Colorism and Raising Our Daughters

So, while reading Gabrielle Union’s new book, We’re Going to Need More Wine, she tackles the age-old topic of colorism. For a little background, her mother is of fair skin and her father of darker complexion. Gabrielle obviously resembles her dad. She grew up in predominantly White Pleasanton, California, who one of very few Black people in Pleasanton, did her best to “blend in.” In the book, she leads the chapter with the famous phrase . . oh, you know the phrase, “You’re pretty for a dark-skinned girl.” Ugh! I loathe that phrase!

If you don’t know, colorism is when people within same race are treated differently because of their skin tone. The idea that those whose skin tone is closest to that of European decent or White are somehow superior, prettier, better off and those of darker tones are inferior, ugly, poor, etc.  But! Sometimes there’s a unicorn in the bunch and someone with a darker skin tone is actually “pretty” because being dark-skinned and pretty is apparently a rarity.  (I hope you can sense the sarcasm in my tone).

Don’t get me wrong, colorism isn’t just a “Black thing.” It’s world wide. But, it is our community that gets the most scrutiny and probably has suffered the most hardship because of it.  If it’s not our complexion, it’s our hair, or our eye color; I can go on. It should come as no surprise to know that this oppressed mentality dates back to slavery and this internalized racism that we continue to perpetuate more than four centuries later is old and tired.  Moreover, “You’re pretty for a fill in the blank ” absolutely needs to be left behind once and for all.

And, not that it matters, I’d say my shade of melanin is somewhere in the middle.  But, my baby girl has beautiful brown skin, and although she’s only two, I remind her everyday just how beautiful and smart she is. I know that she will grow up in a world where she will be judged more for her looks and less for her brains, so it is my job as her mother to help build her self-confidence and self-esteem.  People often say to her, “Hey chocolate,” or “Hey, Logan, with your chocolate self,” and I’m not offended. I know it’s mean’t as a compliment in the most positive way, but it’s also that internalized racism that forces us to reference color and beauty together.  My fear is that she will only see herself as “pretty for a dark-skinned girl,”  but it’s important to me that she loves every part of herself from the inside out.

Recently, I had a conversation with my husband about colorism and what obstacles Logan may face when she gets older, especially because of her skin tone. I told him we have to make sure that she knows that she is worthy because of WHO she is not INSPITE of. Do you know he looked at me like I was just making this all up? He himself who prefers a lighter-skinned woman.  And I’m not judging him, but I found it necessary to educate him, so that we can educate our children together.

So, let’s talk. What are your thoughts on colorism? Have you ever experienced disparity or preferential treatment within our community because of your skin tone? How do you encourage and teach your children, especially daughters, to love themselves in a society where they are judged by the very people who look just like them?

Listen, I love me some melanin! And, I been working my ass off to love every inch of me (including these extra rolls, Jesus) so that I can be the best example for my daughter. I want to believe that as she gets older, colorism will be a thing  of the past that she will never have to worry about, but we all know that’s not going to happen, no time soon anyway. Much like Gabrielle Union, I worry that Logan may grow up wishing she looked more like me and less like her dad.  I hope that she never tries to “blend in.” Instead, I want her to stand out and be proud of who she is! I want her to embrace the melanin that she’s been so blessed with and not allow colorism to weigh her down, because who she is is so much deeper than the color she sees in the mirror.

💜 Tiarra

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