Race, color and gender play a critical part in our lives and determine how we define ourselves.
I am an African-American dark skin woman.
I say that with the utmost confidence because there was a time I was not comfortable in my own skin. I did not want to be in any other skin, I just did not know how to love the color of this one.As the world around me continued to redefine categories and breakdown structures used to constrain us [me], it was necessary for me to liberate the stigma of being dark skin, of being beautiful.
I get very emotional when I talk about the journey I’ve gone through as a dark skin woman because people have never offered being dark skin its proper empathy. Today people think I am just plain crazy for feeling at times that being dark skin is less than. A greater percentage of people feel I am not entitled to my feelings because I am “pretty.” Pretty for a dark skin girl at least. While I don’t ride on the back of my insecurities, my struggle was and is a struggle.
From an early age it felt like being dark skin was the same as being the heaviest girl in the class. I felt the need to try harder, to be better and to stand out. In many ways it helped me be the confident person I am but also planted deep rooted insecurities I have yet to tackle. When I was in eighth grade all the boys were laughing at me and in that group was my boyfriend. I asked him in private why he laughed at me? He responded by saying I don’t know but I laughed because everyone else was laughing. Even younger than that, I remember hearing a little Spanish boy ask why my skin was so dirty.
Other memories included people calling me midnight, charcoal and blackie. The worst part is that these people were my friends who inadvertently fed into my self-hatred. Overtime I expected and accepted that my “friends” would hurt me and it was ok. That type of mentality was and is still enslaving. Because I wanted to look into the mirror and love her, I grew a hateful exterior shell to protect my gentle soul.
I never gave up on this skin, I just needed to learn how to freaking love it.
I had to accept first that people who hurt me are not my friends. This was a difficult realization because I held my friends to a high standard. Even if they were crappy, what was I going to do without them? I set off on a journey to rediscover who I was alone. I let go of many of my friends who to this day wonder what happen. But what happen was that I found me. The real me and that person was not desperate for anyone’s friendship.
I also learned that some of what people say can be true. I had to admit that I needed to address how I treated others. I was not going to respect myself until I was able to respect others.
Yup, I got an attitude check.
Surprisingly when I did away with negative people, respect was at the basis of my relationships. I took time to understand people and their stories just as I had wanted for myself.
Lastly, if I was going to be the best me, I needed to stop making excuses. I forced tomorrow to not look as good as today, and I made sure I pushed it to the limit each day. Success is not about winning but trying. I said to myself “ look girl, don’t be wasting my time.” Everyday I am working to prefect the person I want to be physically, mentally and socially.
The changes I made had nothing to do with how I looked but the energy I gave off into world. Exerting positive energy made the difference in the people I attracted, the opportunities that came and the motivation I maintained. People will say I grew up and changed but I really didn’t. I have always been this person, I just didn’t know how to love her. Now I do know how love her and others can’t help but to be equally enchanted.
Once my mind changed, I started to love on all the pieces of me I used to question. Now my stories go a little like this:
“I was at the pool a few weeks ago and I heard a girl yell out to me “excuse me chocolate sweetheart.” I swung my soaked curls over my shoulder to see two women staring at me. And in the the kindest of words one said you have the most beautiful hair and your skin is gorgeous.”