| Israel.Ysrayl, a Jim Crow restroom sign.
Just to put this issue in an absolute perspective.
I’m writing this after seeing a back and forth debate on Tumblr about black girls and colorism. Dark girls expressed their experiences, light girls expressed their experiences, and both experiences were weighed and measured and categorized. Some people put one problem over another while others put both problems on the same level.
I’m writing this because I believe my experiences have given me a pretty clear view of this issue.
I’ll begin this, as always, with a disclaimer.
I’m a light-skinned, hazel eyed, brown hair girl, and I recognize that these Eurocentric features are a type of privilege. A privilege that has gotten me befriended, hired, tolerated and even accepted by others. I recognize that there are things in my life that I have not earned, but have been given simply because I’m closer in proximity to the Eurocentric standard much of the world has internalized.
This is a sickening, but truthful fact.
The reason why my perspective is much wider than this is because I grew up in predominantly – at times all – white communities. I grew up being other.
I got the same questions most black people get.
“Can I touch your hair?”
“How do you know when to shower?”
“Why do you say [insert word] like that?”
At about 7 years old, I began to pray for long, silky white girl hair. I put on my hair bonnet at night and prayed for perfect hair. Much like Lupita Nyong’o, the next morning I went to the bathroom mirror in all faith that when I removed the bonnet perfect hair would perfectly fall out. And each morning when my own hair remained under the bonnet I never lost faith. God had a lot more to do than give me perfect hair, but eventually He’d get around to it.
At about 9 years old I realized what “passing” was. Not “passing” in the physical sense. People might suspect me to have other blood, but no one would mistake me for a white girl. Fro or no fro. No, “passing” in the social sense. I could talk like the white girls, I could laugh like the white girls. They could innocently insult my hair, my speech, my culture – and I could join them. I could let them stand over me and squeal at the texture of my hair. I could laugh when they said I must never shower because I can’t get my hair wet. I could say thank you when I was told “You’re really pretty for a black girl”. I could revel in any guy’s decision to like me in spite of my race. I could agree when they all assumed I was half white.
But even then I recognized the pointlessness in all that. Regardless of how well I passed or how popular I was – they would always see me as other.
This is my life, not a TV show, and I refuse to be anyone’s sassy black sidekick.
As I got older I increasingly saw the BS that was colorism.
In high school, I heard “I would never date a black girl because [x, y, z]” at least two times a day from guys. Yes, they always added that tag. That brief exception that would save them from being racist or in the case of black guys – self-hating. “Well – maybe if she wasn’t too dark and hella sexy.”
It wasn’t just the fact that these guys admitted they didn’t find black girls desirable so much as a white woman dipped in caramel, but that many of these guys still didn’t even talk to the light girls at my school.
According to them, I was the exception that they would deign to talk to. I remained single and un-pursued for all of high school.
So while I recognize the benefit of being lighter complected, I also know the complete and utter BS that it is.
At the end of the day – white is right. I and other light, color-eyed, fair hair girls are just a cheap imitation of the golden thing.
Yes, many light girls feel stuck between two worlds that don’t fully understand them or want them. It sucks, and it hurts. But we can get over it.
How? By talking with you, our dark sisters, who are experiencing the worst end of colorism. Your side of the spectrum is much more blatant and unforgiving. Being an exception hurts, but not even making the wait list hurts even more.
I’m never the one to weigh a person’s hurt over another’s. Life is hard for everyone – Lord knows for people of color – Lord knows for black people – Lord knows for black women, but I will go so far to say that it isn’t right for light girls to wail over dark girls.
I know light girls go through it, I’m going through it everyday, but I also understand that the grass is always greener.
I recognize my privilege, and while I’m not thankful of it, I’m thankful that my life has been significantly easier as a light complected black woman. There are trials and heartbreaks and mental breakdowns that I haven’t had to face because of my looks. I don’t take this for granted.
I apologize for the sloppiness of this post, but this topic has really been eating at me. This conversation needs to continue, and I’m not trying to provide one final resolute answer – just another perspective.
Please let me know your thoughts, sistah.