Everybody Has a Story
A tinge of self-hatred arises when I think about the color of my skin. When I was younger, I was made fun of because of the darkness of my skin-complexion. I remember being nine, ten and even twelve wondering why God had created me with such dark skin. When I would look at myself in the mirror as a kid, I would always see the things that other kids said about me.
“Why are you so black?”
“Were you put in an oven as a baby?”
“Go back to Africa, where you belong.”
Those types of comments were most hurtful because I could never give an accurate response. Although I am black, I am not African, I of course was never placed in an oven, and I was born with my complexion – it is not as if God and I sat down for tea and I casually expressed to him that I wanted dark skin. The sad thing is, the comments other black people made about the color of my skin really got to me…
Because I never really had an answer as to why my skin is the way it is, I often wondered the same thing. I was angry at God for the way that he made me. I hated my skin, my nappy hair, my everything. Growing up, I wanted to be white. I was so sick of other black girls making fun of me because of my skin color and grew weary of lighter-skinned black girls rubbing it in my face that they were more desirable because they had lighter skin. It was almost as if I could not win for losing. I could not do anything about the way that I looked even if I wanted to. I remember comparing myself to Hannah Kronick, a girl that was in my 3rd grade elementary classes. No one made fun of her. Her hair was straight, her skin white. She was “perfect” in my eyes. I would think to myself, “If only I could be just like Hannah – if only I could be white.” As I got older, my self-hatred translated into a desire to be perfect. I figured that if only I could please other people – if I could be smart enough for my parents, if I could be a better student for my teachers – that maybe other people would ease up.
Unfortunately, moving into my adolescent years, my perception of myself became even more skewed. It was the idea of dating that really began to mess with my head. In middle school at around age 12 was when the comments about my skin moved toward an even harsher direction. Black guys at my school were always reminding me that I was undesirable. That, if given the choice between me or a lighter-skinned black girl, that they would always prefer the “red-bone” – the girl with the lighter skin. On some occasions, I was even told that I would be “prettier” if I had lighter skin.
Those were the comments that really stung.
I would think to myself, “What is wrong with me? Why did I have to be this color?” It seemed to me that guys were openly disinterested in me because of something I could not control. It is not as if I was told, “I am not interested in you because you have a laundry list of insecurities,” or “I would not date you because you are a really mean person.” Instead, time and time again the comments were, “I would not date you because you are dark-skinned,” and/or “I am not attracted to you because you are black.”
Sadly, one of the most hurtful experiences I can remember that impacted me an adolescent occurred between myself and a young woman named Shaunice – I was eleven and she was 16. She and I took dance classes together at a community center in South Orange, New Jersey, where I grew up. Shaunice was the perfect mixture of bitch and bully. If she wasn’t making fun of my “black ass feet” or telling me to “Go back to Africa,” she was reminding me that men would always prefer her over me because of her lighter skin. She referred to herself as “perfect, light-skinned meat.” I hated her. Her comments about me led me to feel inadequate, voiceless, undesirable, and lacking.
Now that I am an adult, I have embraced the color of my skin. I will admit however, that some days are better than others. On some days, I feel absolutely radiant, beaming from the inside-out, joyful. On other days, I have to convince myself that the things other people say about me do not matter. That, when guys (of any race) tell me, “You are pretty for a black girl,” their incompetence should not bother me. But, at the end of the day, I have resolved a few things with myself:
1. I have learned to believe that my identity is not attached to another person’s perception of me.
2. I have learned to love myself and the way that I look.
3. I have also learned that the way I look is purposeful – I am not a mistake. I am supposed to have dark skin and if my skin were even a quarter of a shade lighter than what it is, I would not be myself.
4. I’ve come to grips with the fact that sometimes what other people have to say is absolute shit.
5. Lastly, I am not angry at God. Instead, I tip my hat off to him. He created me with purpose – tall, slender, dark-skinned, unique. Frankly, I would not want to look any other way, no skin-bleaching creams or hair-relaxers – none of it.
In the end, this is my contribution to you, my reader. This is a small portion of my story. I have shared my scars with you in an attempt to remember my own humanity – that we all have a story to tell and that sometimes, we really need to be heard. I encourage you to reflect on your own story. What scars do you have that other people can relate to? How have you been wronged and how have you overcome those wrong-doings? Being heard is important – sharing your story with another person is doubly more important. Everyone has a story.