“Until the colour of a man’s skin, is of no more significance than the colour of his eyes.. Me say War…”
Call me a pessimist, but this is one war that will never be won. It hurts my heart to say that, but I stand by my statement. I would love to be proven wrong, but sadly, I don’t think that this is an issue that will ever go away. Definitely not in my lifetime, probably not in my children’s lifetime.
This skin colour issue runs soooo deep, we may as well call it the colour abyss. Abyss is the perfect word to describe the depth of the colour issues that are faced everyday, throughout the world amongst black people, and not just from other races, but amongst ourselves. The technical definition for the word abyss is ‘an immeasurably deep chasm, depth or void.’ Sounds perfect to me.
When I began to pontificate ( 😀 lol ) on this matter, I was literally at war with myself. First of all , I am notorious for long ass blog posts, and this topic is just soooo deep, I was scared to tackle it. I had no clue where to begin, nor did I know where or when I would be able to end this it. Colourism is the biggest blog onion I’ve ever tried to dice.
Now the first thing that came to me in terms of a visual starting point to write this blog, is the introductory picture of me and two friends of mine at the top of the post. It was taken by another friend, who is an amazingly talented photographer. When we first took these pictures, I was not sure I would like them. Though none of us in the above picture, are accustomed to caking on the face products, it seemed like a daunting task to take ‘stripped down pictures’. Now I’ve taken lots of pictures in my adulthood, make-up less mostly, but there was always something else going on in it. The viewer would not only be looking at my face, but an entire composition, consisting of me and God knows whatever other distraction. Something ‘artsy fartsy’ as I like to call them.
These pictures were just of our faces. I had confidence that the other girls would look beautiful, myself…ehh I was a little iffy. There we were, barefaced with a camera all up in our grills. It took a few weeks before we saw the end result, but when I finally got to see them I was pleasantly surprised.
“CHEE BLACK GYAL” (THREE BLACK GIRLS)
That’s what I call this picture. lol 😀
It looked like it should’ve been in one of those coffee table books. I distinctly remember staring at that picture for a bit, thinking then, that it was lovely, but also thinking to myself, that maybe 10 years before, I wouldn’t have had the same opinion. It kinda made me sad, because I realized how may years I wasted questioning and second guessing my appearance, for no other reason than the colour of my skin , (sometimes wishing that it was a tad lighter) and the width of my nose. Maybe hatred is a strong word, but I don’t think I liked myself very much. I feel sad typing that, but I guess I have to be honest.
Growing up, we all have different challenges. It’s a time of self-discovery and coming into our own. Sometimes we are well into our 20’s before we even really know who we are, where we stand and what we want. I was probably 23 years old before I felt a level of self acceptance in regards to my appearance. Truth be told, growing up, the colour issue was just one of the struggles young people, especially girls had to deal with. In general you can get picked on or discriminated against because , you’re too dark, your parents are poor, they drive an old car, your hair is too nappy, you’re too tall, or too short, or too skinny (also marga or dry foot as skinny can be called) I remember that, or too fat, (slob, pig), too ugly, too dunce, so you’re an idiot or too smart, so people think you’re a know-it-all.
It can be a host of things. Now it’s called bullying, then it was just a part of growing up. You had to toughen up, suck it up and keep it moving. The blessed people in my opinion, were medium height, fair to middle skin tones, with cooley hair, decent grades and wealthy parents. lol. I knew a few of those people who were all of these characteristics combined and I fuckin’ hated them all. 😀
Now, I would be lying if I painted a picture of a dire existence, in regards to my formative school years. It was not. I had a few friends and even some good times, but I was what I would call, a background stage handler. People knew I was around, but I was not ever going to try and purposely be noticed. For me back then, to be noticed was to have all your faults on display. I just figured if I stayed middle of the road and under the radar, that I would skate on through unscathed. It became really obvious to me how much I did avoid pictures, when a few years ago, a few of my friends busted open the vintage pics vault on facebook. I saw pictures of them on occasions, when I know I was present, but always had an excuse not to be photographed.
I never wore my colour issue on my sleeve, but I always had it. I remember moments of feeling completely invisible, especially to boys, when certain girls walked into a room. They had their type, I clearly was not it. The way I comforted myself, was by telling myself, that this time was just a little piece of our whole lives and that things would get better and that I would get to be in a bigger pond with different fish, that swam and enjoyed a different variety of bait. It was true. Fortunately for me, there were other things going on in my life, where I was like “Fuck it, whatever, I’m ugly, so be it, I’ll keep it moving.” It saved me a lot of grief. 😀 It may have been the ostrich approach, but it got me through. 😀 For me, being dark skinned felt like a disadvantage, but I was not going to let it prevent me from doing what I wanted to do.
