Friday, June 28, 2013

Dark Girls - Part 2

I love reading comments and emails from readers. It gives me an opportunity to read other opinions on matters that are different than my own. After I received a few comments/emails on my last post; I felt the need to say one more thing ... ok, maybe more than one more thing on this matter. The only problem is that this response might not earn me any new friends. But I'm at a point in my life that I really don't need new friends.

First, let me begin by saying that the last thing I wanted to do on this post was to be condescending. Maybe I could have tried to have a not so condescending tone on this issue but it is hard to have sympathy when growing up I was bullied for these beliefs.

It is hard for me to write with sympathy when I can remember like it was yesterday the day a grown woman told me that I would be pretty if I was light skinned. I remember how I felt. I remember that I cried. If I can remember how I felt, how can I do that to someone else? How can I tell a little girl that she would be pretty if ... I can’t. I won’t. I refuse. I will not be the person to make a person feel less than because of how they look.

These are unacceptable beliefs that keep getting passed on and on from generation to generation. And I don't think that me feeling the way I do is naive. What is naive to me is instilling in your children that they are not beautiful because of their skin tone. What is naive is believing that, that is the truth. What is naive is allowing this damage to continue for years and years! When are we going to stand up and not be victims?

Yes, I was lucky that I didn’t get these beliefs instilled in me at home but I was not protected from hearing them at school and by classmates. Not only am I dark but I am African. Admitting in school proudly that I was African was like asking to be made fun of. You wouldn't even believe the "jokes" if I told you. And although, I was one of those that did not accept what others told me I knew/know other African girls who did accept it. They grew up in the same type of home as I did but they chose to bleach their skin. Not because their parents did not tell them their skin color was beautiful (they had) but because their environment told them it wasn't.

Oh and if you think this didn't affect adult women born in Africa who moved to America then you are wrong. They got the same message and they did what they could to fit in. If it meant ruining their skin to appear lighter it was a risk they were willing to take. Have you ever met a person who purposely bleached their skin? I have. It isn't pretty. It looks awful. You wonder, why would any person do that to themselves? The worst part is that because it looks so unnatural you know right away. Individiuals would rather appear sickly than walk proudly in their own skins. If you don't think that's a problem, you might as well stop reading now.

That means that although I can make it my duty to try to protect my future children from these ill beliefs of what beauty is, and instill in them all that I knew growing up, it can still be skewed by their classmates, by their friends, by ADULTS.

And it won’t be their friend’s faults ... it’s their parents; it’s their grandparents; it's their great grandparents, etc. But one day it will be their friend's fault because they will teach their kids.

It’s a cycle. What I am saying and tried to say in my first post is that the cycle needs to end. We have to make it our duties to instill in our children as ADULTS that these beliefs are LIES. That they hold no truth. Why? That way they can teach not only their children but their children can relay the message to their friends. It can't only be my message, or your message, it has to be society's message.

Yes, our parents have a huge impact on how we are raised but I also know that friends and our environment have a huge impact as well.

So I want to be sympathetic but I can’t. I refuse to sit back and say; well it’s all they know. That’s like me saying that racists should get a pass because it is what they know. It is how they were raised, what they were taught to believe. I’m sorry. I think that when we become adults our minds should also grow up. We have to question why we believe the things we do. We can’t wallow in self-doubt and self-hate because it is all we know, because it is what we’ve been told.

To stop being harrassed/teased at school, I could have lighten my skin a long time ago regardless of what my mom told me. Because from elementary to high school "friends" and classmates, and adults told me that my skin was ugly. And time and time again, in the media I see what the world has decided is beauty. And it isn’t me. And many times it isn't you either.

I'm not going to tell the media that it is OK because it is all they know. I'm not going to tell you that it is OK because it is all you know. It isn't what I know, it isn't what I believe, so I'm not going to share that message. I'm going to share the message that YOU are beautiful regardless of what anyone says. YOU are. YOU ARE!

So if you read the post and maybe felt a little angry (with me) that is the reaction you should have felt. It is the reaction I had as a child and now as an adult. It is dead wrong and I’m not sugar-coating it.

So spread the word, I'm beautiful, can't nobody tell me nothing. Or you can say it simply, I am beautiful and no one can tell me I'm wrong. No one.


Kristen said...

I'm so glad you didn't let other peoples opinions on what they thought you should look like get to you. Because you're right, you ARE beautiful!

Every single person out there has gotten a negative comment one way or another about how they look through the years, especially middle school when we're ALL awkward and trying to figure things out (like me, who stupidly wore too light of makeup, blue eyeshadow, and just didn't know how to take care of my hair lol).

It makes me sad to hear how some people let peoples opinions get to them so. I had no idea some girls out there bleach their skin. That's awful. :( But I'm glad you grew up in such an encouraging home. Yes friends and environment make an impact, but so does home life.

