Growing up as a biracial child, my family has heard a lot of annoying backhanded compliments…
“ Lucky she has nice hair and not the “wild” looking type”,
“Well, at least she stands out amongst the other black girls.”
“85% of black girls are ugly, don’t worry you are part of the 15%”
And probably the worst of them all, “ You’re pretty for a black girl.”
I have heard this so many times that I cannot even count. But the first time I can remember I was twelve. I was volunteering at Vacation Bible School in the summer. There was this cute Irish boy I liked who was in my group and the only reason I was super excited to wake up at 7 a.m. for a week straight in the summer. One day at our snack break, we were talking and he goes, “you know out of all the black girls I have met you’re the prettiest”. I shook it off, laughed and said thank you but once I got home, I was drowning in tears. Why is it that I have to be pretty "for a black girl"? It seemed that I was not pretty in any other sense. I always asked myself, “how come I am not just pretty?” To be a twelve-year-old girl, this question should have been the last thing on my mind.
It is no surprise that women of color are constantly ridiculed for wearing their natural hair and even for being a darker shade of black compared to a lighter shade. It made me feel as if I honestly wasn’t pretty at all. I would think maybe if I did not swim in the summer so much and wore more sunscreen I would look lighter, or maybe if I started straightening my hair like all the other girls that got called just pretty, then I would be just pretty too. Being called “pretty for a black girl” further instilled in me the idea that black isn’t beautiful.
Obviously now I have learned to ignore comments like these, but there are still so many girls who hear this and feel the need to change themselves. Saying, “pretty for a black girl” is the opposite of a compliment. It gives whomever you tell this to a sense that they are pretty just in their own race. It gives a feeling of being inferior to any girl who is not black. That is not okay.
Now here is my advice to any young black woman who is told this. Don’t argue about it. Don’t fight back and defend yourself. Just smile and shrug it off. But remember this, you are not just pretty for a black girl--you are beautiful. Embrace your naturally curly or kinky hair. Embrace your dark and light skin tones. Do not change how you look or act to accommodate someone else’s perspective of you. Loving yourself is all that matters. And one day the right girl or guy will come along and love everything about you that no one else has before.
You ARE pretty, and not just for a black girl.