Thinking back, who did we have to really look up to as beautiful that looked like us? On television, the pretty black girls were always mixed, and looked more like the darker version of a white woman, than someone representing us. The go to black girl in movies when I was really young (less than 10 years old), was Rae Dawn Chong.. and that bitch didn’t look anything like me or those two other girls you see in that picture above. We don’t look alike, but we all have similar body structures, height and complexion. Other than that, our facial features vary greatly. There was nothing about Rae Dawn Chong like any of us, other than she had breasts and a vagina. See Below.
In the 90’s, the black beauty standard went from her to Halle Berry, and she looks even less like me, in her crazy ass. 😀
The talented actresses who are dark skinned were not marketed as beautiful,…but before every introduction to Halle Berry, some adjective like stunning, or beautiful or captivating or some bullshit was thrown in, to make sure that in case our eyes were deceiving us, that we know she is indeed beautiful. Now doing some research has brought me to the fact, that ALL of the iconic Black Actresses that were listed a beautiful or sex symbols were very, very light skinned. The poor black man’s version of a white woman.
Notice a pattern?
They weren’t the white man’s treasure, but they ‘was’ close enough. Now the standard for black beauty is measured with a crooked yard stick and a carnival trick mirror. I don’t mean to generalize, but to me, it seemed as if, even if the girl looked like she’d been run through and run over by a mack truck, as long as she was light skinned, she was still beautiful and better looking than my black ass.
I don’t know if this standard of a black woman’s beauty was started by the white man or black men. I really do wonder about that and question it, because even back in the days of slavery, the slave owners had no problem copulating with their dark skinned commodities, hence producing lighter skinned offspring for the blacks. However, was it the black men as slaves who initially thought the female mixed offspring were better looking than the fully black women, or was it the white men that perpetuated that idea. Light skinned people had it good since then. They got to do the easy work and stay in the house, while my kind was out toiling the field. To this day, it seems as if dark men prefer to have a lighter women on their arm, and the lighter skinned men, or white men, have less of an issue with a very dark skinned woman.
The very first person to say the words ‘You are beautiful’ to me was a white English man. I don’t know if I believed him then, but it was the first time I’d heard it. I was about 19 years old.
I befriended a controversial black author on facebook and most of her status updates seem to get a large number of comments. There was a status update in particular, that seemed to ignite a firestorm of responses in agreement. The update basically chastised black athletes, saying that all of their children looked like the people that used to own them many many years ago. I myself can’t really disagree with that statement. These black men *cough tigerwoods cough* *cough kobebryant cough* and many more whose names I really don’t care to know, for whatever reason are all married to, or dating either white, very light skinned or hispanic looking women. As a matter of fact, some of these women look so similar, they may have something in their locker rooms where they clone one woman and slightly change her hair colour or breast size to suit their preference. The richer or more powerful the men became, the lighter skinned the arm candy. Does it bother me? Honestly, a little, but only a little. I do know that I had gotten great pleasure in knowing, that when the two names I mentioned before got their personal lives splashed all over the media because of sexual misconduct, there was not one black woman’s face in the midst of all that bullshit. I took great pride in that.
A few weeks ago during the local film festival in Antigua, I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Bill Duke and D. Channsin Berry. They are currently on a promotional tour for their documentary ‘Dark Girls’.
‘Dark Girls’ delves into the psyche of darker skinned women and tackles topics pertaining to the deep seated biases that exist within the black culture.
Here is a preview of ‘Dark Girls 1′
I was asked by one of the festival organisers, if I was willing to be interviewed about this topic for a part 2 version of their documentary and I happily agreed. I did not really feel nervous or have any reservations about being interviewed by them, and I thought it would have been exciting. It was definitely a subject matter that I could relate to. The interviews were going to be conducted at ‘The Inn” out in English Harbour. I had not been to that part of the hotel before, so I kind of got a little bit lost on the way, but when I found it, it was absolutely breath taking.
When I got there, an interview was being conducted, so I tip-toed about to take in the surroundings. I sat in the courtyard for a few minutes, then it was my turn to be in the hot seat. Both Mr. Berry and Mr. Duke were conducting the interview simultaneously, taking turns asking me questions that were technically fairly easy to understand, but very difficult to express without coming off as bitter. I felt as if I had gotten gut punched when D.Channsin Berry asked me the first question. It’s a funny thing to say certain things out loud. One may be accustomed to thinking a certain way or saying things to yourself, or maybe your closest friends, but when a stranger asks you those same questions, you feel completely ill-prepared to give your answer. When I talked about my feelings in regards to failing the brown paper bag test, as I call my dark skinned issue, I realized a lot of things that I thought were non issues to me, were clearly not. By the time the interview was over I felt kinda crappy, through no fault of my interviewers I must add. I realized however, that I still have issues to work through, but I’m fine with that. I do wish that I had more people or toys growing up to look up too or look at as my own personal standard, instead of looking towards the ones where I would fall short of through no fault of my own. Maybe if a beauty norm for me as a little girl and many other little girls was something like this,
maybe we would have had a lot less inner turmoil in regards to our appearance. But like I said before, there is always something. So maybe if we looked like this, we would get picked on for being too beautiful..though I could live with that… 😀