…see it, feel it. And try to understand. The media is poison to young girls. We can prevent this by embracing our children and letting them know…beauty comes in all shades.
Whenever I’m on this topic I think about Spike Lee’s School Daze(one of my very favorite films). The entire movie is a musical satire of black culture and all of our ideals. One of my favorite scenes touches on the divide I spoke of before. Much more light-hearted of course…but informative all the same.