I Love Being Unapologetically "Dark"

I Love Being Unapologetically "Dark"

Not everyone can have the melanin I have.
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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.


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20 Things That Happen When A Jersey Person Leaves Jersey

Hoagies, pizza, and bagels will never be the same.
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Ah, the "armpit of America." Whether you traveled far for college, moved away, or even just went on vacation--you know these things to be true about leaving New Jersey. It turns out to be quite a unique state, and leaving will definitely take some lifestyle adjustment.

1. You discover an accent you swore you never had.

Suddenly, people start calling you out on your pronunciation of "cawfee," "wooter," "begel," and a lot more words you totally thought you were saying normal.

2. Pork Roll will never exist again.

Say goodbye to the beautiful luxury that is pork roll, egg, and cheese on a bagel. In fact, say goodbye to high-quality breakfast sandwiches completely.

3. Dealing with people who use Papa Johns, Pizza Hut, or Dominos as their go-to pizza.

It's weird learning that a lot of the country considers chain pizza to be good pizza. You're forever wishing you could expose them to a real, local, family-style, Italian-owned pizza shop. It's also a super hard adjustment to not have a pizza place on every single block anymore.

4. You probably encounter people that are genuinely friendly.

Sure Jersey contains its fair share of friendly people, but as a whole, it's a huge difference from somewhere like the South. People will honestly, genuinely smile and converse with strangers, and it takes some time to not find it sketchy.

5. People drive way slower and calmer.

You start to become embarrassed by the road rage that has been implanted in your soul. You'll get cut off, flipped off, and honked at way less. In fact, no one even honks, almost ever.

6. You realize that not everyone lives an hour from the shore.

Being able to wake up and text your friends for a quick beach trip on your day off is a thing of the past. No one should have to live this way.

7. You almost speak a different language.

The lingo and slang used in the Jersey area is... unique. It's totally normal until you leave, but then you find yourself receiving funny looks for your jargon and way fewer people relating to your humor. People don't say "jawn" in place of every noun.

8. Hoagies are never the same.

Or as others would say, "subs." There is nothing even close in comparison.

9. Needing Wawa more than life, and there's no one to relate.

When you complain to your friends about missing Wawa, they have no reaction. Their only response is to ask what it is, but there's no rightful explanation that can capture why it is so much better than just some convenient store.

10. You have to learn to pump gas. Eventually.

After a long period of avoidance and reluctance, I can now pump gas. The days of pulling up, rolling down your window, handing over your card and yelling "Fill it up regular please!" are over. When it's raining or cold, you miss this the most.

11. Your average pace of walking is suddenly very above-average.

Your friends will complain that you're walking too fast - when in reality - that was probably your slow-paced walk. Getting stuck behind painfully slow people is your utmost inconvenience.

12. You're asked about "Jersey Shore" way too often.

No, I don't know Snooki. No, our whole state and shore is not actually like that. We have 130 miles of some of the best beach towns in the country.

13. You can't casually mention NYC without people idealizing some magical, beautiful city.

Someone who has never been there has way too perfect an image of it. The place is quite average and dirty. Don't get me wrong, I love a good NYC day trip as much as the next person, but that's all it is to you... a day trip.

14. The lack of swearing is almost uncomfortable.

Jerseyans are known for their foul mouths, and going somewhere that isn't as aggressive as us is quite a culture adjustment.

15. No more jughandles.

No longer do you have to get in the far right lane to make a left turn.

16. You realize that other states are not nearly as extreme about their North/South division.

We literally consider them two different states. There are constant arguments and debates about it. The only thing that North and South Jersey can agree on is that a "Central Jersey" does not exist.

17. Most places also are not in a war over meat.

"Pork roll" or "taylor ham"... The most famous debate amongst North and South Jersey. It's quite a stupid argument, however, considering it is definitely pork roll.

18. You realize you were spoiled with fresh produce.

After all, it's called the "Garden State" for a reason. Your mouth may water just by thinking about some fresh Jersey corn.

19. You'll regret taking advantage of your proximity to everything.

Super short ride to the beach and a super short ride to Philly or NYC. Why was I ever bored?

20. Lastly, you realize how much pride you actually have in the "armpit of America," even if you claimed to dislike it before.

After all, there aren't many places with quite as much pride. You find yourself defending your state at all necessary moments, even if you never thought that would be the case.

Cover Image Credit: Travel Channel

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Stop Feeling Guilty For Being White

White guilt leads to fake activism and everyone can see it.

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White guilt is the most pervasive and regressive ideology that stalls actual discussions on racism in America. White guilt is essentially the collective guilt that certain whites feel about the role their ancestors played in oppressing the rights of minorities and stripping them of the basic rights and privileges that whites were able to enjoy. In my opinion, white guilt destroys the conversations that need to take place about race and racism as well as curbs the work of true activists in these communities.

From my own observations, white guilt-inspired activism is nothing more than activism to make white people feel better about themselves. So many white people get invested in the rights of the LGBTQ, Native American, African-American, and other disenfranchised community not because they really care about them, but because it makes themselves feel better. They are plagued by white guilt and overcompensate for the actions of their ancestors by getting into causes just to make them personally feel better.

When I wrote my article critiquing people that find Native American costumes so offensive, I was attacked only by white people claiming how wrong it is to determine what is offensive to another culture. The irony in this situation is that my article was more making the claim that Native American costumes are not inherently offensive, but these critics to me were then imposing what should be considered offensive to the Native American community, the very thing they were telling me not to do!

This is not to say that whites should not be involved in the fight for the rights of minorities. Far from it. Rather, it is more important that these actions are taken genuinely instead of out of shame for what your ancestors did years ago. You would not want to be punished for a crime that your father committed, so why are we placing self-inflicted punishment onto ourselves for something that people with the same skin color as us did years ago without any input, say, or consideration from us? Their actions are in the past. We live in the present. Let's all work together to make a better world for the sake of making a better world in the present, not as a referendum on the actions of the past.

Even people of color see the problems with white guilt. Even a fellow Odyssey creator had the following to say about white guilt:

As a person of color, I am already labeled as a subordinate being, simply because of the color of my skin. Though humans cannot be biologically subcategorized, society tends to treat them as just that, and as a major consequence inequality evolves. Inequality then creates historical and social movements that encourage people of color and whites to unify as one strong alliance in order to solve all these social problems that occur. Yet many whites are getting involved in the social movements for the wrong reason.

Some whites only want to get involved because a movement is trendy and they feel this guilt to do so because it's the only way they are going to be socially accepted into that community as well as connect with others. Is this wrong? Yes.

If whites are only getting involved for the sake of being trendy and feeling guilty then that is not a strong alliance. For example, a white person might say "I'm for the Black Lives Matters movement" but in actuality, they may just be saying this to avoid the backlash they will get if they stay quiet about this subject.

At that moment they are supporting the movement for the wrong reason, in order to have an alliance, you must have a common purpose. If your purpose is for you to only say 'I'm for this or that' and you have not established the basic foundations of the movement and how it has directly impacted those who have been hurt, you are doing it out of guilt. People of color do not want your pity, they want your alliance.

Whiteness is privileged and there is so much social power that is held with being white. Though I am biracial, I am not able to use my witness because my skin color stops me from doing so in society. Even so, I believe in order to stand up for a movement you need to be educated and informed about the issues and actually want to advocate for change outside the marches and panels. Take what you want to align yourself with and use it in your daily life the best way you can even if society rejects that, but after all, you are wanting to make social change.

I believe people need reevaluate their values because if you're doing something out of guilt you're not doing it for the people or the movement, but instead, you're doing it so that you feel good afterward.

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