Pretty For a Black Girl

The topic I’m about to go into has affected me my entire life, but I have never fully opened my eyes to it until the impact it’s had on me recently. Now every time I post something like this I try to make a little disclaimer that I’m in no way an expert I just come from my heart and how I see things. I know with this particular topic affects each person differently. For some it’s a harder subject and are more passionate about it and for others they may be blind to it like I probably was.
I’m going to give a little background on myself  before I dive into how colorism pretty much slapped me in the face this year (and probably has  several times along the way) especially when it comes to the opposite sex.
Anyone who knows me knows that I identify with anything nerdy, fangirl, rock, and pretty much anything stereotypically labeled as “white girl behavior” (not my words) so naturally when it came to dating I gravitated to white men. I just had more in common with them because of my interests and black men didn’t really want me unless it was on a physical level. I won’t go into my whole dating history because I’ve touched on that in past posts and will probably refer to it in the future. When I moved to Chicago in 2008 my mind exploded. I was 25 at the time and in all my life I had never come across more than two or three black people who were like me. Through these artsy kids at Columbia College in Chicago I became introduced to artists like Kid Cudi, Childish Gambino, etc and my eyes opened even further that more people like me existed and I felt at home. Even though I was surrounded by all these hipster black kids (blipsters) I felt inadequate. I didn’t feel like I could compare. I went from feeling inadequate to just plain embarrassed. Here I am at 25 and in my adult life I’d never had a relationship with a black man. So when I should I have been opening up to these people who were just like me I sort of pulled back even further for fear of making a fool of myself in a relationship. Hell there’s one guy that I’m 90% sure could’ve been the one, but my fears made me friendzone him almost immediately (still kicking myself on that one). Don’t ask me why I had/have these fears, but they’re there and are very real.
By December 2012 I was back in Dayton and things had changed a bit here as far as culture goes or perhaps I see things differently, but it will never be on Chicago’s level. Now let’s fast forward to 2014. I flipped like a light switch is how I would explain it. I can only see myself with a black man. It’s not saying that I would never date outside my race again, because the color of someone’s skin is not a requirement for me when it comes to a soulmate. I’m not sure if it’s because there’s been so much death when it comes to black men, for instance this summer started off with Eric Garner, then my 16 year old cousin was murdered, then Michael Brown, and then John Crawford among a long list of others. I felt like I had been putting black men off  to the side and it was for some stupid fear that was all in my head. I’m mad at myself that I hadn’t been showing my black men love because of that, but I do know that when I look at my future I see a black man.
I’ve taken to social media (mainly Twitter) and various dating sites to find a potential mate or at least just to put myself out there. As a member of Match for several years I hardly get any messages at all and when I do it’s always a creepy dude in their 50s (ugh), but when I joined Black People Meet I probably got 20 messages the first day. I found one that really caught my eye (and of course he’s in Chicago) and we started (still are) talking. Through him I heard the term “redbones” for the first time. I was offended at first because it sounds like a derogatory term for a Native American. From a friend I learned it pretty much meant “light skinned woman” and depends on who you talk to, most people refer to biracial women as “redbones”. The definition didn’t make me any less offended because I see all black people as black and we all come in various beautiful shades. To top it off I never saw myself as “light skinned” and had never been looked at as such. I was mostly put off since there’s a stereotype that lighter women are extremely stuck up. Now we move to Twitter. I  started by following a few very attractive men with a lot of followers and suddenly within a month or so I go from 680 followers to over 1,100 and most of them men. I’ll admit it boosted my ego, then it quickly deflated when I would look at some of these profiles and notice these men doing one of if not all three of these things: 1. All of their #wcw’s, retweets, headers, or overall profiles were full of girls who were light skinned, white, or Latina women with hair down to their butts, 2. Saying they only like “snow bunnies” (white girls) and that black women “ain’t shit”, or 3. Completely ragging on dark skin girls and saying how ugly they are and other awful things. I realized they weren’t interested in anything I had to say (because if I mostly tweet about Doctor Who, Libra stuff, and live tweet shows we obviously had nothing in common), it was mainly my skin tone that appealed to them. When I had several guys mention to me that pretty much what was beautiful about me was my skin color I made a post on FB about how much this shallowness irritated me. I was surprised at the girls who commented and felt like I wasn’t appreciating who I was. The point of my post was if a man tells me he  thinks I’m pretty and the #1 or only thing he says that contributes to said beauty is my complexion then what that tells me is that if I was darker I wouldn’t be considered attractive.
It saddens me because these men most likely don’t get where this mindset comes from. In the days of slavery it’s common knowledge that the darker slaves stayed in the field and the lighter ones were allowed inside. To see other black people apply this logic to their own in this day and age boggles my mind. It breaks my heart when you see absolutely gorgeous dark skinned women who are put down solely on the color of their skin. Netflix recently added the documentary Dark Girls which covers this very topic. After watching this it’s upsetting to know that women are bleaching their skin, straightening their hair, and other extremes to fit this European idea of beauty. We have almost totally abandoned everything that makes us unique and closer to our heritage. I have no idea what has happened to the last few generations, but it’s puzzling to see that in the 70s we were so unified and now we’re back to this horrible divide. I know this beauty standard is shoved down our throats by the media and sometimes from family. Why we haven’t realized that negativity like this is put out there to make us feel bad about ourselves and further divide us is beyond me. Another group of people at fault for colorism is rappers. Lil Wayne made a controversial statement about not liking dark skinned girls and how they’re not pretty, but he’s not the first nor will he be the last to make such a statement. In most rap videos the love interest or random video girls are almost always of a lighter complexion or even Latina. They put out the message that beauty is a lighter skinned woman with long flowing curly hair, a small waist, and a big ass and if you don’t have that then you’re not beautiful. Another rapper notorious for this is Kanye West. A lot of people were upset with the original cover of his “Yeezus” album because of the supposed satanic imagery, but some black women were upset for another reason. He has two white women draped over him and there’s a black woman on the ground with glaring red eyes and a serpent tongue (the white women have red eyes too, but you have to really zoom in to see it). There’s also the rumors, almost from day one, of his obsession with white women and believing that in order to be successful you have to date white or at least close to it (e.g. Kim). It’s said in jest but there’s the saying “Behind every successful black man is a white woman.” We laugh about it, but it’s truly sad for some to believe that in order to make it to the big time this is what it takes.
Because of colorism this is why black women were so overjoyed when Lupita Nyong’o came onto the scene. Here was this absolutely gorgeous, humble, talented, strong dark skinned woman and we cheered and hoped that black people with this light skin vs. dark skin mentality would put it to rest, but it didn’t pan out like we hoped it would. Most were happy to finally see Hollywood fawning over a dark skinned woman, but then black men came in with their ignorant memes and cruel words. Even with her undeniable beauty and grace some black men drug her through dirt.
When it comes down to being confronted by the police, being followed in stores, stop and frisk, and other outrageous prejudice acts we’re all labeled as black no matter what shade we are. If you feel like a cop pulls you over unjustly they’re not going to check what shade you are and use the paper bag test on you. You’re black. Plain and simple. Why is it only us that put ourselves into categories? We’re all in this struggle together. We’ve come a long way, yes, but we have so much further to go and I feel the reason it’s taking longer and isn’t taken as seriously as it should be is because of the friction we cause amongst each other. When the black is beautiful movement came around it wasn’t “Black is beautiful… except you. You’re way too dark.” It meant all shades of black. It was meant for ALL black people to embrace themselves from the lightest of the light to the darkest of the dark. We’re all beautiful.
-Asia Aneka Anderson

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