As a dark-skinned black woman I never realized how much time I wasted attempting to validate my beauty and worth to society. I think that’s just the issue. I tried to validate things that never needed to be validated.
Being a darker-skinned woman is rarely associated with the term beautiful by itself. In addition, it is rarely associated with a positive connotation. What I mean is that when someone compliments us for our beauty, it generally has a “buffered” association attached. Allow me to share with you, some of my personal examples .
“You’re beautiful for a dark-skinned woman.”
“You’re a pretty black girl. But then again you’re not really black. You’re Caribbean/Hispanic.”
“I usually don’t like darker women, but you’re different.”
What makes these statements more upsetting is that they all came from a black male. Every single one of them. Forgive me if I am wrong, but I never knew that the term beauty came with stipulations. Well it does for darker women…
- prejudice or discrimination against individuals with a dark skin tone, typically among people of the same ethnic or racial group.
- “colorism within the black community has been a serious emotional and psychological battle”
I never fully grasped the concept of colorism until I began experiencing it for myself. During my adolescence, I was always surrounded by a range of beautiful women of contrasting shades, , and backgrounds. I just so happen to consistently be the darkest one of the groups. This evidently triggered some of my subconscious insecurities as a young developing black woman. I mean, if you never felt beautiful in the skin you lived in, wouldn’t you also generate insecurities? I remember wanting my curl pattern to be looser, hair down my back, my skin lighter, and my eyes a honey brown. I wanted to be unconditionally attractive to those whom I encountered. However, it doesn’t work that way when you’re the dark-skinned girl….
Let’s be real about colorism in our own community for once. Majority of black men fantasize about a “light-skin redbone”. Whatever that means! In all seriousness… Black men, do not appreciate a woman of darker-skin as effortlessly as they do a lighter-skinned woman. Nor do they find us beautiful off the back. Why exactly is this? Does media, culture, and upbringing play a role in this conclusion? The answer is yes. In my experience, majority of black males that I am close with, want a latina or a light-skinned female. When I ask them about how they feel about dark-skinned women…. They do not find us “attractive.” One of my guy friends had a very strong theory about all dark-skinned women being “ghetto”, “dirty”, and “ugly”. Needless to say, we are no longer friends.
Colorism in our community is a growing complication, and I will explain why. When you have people of color disrespecting other people of color in their own communities, what happens? It sets the tone for outsiders to disrespect those very same individuals. For example: If a black man who hates black women, but has a black daughter, and came from a black woman is prejudice against black women… do you think that a white man would respect these very same women and young girl? Absolutely not… It is a ripple effect and sadly too common in melanated communities. As a Caribbean Hispanic woman, I too find myself being a victim to colorism. Society has this ideology that every spanish speaking woman resembles Selena. Well we don’t. The latinos/hispanics that I encounter often laugh at me when I tell them I’m Panamanian. As if it were not possible… Had I said I were African, they would never challenge my ethnicity or culture. Because all Africans are dark right? …Wrong.
Being a dark-skinned black woman comes with a preset powerful tone. We are perceived to be strong, unbreakable women, who are not allowed to be weak or vulnerable. Even if this were true, why can’t we be beautiful as well? My dark skin kept me from being in certain intimate relationships. I was “too dark”. Or maybe God was just protecting me. Either way, I was devastated at those times… I found myself trying to justify my skin-tone. “I’m brown-skin not dark-skinned.” As if it were an illness to be dark-skinned! Looking back it was an institutionalized insecurity, that had taken over my perception of who I was. Luckily for me, my parents and friends are amazingly uplifting, and humbling. And for that I thank them.
A few months ago I stood nakedly in front of my mirror and examined myself for the first time in a very long time. When I say examined, I mean adored, admired, and loved myself. I admired each piece of out of placed new growth. I adored the dimple on my left cheek to the matching one on my left thigh. And I loved each scar I emotionally engraved on my body for all I was… It was then that I reinforced my own self-worth, and recreated my new definition of what beautiful was to me. I admired my goldenly melanated body, and thank God for the woman I’ve become… No one could love me the way I do. Nor could they define my beauty. And from that day on, they never did.