When I was younger, I steered clear of guys who were too light because I didn’t want to date anyone who looked like my dad. It wasn’t because I hated lighter skinned people. I hated my dad and I didn’t want any flashes of him popping up while I was trying to get my groove on. As I got older, I realized how idiotic that “dating preference” was, especially when I ended up marrying someone whose personality is pretty damn close to my fathers…and he has darker skin.
Growing up with two parents that are on the opposite ends of the color spectrum never seemed like a big deal. It wasn’t until I started hearing things that dictated some people thought one was better than the other, that I started being interested in why this was even a “thing”. Getting to know different types of people crushed any stereotypes surrounding, “they act that way because they’re [insert skin color here].” People behave as they do due to environment, personal foundation/beliefs, and individual thought process. Skin color? Nah.
I didn’t know that there was something wrong with my mother being distraught to the point of tears when I was born, because I “looked White”. Personally, I don’t think I looked White back then and I most certainly don’t look White now. However, there’s a definite contrast between our complexions. My mom stated that she wished she would have had a baby that looked like her, so often, that I always wondered what she meant. When I looked at me and my siblings, I could see her in our personalities, our facial features, and definitely for me and my sister, in our body shape. For a time, I even credited her statement to all of our faces looking more like my dad than her but when my nephew was born, I began to understand what the issue was. She often mentioned his skin color and how finally she had someone who looked more like her. When my daughter was born, my mother stated that she hoped my baby would get some color and wouldn’t stay so light…as if something would be wrong with my daughter having my skin tone. My daughter’s melanin increased dramatically and my mother felt compelled to say, “I finally got me a chocolate baby”. The sad thing is, I don’t even think she’s fully aware of the message it sends me as her daughter and as the mother of her granddaughter. Kind of like I wasn’t really listening to the foolishness coming out of my mouth about not dating guys who “looked like my dad”.
The color of skin wasn’t anything I started giving deeper thought to until I moved to Atlanta because aside from the above mention, I never really had to. It had nothing to do with self-hatred, stupidity, or anything else that could be cast in a negative light. It wasn’t something that I had to focus on in Oakland, so I didn’t. Upon arriving in Georgia, I was CONSTANTLY reminded that my skin wasn’t dark enough or that I was too light. Coming from California, I had never experienced overt racism so my first reaction was usually, “what the fuck is wrong with these people” and it was really like being in the Twilight Zone the first 6 months of living in Atlanta. The Battle of Skin Color was constantly at play in the South.
I began to want to dissect things when my best friend at the time, yelled at me that I could never understand how it feels to be a Black woman. I’d only known myself to be a Black girl and woman so imagine my confusion as I listened to another Black woman tell me I wasn’t Black. My head scratching seemed to infuriate her even more as she yelled out that life was easy for me because of my lighter complexion, light eyes, and taller stature. At the time, it was like being punched in the chest with a mallet because those very things were what caused boys and men to tell me that I was “built for fucking”, that I was the “perfect side piece”, and that I looked so good I “could get raped.” Also can’t leave out that “real Black people don’t have eyes that change color. That’s some devil shit.” Did I ever feel compelled to tell anyone these things? No. I didn’t view it as something to blame on anyone but those who said it; it was my silent burden I just didn’t think about. I started to understand that despite these vile things being said to me since I was a teenager, my complexion was a part of this thing called colorism. By no fault of my own, I’d been born with a greater privilege in some areas of life than my darker skinned best friend. It was a fucked up awakening to have at 20-something.
This colorism thing didn’t resurface on an obvious level again until the husband and I were in the early stages of our relationship. I’d hear color related comments made as to why he was interested in me. They ranged from me being the closest he could get to a White girl and that he was with me because lighter skin women have no backbone. I’ve always prided my intelligence over my looks but it was often assumed that I was dense because of my skin color. The most annoying of assumptions being that my complexion indicated my desire to be married and that I’d settle for anything. The husband asked me to marry him 5 times over the course of 3 years before I said yes…and it was still with some hesitation because marriage wasn’t at the top of any of my To Do lists.
Never mind that none of those statements were true and these asinine things could be said of any woman regardless of skin color. What’s more important is that skin color was being attached. We’re saying a mouthful when we take our own issues about complexion and project it onto others. I say this with a full heart that, I wouldn’t be surprised if something [repeatedly] happened in these women’s lives or they witnessed something so much from women with lighter skin than theirs, that they started viewing certain skin colors as “the enemy”.
I had a darker skinned friend once tell me that he would never marry a light skinned woman. He had been picked on by light skin children when he was younger and he didn’t want to risk having a lighter child who would grow up and pick on darker children. This thinking was just as idiotic as my own because if your child is a turd, they’re going to pick on people, regardless of their skin color. This was also similar tomy foolish thoughts of trying to prevent character related issues via skin color. He too ended up marrying what he was trying to avoid. His wife has lighter skin than me.
I have so many examples of this divisive ass behavior that I’m also working on a more in depth essay about colorism. Today though, I just felt like purging some thoughts about this dumb ass battle of skin color that doesn’t have to be ours. We have too much stuff coming at us on a daily basis to be disliking, fighting, and disrespecting each other because of the darkness or lightness of our complexions. The human experience changes depending on who we are and respecting that will always be more important to me than trying to keep the lie alive that one skin color is better than another.
CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS/PITCHES:
The month of May covers Lupus Awareness. Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that's rarely easy to diagnose, extremely challenging to treat and live with, and currently has no cure. We are encouraging people to gain a better understanding of this illness so we're accepting submissions/pitches from people who have it, and those who have family members/friends who've had it or currently living with it. True understanding opens the door for compassion and empathy and with any chronic illness, this is always necessary. This is what we hope to achieve with your stories.
May is also Mental Health Month. We already devote every Monday to mental health so of course we're going to acknowledge and highlight post for this throughout the month. As a country, we focus a lot on our physical appearance, leaving our mental health to fend for itself. However, there are some people who take it very seriously and maintain their mental health on a daily. We're interested in hearing what your support groups and selfcare look like, what your battles involve, and how we can all be more empathetic towards those living with mental illness.
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