The Secret Life of a Light-Skinned African-American Girl
The Secret Life of a Light-Skinned African-American Girl
I was always told I was black. I was black, but not quite black enough or not black black but still black to say the least. I was told that in my life, I would have certain privileges. Privileges that darker women would not be able to acquire and I should be grateful for that. I should be happy that I would be more desired for receptionist jobs and I should be overjoyed that if a white boy happened to like me, I would be eligible for a seat at family dinner because I’m not black black, remember?
I should appreciate the automatic assumptions that I am foreign, that if I have a weave it is my real hair, and that I’m way too narcissistic to give most boys the time of day. I should never ever complain about my skin because real black girls go through things every day that I will never be able to relate to.
I understand that my skin has privileged me in some ways. No, I was never bullied or called ‘burnt’, or compared to a monkey or a roach. I was never told by a boy that he didn’t like me because of my skin color. But, being told by people that I wasn’t black or I wasn’t black enough took a different toll on me.
I remember going to a camp when I was younger, where I became friends with a girl who happened to be white. We had gotten close, well, as close as two 12-year-olds could be. She came to camp one day and told me that her father said we couldn’t be friends anymore. “My father told me that you’re still a nigger even though you look different. He said you’re the sneakiest kind of nigger because you never know what side you’re on.”
I let her walk away and I never spoke about it again. According to him I was the worst kind of nigger because I couldn’t pick a side. I never told my mom or anybody because I felt like I couldn’t. I never wanted to complain to the women in my family because I thought my struggles would never equate to theirs.
When I was in high school, I had never stared at my mother with as much admiration as I did when I started to hate my skin. Her melanin glowed to me and at a time when some girls my age wanted a boyfriend or bigger breasts, I wanted dark skin like my mother’s. I would often look at her and wonder how someone could call her skin ugly or unappealing when I looked at it and saw pure gold.
I grew up repulsed by the way my skin left visible acne scars all over my face and the way hair showed so easily on my body. My skin had became a sheet of just utter hate on my body that I wanted to tear off. I couldn’t tell anybody because it was unheard of, you know?
You never hear about a little light skinned girl wanting to be dark skinned. It’s always the other way around. It’s always the little dark girl picking the light skinned baby doll and believing that it is the most complete and fascinating thing in the world.
The girls I went to school with growing up didn’t like me. I never blamed them though. It wasn’t their fault rather what they were taught, maybe by their parents and then from their grandparents and then their grandparent’s parents. They were programmed to believe that my black was beautiful and their’s wasn’t. It’s crazy how they hated me due to my skin tone and due to preconceived notions about me ‘thinking I was all that’ when I would have traded skin tones with them in a heart beat.
Once I graduated form high school I attended a HBCU, still self-conflicted about my skin. I thought to myself that I would fit right in without a second look. See, at a HBCU the colors vary from white to the most chocolate brown and it doesn’t matter what color you are. In college, people are much more mature and educated.
There wasn’t blatant colorism but it still existed subtly. It was being in History 101, learning about the Bantus and speaking in class and everyone turning around with a face I knew all too well. The face is 50/50. It says “Are you even fully black? Why are you talking?” mixed with “The light skinned girl is woke and she is interested in something besides her own self? Wow.” It all comes down to this: Colorism is another thing that was not created but forced upon us.
The white man separated us: darks and lights. We’re so caught up on these preconceived notions of each other, we fail to realize the big picture. Not to mention, black men sometimes don’t make it any better. As black women, we are pitted against each other based off of how we look: lightskin, darkskin, slim, thick, tall, short, weave, natural and the infamous good girl vs girl who shows a little more skin comparison.
Hate has been so imbedded in us, blacks hate other blacks for being black. We forget that as black women our struggles are much more alike than we admit. No one women’s struggle is less important than another one’s.
When it comes down to it we all share bloodlines with greats like Fanny Lou Hamer, Ella Baker, Dorothy Heights and Harriet Tubman, and each day we stand in the merit of their work. We progress and prosper while at the same time facing adversity, from being told we aren’t quite enough of this or too much of that. Despite these things and the various shades that we may come in we are all still black and are the similar in essence.
I grew to love the skin I’m in. All the acne scars and all the hair. I still look at my mother in amazement. I still watch her glow and I know that I glow too. That’s the great thing about black women, we all glow in different shades like crystallized stars across the darkest sky.
Know that your black will never be like her black. Your black is your black for a reason. You were coated in the most beautiful color so that you can be you. Look at the variety of shades of black women you see everyday with admiration and not spite. Her beauty does not take away from your own.