The Black, The Bold, The Beautiful

The pictures of Nigerian singer Dencia and the proliferation of the use of bleaching creams in majority-Black nations had me extremely tight yesterday. I addressed it in  my previous post, but I am still vexed and highly angered with it. There is part of me that accepts the foolishness among my own tribe of the African Diaspora. African-Americans are a minority and have lived in a White Supremacist Settler state for centuries. So while I would certainly LIKE to see us take a certain level of pride in ourselves I know how hard it is given our historical and current reality in the United States. But I used to expect much more from my Sub-Saharan kin. Indeed, I’ve never felt more relaxed and comfortable in my dark skin as I did when I was in Tanzania in 2006.

Being surrounded by Black people-not Black in the very loose manner that we use in the United States where someone like civil rights leader Walter White is deemed ‘Black’-made me feel like I belonged. Back on the West Coast of the States I could never escape the feeling of being the fly in the buttermilk. In Dar es Salaam I was just another Black woman among an entire nation of Black folks, and it was great. But my experience in Tanzania belied a painful reality: my Sub-Saharan kin did not escape the influence of White Supremacy either. The legacy of colonialism and the global dominance of Eurocentric beauty standards has infiltrated  the continent as well. I have heard some argue that Colorism among African-Americans is actually fueling the bleaching epidemic in Africa, as people are only emulating the images that they see in media promoted by African-Americans. When I was in Dar a young man I randomly chatted with in the streets actually did not believe me when I told him I was African-American. He frankly told me that I was “too dark” to be African-American, as the only AA women he ever saw in videos and movies were ones the color of Beyonce and Halle Berry. I was taken aback, but given the marginalization of dark women I couldn’t be that mad at him.

That incident took place in 2006. It is now 2014, and it seems that bleaching is getting worse. I cannot describe the anger I feel when I see people of African descent-especially those born and raised in Africa-doing this to themselves. Some will say that we have more important issues to think about. I agree that people of African descent worldwide have a number of issues to focus and work on. But I loathe bleaching deeply because of what it represents . I view it as a capitulation to White Supremacy. To physically alter oneself in order to resemble those who enslaved millions of Africans is a sickness. To risk your health and your life(as the products used to bleach one’s skin are toxic) to look like those who carved up Africa during the Berlin Conference is a sickness. In my opinion such actions clearly announce to the world that one believes the hype. They believe that they are inferior to Europeans, that their blackness is a curse to be rid of.

I understand how it happens. Bleaching is truly the self-hate that hate produced.   I am not sure how to help those whose minds have been twisted to the point that they get their Sammy Sosa on. At times I wonder if the fight against it all is even worth it. But I soon get my wits about me and climb up out of that pity pool. My resistance, OUR resistance, is not futile. Giving up is not an option for me. Giving in is not an option for me, and  it would be the words of my nine-year old daughter that would help inspire me and strengthen my resolve.

After seeing pictures of the effects of skin bleaching last night, my daughter asked why some dark-skinned people do that to themselves. I reminded her of the centuries of conditioning and hate that people of African descent have received and explained to her that bleaching was the manifestation of that. Her reply? “That’s ridiculous! They should let their haters be their motivators!” I high fived my baby girl and smiled at her. Her words were on point and sum up my view as a dark-skinned woman. Society, and even some in our own community, can put out the hype that light is right. But I don’t have to believe it. They can sell the idea of whiteness being best-but I don’t have to buy it.

People can make negative and hateful comments about dark skin if they want to. But their hateful attitudes only motivate me to revel in my tone even more. Think that dark women shouldn’t wear red lipcolor(I’m talking to you A$AP Rocky)? I’ll throw on my NARS lipgloss just to SLAY and prove how wrong you are. Tell dark-skinned people they should only wear dark colors to blend in with their skin? I’ll tell you to go fuck yourself as I sashay past you clad in coral and gold. I’m not here for timid, quiet and insecure Blackness. There is no substitute for what I am. And though I can certainly appreciate the beauty of white women, I have absolutely no desire to usurp it. I will never, ever, ever seek to become the bootleg version of a white woman. I’m of the mind that, whoever you are, there ain’t nothin like the real thing. There is much to be said for inhabiting your authentic self.  Others are free to make their own choices. They can try to transform if they want to. But as for me and my house, we will remain skin blogboldly and beautifully black.

