Pretty for a Dark Skinned Girl…words that drive me mad!

Modern day North American society is a tough place to be when you are a woman, but it gets even tougher when you are a Black woman whose physical hue is darker than a brown paper bag. Hundreds of years of oppression in the United States created a system where slaves quickly learned to survive by any means necessary. Often the closer you were in color to the master; the “better” you got treated. Sadly the legacy of slavery and all it encompassed endures to this day within the Black community.

Today this clip has been floating around, it’s the preview of a documentary called Dark Girls and let me tell you in the nine minute piece I watched, it stirred up something deep in me. See, I come from one of those Black families where color was very important, the lighter you were the better you got treated. No, I am not talking about my Mom and Dad but my extended family. My Mom rest her soul would as some would say had the misfortune of having been born dark brown in a family where everyone else was very fair, fair to the point that my Great Grandmother had blue eyes and frankly looked like a white woman. To this day there are relatives that believe that Mom was not a legitimate member of the family and that her birth mom had to have conceived my Mom with someone other than my Grandfather because how the hell did she get so Black?

Thankfully my Mom despite being born into such a narrow minded family was born with spirit and self confidence, the same spirit I am convinced lives in my own daughter despite my Ma passing away 18 months before my daughter was born. My Mom also had the misfortune of having the same mother walk away from her at 8 months leaving my mother to be raised by her father and his folks, a bunch of Mexican-Black-Crazy Mix where she stood out like a sore thumb, but she was strong. I think in her case, growing up without a mother was a far bigger issue than being dark.

In some ways I always wished I had that strength because I know all too well the struggles of being a brown girl. My Mom being a dark roast married my Pops who was a chewy caramel complexion and had me, a cocoa brown girl with red undertones. I spent my youth feeling alone and awkward due to my color, always hearing that one phrase that to this day still makes me mad “You are pretty for a Black girl”. Like one of the women in the preview clip I learned early on that people, who looked like me, didn’t seem to care much for me especially the male folks who looked like me. Yet other races especially whites seemed to love my color or at the very least not show disgust.

Often I am asked how I ended up being married to two white men. Many people assume I have a preference for white men, when the fact is I don’t to be brutally honest. In fact when I was between husbands I swore off white men yet the universe had other plans.

I recap and share my story because the struggle to find acceptance within one’s own tribe runs deep, to have people who look like you reject you or belittle you leaves scars that make a grown woman turn back into a vulnerable child. Yet despite the fact more sistas are open about this mistreatment at the hands of those we should be able to trust most, it still goes onto this day. It is just one more reminder that while we may be free in some ways we still are not and still have much healing to do. We may not pull out brown paper bags anymore but every time we as Black people exalt a fair skinned beauty like a Halle or Beyonce yet crack wise at the darker sisters or say the things we have been known to say to our own kids who are darker skinned, we are actively participating in a system that tried to destroy us.

Everything but Black

One of the subjects that I rarely ever write about on this blog is the fact that I am married inter-racially, yes the Spousal Unit is white and I am Black. I think part of the reason is that there are many far more competent bloggers who write on the subject and also that I have been married so long that we are just an old married couple as far as I am concerned. Back when I was young, I sort of got caught up in the whole we are interracial thing and honestly at this point, it just is, sort of like the way I wear my hair naturally specifically I have dreadlocks and its just a part of me. No need to dissect it…it just is.

I also raise my kids so that while they know their Pops is white, the fact is that they will be viewed as Black most likely, back in the summer and fall I wrote at one point about how elder boy who is now 17, refers to himself as an Half-frican. Yeah, that’s what he calls himself and frankly I got no beef with it. He’s old enough to know that white privilege does not extend itself to him just because his Pops is white….sorry, it just doesn’t.

That said and I will admit maybe its because I am suffering from PMS (sorry for revealing that but its my reality and I am old enough that I don’t feel the need to hide it) but it just rubs me the wrong way when I stumble across other Black women many who are partnered to white men who decide to breakdown their racial makeup.

Look, what Black person in America ain’t mixed with something? Shit, we (collective Black Americans) have not been purely Black since we were brought to this country. Otherwise how the fuck do you think we come in so many different shades? Look, we run the gamut from Whoopi Goldberg to Vanessa Williams and everything else.

Yet sometimes I encounter especially online, women of color who many might be called Black, who feel the need to tell you they are 1/4 crawfoot native, 1/8 this, 1/16 that…..look, its cool to know where we come from, in fact I wish I knew more about my own background. But I sometimes think some of these folks do that shit, to deflect from being plain old Black, after all its not exotic enough to just be Black. I know, because when I was a young woman, I did that same shit, claiming native this and that. Yeah, there is some Native American, Cherokee to be specific in my family as well as Mexican but those numbers are so small that really when I thought about it, I realized I was doing it more at that time because I was not proud to be who I am which is a Black America. Thankfully I am over that shit now. Now you ask me what I am, and I am going to tell you, I am Black. Plain and simple.

The other part of this that rubs me wrong is that many of these same folks will marry inter-racially and then have kids and tell you little Jonas is this and that, which may be true but it seems they are trying to avoid calling their kids Black in any way. Yes indeed, I have seen this too. Problem is you see the kid and even though little Jonas may be fair, half the time you can tell little Jonas is not pure white. Nope, you got Mama bringing her color issues to the kid. I’m sorry that is just wrong.

Obviously, I got no beef with interracial pairings, I truly believe love knows no color but at the same time, I think we do our kids and partners a disservice when we lack self love and instead latch onto whiteness because we are uncomfortable with blackness. For too long whiteness was the only standard of what was good and beautiful and times are changing but too many of us have not gotten the memo. Instead we choose to live withoutdated notions instead of changing the standards. I think its one of the reasons so many Black women love Michelle Obama, now that America has a Black first lady and the world stage knows she is a gorgeous we are willing to publicly acknowledge that Black is beautiful, thing is Black has always been beautiful.