Identity and Belonging: Advanced Essay #3

A young dark skinned black girl logs into her daily fix of social media. Endless tweets of pictures of brown beauties smother her laptop screen; pictures of black women embracing their radiant melanin, kinky fros, broad noses and thick lips. Their eyes glow with delight as they espouse their confidence of inner and outer beauty. The young girl smiles to herself and finds her insides warm up with happiness with the sights of uplifting comments and compliments towards these women. Comments like “YASSSSSSSS!” and “Black girl magic” and in simpler terms, “Beautiful”; comments that’ll make any girl feel good about herself.

But the young dark-skinned black girl continues to scroll down her screen and the compliments slowly drown into a deep pit of hate and disgust:

“Dark-skinned bitches will never be attractive lol.”

“She’s pretty for a dark skinned girl”

“She’d be better if her skin was  one shade lighter and had a smaller nose.”

“Yeah she’s nice looking, but I’ll never marry a dark girl. She gotta be light so my kids will be pretty”

And the young black girl as well slowly drowns into a deep pit of hate and disgust, but with herself.

A young black girl who momentarily began to break free from the cage of detestation but got the chance to soar, was abruptly struck by the bullet of indignity, killing her self confidence and security.

Unnerved, the dark-skinned black girl slams her laptop screen, while sparkling tears cascade down the curves of her cheeks, dripping onto the sheets of her bed. Tears that hold sorrow, rejecting the love for herself.

That young-dark skinned black girl could be you. That young-dark skinned girl was once me…

Once a dark skinned girl who wasn’t in love with myself. A girl who couldn’t see the beauty in my features. A girl who was constantly reminded by society that she wasn’t attractive nor wanted by the world, yet her entire physique is copied by everyone. A girl who was constantly reminded by her own men that she was no longer needed for love and instead, lusted over her light and white counterparts. A girl who was constantly reminded that her complexion will never go away and that she could do nothing but accept the foundation of her being that she didn’t appreciate.

Growing up, there was always a sense of paranoia attributed with my skin. Countless days worrying if a guy will find me pretty, only to find out that he was only interested in my light skinned friends. This was something that I got used to, as I thought that this was a routine that I would have to accept for the rest of my life, however, I did not want to accept this fate. There were constant thoughts of the perceptions people would have of me because of my complexion. Would they think I’m ghetto? Ugly? Loud? Dumb? Not capable of achieving a higher level in life?

If you look up the word black, more specifically darkness, you find words like, misery, disaster, evil and wicked, anger and etcetera; all words that can be attributed with pessimism, and that is what I felt like. I was a vessel that contained nothing but despair, angst, and negativity but also a void that longed for firm trust in myself and confidence. And I wasn’t the only one.

One day, I had came across a statement by rapper, Andre 3000

                               “Across cultures, darker people suffer the most. Why?”

I took it upon myself to evaluate this quote and apply it to myself. In this case, I fell victim to this declaration. I was the dark person who was suffering in this white washed culture, but why? When I was born, I certainly did not automatically hate myself. But I was conditioned to do so. Subtly, through the media, I was told that my appearance was not wanted. I was told this with the lack of representation of dark black woman in media, and if there was representation, it was minor and/or often did not shine the best light upon us. I was told this through Covergirl and Maybelline commercials, where peach flesh toned models graced the television screen but not one looked like me, hinting that darker woman could not be beautiful.

This world tries its best to make sure we, as dark skinned black people, hate ourselves. When we arrived in this country, from the minute we stepped off that slave ship, whites made sure with there own obligation, that we hated ourselves. We were stripped of our names, language, culture and religion, and forced to adapt to theirs. They told us we were ugly, savage beasts that deserved no life. They plotted dark-skinned and light-skinned slaves against each other so that there could be no unity. We had lost everything we knew about ourselves and with that, we also lost who we were as a people and thus lost our connection and pride. Why did they do this?

Because they know that when we, as a people are one, we unite! We gain too much power in our knowledge of self and beauty. So they did that, to make us weak to this world. And when I finally recognized this corroboration, I made it my duty to diminish any thoughts of hate, and replace them with admiration.

It wasn’t easy. I had to learn to love and at many times, I felt like giving up. But I remembered that one day, I was to bear dark-skinned children into this world, and that possibly, they would face the same problems that I, at the moment had with myself. That was not what I wanted; I want my future children to grow with love for their complexion, but how could I expect them to love themselves, if I couldn’t? So I pushed myself to love myself.

I went on social media and looked at beautiful black woman that resembled me; that adored themselves. Looked through hashtags like “#blackoutday” and”#melaninmondays”, with refreshing pictures of dark woman. I read articles of woman like me, who too, faced similar problems like me. I looked and examined myself in vain, until I appreciated myself in full.

And now I do.

Self love is a long journey; it does not happen overnight. It takes deep thinking to realize where the problem with yourself sprouted from and when you recognize that problem, the rest is just a matter of striving to end what you no longer want.

I love my prominent features of my face; how pronounced they are. I love how my naturals kinks and zig zags of hair defy gravity, winding up towards the sun, as if they are reaching for its light. I love how my melanin absorbs the sun’s rays, mimicking the glow of honey and brown sugar.

I am magic. I am light. I am a goddess, a queen.

I am Jaiye and I am now that dark skinned black girl who loves herself. And you can too.