First of all, I thoroughly enjoyed this piece. Second of all, I still to this day wish WeTV would’ve edited out Traci Braxton saying that “African booty scratcher” line on “Braxton Family Values” to her fitness instructor. I honestly thought that level of stupidity and ignorance died right along with those flies-on-the-eyes commercials on PBS and the like.
And lastly, it’s wild when I read these pieces. I did not grow up thinking I wasn’t pretty. Although my mother’s side is heavily Creole and mainly light-skinned and my father’s side is pretty much all a box of chocolates, it just wasn’t an issue for me — in elementary school or high school. My mother specifically made such a point to go above and beyond to buy me all these pretty chocolate dolls and just raised me in a way that made me think I was cute AF. While being black turned into quite the war by college, I didn’t recognize it to be skin complexion so much as just being a black woman, period.
But then I became an adult and was horrified by the number of adults around me who were just flinging colorism around like they got paid for it. I remember a co-worker during my receptionist days walking up to me and telling me I needed to stay out of the sun. I said, “Why?” She said, “Cause you’re getting black!” I was so absolutely confused and went, “I still don’t get it. Where’s the problem?” And she was darker than me. She tried to explain to me about why my skin shouldn’t get any darker, and I just had the blankest look on my face. She did so much over-explaining that she finally just said, “Never mind” and walked away. I’m hoping she realized how dumb she sounded, but I definitely did not keep in touch with her when I left that job.
I don’t know how I managed to dip and dodge this kind of self-hate growing up, but even the boys I grew up with were pretty cool about complexion. Some popular boys thought I was cute. The non-popular boys did.
Then here comes adulthood where I start hearing grown men talk about how they want to date redbones and how certain women have the “wrong kind of hair” and stuff like that. This kind of stupidity may have broken me down as a kid. Thank the motherhood that I had a mother who went way out of her way to scoop me up and make me vain before society could get to me. I really wish more brown girls could have, too.
When a younger cousin of mine started talking all this nonsense about how he only likes light-skinned girls and yadda yadda yadda, I read him up and down about field/house slaves, colorism, etc. I wrote about that experience on Medium, but it taught me a valuable lesson in addressing the issue head on.