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A native Seattleite and recent East Coast transplant, I have been interested in politics, religion, and race from the day I saw “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” on the bookshelf belonging to my BFF’s mom back in 1991. While my zealotry has thankfully diminished with maturity, I remain the deep thinking, passionate, and humble woman I have always been. I reside in the suburbs of NYC with my husband, daughter, and our two feisty but deeply loved cats.

5 thoughts on “The Black, The Bold, The Beautiful

  1. Wonderful post! Look how pretty you are! Yes, I love authentic people…I love the variety of people around the world. That’s why I always enjoy the opening ceremonies at the Olympics. I get to see the beauty of ALL the cultures and ethnicities at the games.

    “People can make negative and hateful comments about dark skin if they want to. But their hateful attitudes only motivate me to revel in my tone even more.” — I had to giggle at this because I have been the same way somewhat. Someone in my family owns a tanning salon in another state. I “liked” the business on Facebook and sometimes I am bombarded with memes about how tan is better and how ugly pale skin is. I’ve been trying to revel in my skin tone even more. Now where is that bold lipstick? 🙂

  2. Idunno man, dark skin is bad for tattoos, night time photograph, blending in around the world etc etc etc And I have freinds from everywhere south of the arctic (well, one finnish friend, still working on them eskimos!) and….they all look more like each other than I do. Why are black people so morphologically different? I can’t ‘revel’ in it, it sticks out like a spur in my head. It just seems gratuitous, like a practical joke. As much as racism is ignorance etc why is racism so uniformly directed at us? There’s no culture that views Native americans or Viet Namese as below blacks. As I alluded, this makes travel problematic. I think black people need to be more real about the burden of our skin, a toffee brown like Namibians is nice, but Nudanese? Naaaaaaaah. Incidentally, I’m one of them 2-tone niggas, and I found that using coconut oil spread the light tone from my inner arms to my forearms over a period of 8mos and still going. It got me thinking. If I had a healhy, quick, and permanent way of lightening my tone all over to like, a darkish latino (more Brazil than Venezuela), that would be totally legit. I wouldn’t pass it up due to any misguided loyalties. After all, given a say prior to birth and knowing what I know, there is no way I would inflict black skin upon myself. None.Rather be an albino in Albania.

    1. WOW. I read your comment and was initially rendered speechless by your take on our shared complexion. I DO appreciate your honesty though. Being that open enables us to address the problem head on.

    2. Tattoos and dark skin? I’ve seen plenty of dark folks get them and they were pleased with the results. For me personally that’s not a concern though. I have zero tattoos and have no desire to get any. I like the uniformity of my skin and have always felt a tattoo would ruin perfection. Different strokes for different folks I suppose.

      Nighttime photos as a reason for disliking your dark skin? I’m really lost with that; I would think that using a flash eliminates that issue? My dark skin certainly has not gotten in the way of taking pretty stunning shots at night!

      Blending in? I don’t blend in-nor do I want to! I enjoy the uniqueness of my phenotype and others. Just the idea of all mankind having the same tone bores me!

      But now that those minor issues are out of the way let’s talk about the heart of your post. I won’t condemn you, for you’ve drawn a conclusion that many of our people have. We look at how we’ve been treated, look at ourselves in the mirror and start to wonder if our blackness is the culprit. We are physically different, and that must be why we are hated globally right? But such a view is short-sighted IMO. White Supremacy is so pervasive for us that we forget how NEW it is. There was a time when it did not exist and the notion of Black inferiority was not deeply entrenched. The ideas of Black inferiority came about in order to justify the enslavement of Africans and their exploitation as a source of free labor in the New World. As messed up as the situation is and as much as race relations continue to haunt us RACE AND SKIN COLOR ARE NOT THE TEAL ISSUE. The ultimate color that matters is green! All that African-Americans have gone through is based in America’s need to exploit someone’s labor. So I don’t blame my dark skin and African ancestry for the shoddy way we are treated. I do not internalize the hate that has been thrown at me. There are no circumstances under which I would seek to alter my skin to a ‘darkish Latino’. It is society that needs to change, not my skin.

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