Growing up as an African American female, I have learned that there are definitely challenges that no one can really prepare you for. There are some lessons you have to learn on your own, like when it comes to loving who you are, it comes from within, and not what other people think.
When I was born, I definitely didn’t look anything like I do now. I looked like some sort of Southeast Asian baby, which makes me question if those are really my baby pictures, or if there was a brief baby mix up that my parents never told me about. As I got older, I started to get my darker complexion. When I was younger, I would hear comments about my dark skin color, but that didn’t really matter to me. When you’re young, you somehow know and accept that everyone is made differently, so having darker skin wasn’t a big deal to me.
It wasn’t until I got older that I realized being dark had a negative connotation.
Going on family vacations was always a norm for my family. My brother and I were blessed enough to go on annual family vacations during the summer, in which we’d spend hours at the pool, beach, or anywhere outside. To say we got dark during the summer would be a huge understatement. I say this because the first thing people would say to us would be, “Wow, ya’ll got really dark” as if we didn’t already know.
During the winter we both look like dark chocolate Hershey bars so just imagine what we look like during the summer.
When people would comment on the shade of our skin, it wasn’t what they said that bothered me; it was the look of disgust that followed their words. I always got confused as to why it was such a horrific thing to be dark, but when you’re young you’d rather think more about how much fun you had while getting dark rather than people’s weird reactions.
Even though I received negative remarks about being dark when I was younger, I didn’t really think much of my skin color.
I didn’t think much of it until high school when there was some unknown consensus that how light or dark you were was the determining factor of how pretty people thought you were, which I always thought was crazy because I’m a daddy’s girl and I have always been pretty. In my high school, people would shame dark skinned girls for their complexion, but would admire the white girls who were spending legit money to try and say, “I’m almost as dark as you!”
As I got older, I finally understood the disgusted and confused look people gave me when they told me I was getting darker in the summer.
People were confused as to why I was out during the summer because they expected me to stay in the house so I wouldn’t get darker. Or, if I stayed in the house during summer people assumed that it was because I was trying not to get darker when it was actually because I'd rather stay inside with air conditioning by myself versus being surrounded by people I don't really care for in the heat.
Can you really fault me for that?
Anyway, being dark has never been something I have been ashamed of. Now, some people think differently about the shade of my skin, but that is their issue. I have always been happy about my skin color because...
1. It’s beautiful.
And 2. I can literally wear ANY color without having to worry about if it will clash or wash me out or whatever other issues people worry about.
As I enter my last year of college, I notice that some people don’t have the luxury of being secure with their skin tone. I witness people worried about getting darker, so they stay in the house. Or they believe that sunscreen will save them from being a shade darker (it doesn’t). It makes me sad that people think the only way to be beautiful is to be lighter, and it isn’t true. What makes me even more upset is that it isn’t their fault.
Actors and actresses with darker skin for some reason are always playing the stereotypical roles of black people that are less flattering, or they are playing supporting roles. I mean even in black films, it’s the same.
Think of Tyler Perry movies, the lead protagonist is always a stunning light skinned actor or actress, while the best friend or antagonist is always darker. Yeah, Tyler Perry may have an all black cast, but there is still discrimination within shades. There is still that bias that is sending a message that the lighter the skin, the prettier you’ll be or the more successful you’ll be. And although that message is being sent, it doesn’t mean that message is true.
College is the time that you get to meet all different types of people with different backgrounds, which is my favorite part. This past year I met an African American who lived in Europe for most of his life, and moved back to the states in high school. During our time of getting to know each other, I quickly learned his passion for tennis. It was something he always talked about and took so much pride in.
While sharing his passion with me, I learned that he had at one time been hesitant to play because he was worried about getting darker. Learning this I was completely caught off guard because someone legitimately considered giving up something they loved, in order to entertain the idea that being dark is a bad thing.
Thankfully, he realized how wrong that idea is because he continued to play tennis. His once insecurity is his most embraced feature because it doesn’t make him who he is, but is a part of his uniqueness. His decision to do what he loves has impacted many of his teammates; leading him to experiences and people that he’d otherwise never meet.
With skin you’re insecure with you have two choices: be the beautiful that you think other people want you to be or be the beautiful you already are.
You don’t need to shame yourself for being dark by staying in the house, bleaching your skin, or putting yourself down. Each color is unique, light or dark. It is important to show people why the color of your skin is alluring, why your shade is special. My darkness is glamorous, and if want to lay outside in the sun by the beach and get darker than I will, because that just means I will rock the colors I choose to wear even more gracefully.