Great post!

Nancy said...

Well damn. Why does this make me so emotional? I think of Kenlee and her friends & I hope they won't judge each other & just embrace & lift each other up. Just like you do, my friend.

Law_Fal said...

I'm so happy you shared this. Like I said before I had no idea this was happening everywhere I really was thinking it was a down south thing. It's sad that the cycle keeps continuing and it's even sadder that women are being sucked into believing they have to change themselves to fit in when they really are fine just the way they are. something has really got to give.

Chrissy + Nate said...

Love it! Society/media needs to spread the word/image that we are all beautiful in our own skin, with our own appearance, with our own eyes/lips/ears/nose/hair, etc. It would be a joy to hear little girls say, "I am beautiful because I AM beautiful!" Way to spread the message, lady!

josie renee said...

Wow. It took ALOT of guts to touch on this topic on your blog. So often it's easier to just be superficial but this post is everything. I agree with alot of what you said. I am a dark girl -- my skin is dark brown.... and I LOVE IT! Growing up I didn't really realize that having dark skin was considered a "bad thing" until I heard remarks like "shes pretty for a darkskin girl", etc... and then it wasn't really until I started dating that I saw the impact. While I dated alot of guys (hey -- it was fun!), I noticed that certain type of guys (popular, athletes, etc) weren't interested in me and flocked to the white girls or the girls of lighter complexions. I could've let that eat away at me but I didn't. Why? because my momma raised me with an unbelievable about of self-confidence.

I wrote out my whole diary to say -- part of it is on us as women, and (future) mothers to teach our kids to love ourselves no matter what side of the rainbow we are on. It is also up to us as parents to teach our kids what is acceptable -- colorism is NOT acceptable and will not be allowed in my house. Ian skin is caramel but I am determined to adopt a little chocolate baby for multiple reason including, the desire to instill self-worth and self-confidence in themselves.

thanks for this!

Carolyn said...

LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE. You gave me goosebumps. You are SO RIGHT! Preach it my friend. :)

Mallory said...

I read both your previous post and this one. As a black american, ( I say black vs. African american simply because I can't trace my roots past my grandmother) I never struggled with feeling I was not beautiful simply because of my skin tone. I would like to think this is because I was never surrounded by self hating black people but I know it is partly because I am "paper bag brown".

Sadly, I can remember in the summers people (older family members) making comments like "ohhh girl you need to stay out of the sun, you getting black" (I live in the south...SUMMER DOES NOT PLAY). I loved being outside but I can't lie and say I didn't initially develop a complex about "getting darker" because of the sun. I've always loved the feeling of the sun on my skin and I could lay out at the pool all day in the summer but I do have older family memebers who find this "why would you want to get blacker". I think something we have have to understand is the strength of ideals that are taught be it racism or colorism. I don't get mad at their ignorance...I enlighten and move on. The same goes for my natural hair. My grandmother has made comments like "why does your hair look so nappy today", I know she doesn't mean it to be hurtful she's just lived the majority of her life in a different culture..."nappy" hair to her means something different than "my beautiful chemical free curls". I understand that it takes longer than becoming an adult or becoming educated on an issue to help people change their ideals. I accept that people may never change but because I am the new generation I have the power to shift the paradigm. I walk confidently in my skin and sometimes that makes people uncomfortable and sometimes it causes people to shift their thinking. Either way...I'm me and I love me!

Thanks for your post

Ashley R said...

I don't think there is anything naive about what you said- in fact, I think it is very progressive, eloquently stated and well thought out point of view. Positivity and change is not naive. I am really glad you are speaking out and saying something. Thank you Faith!

NikG said...

I'll respond since I think a lot of this post has to do with my comment on your last post. I, in no way, every questioned or implied that you should see yourself as ANYTHING BUT BEAUTIFUL! You shared your journey and explained how you overcame other ppl's issues with your skin color or hair, which is commendable. But, you didn't sound very empathetic (maybe a better word than "sympathetic") to the other women who may have been through or even still going through this same journey of self-love and self-acceptance. And maybe you are, and it didn't come across that way which is why I made my initial comment. Nothing wrong with dialogue, no?

Kirsten Noelle W said...

you said it faith. i agree.
i definitely think our parents and family members have such a large impact on us and how we feel about ourselves.
you're beautiful.


Brittany said...

This is all SO TRUE...this and your previous post. I know my skin is white, but my skin doesn't define me just like yours doesn't define you. That's the thing: it's only SKIN. It has absolutely NOTHING to do with what's on the inside. I think your thoughts and point-of-view are so wise; you really hit the nail on the head. I'm SO FREAKIN' GLAD that you haven't lightened your skin because it's absolutely gorgeous. And you are gorgeous not just because of your outer appearance (hello, that smile! those eyes! that rockin' figure! k now I just sound creepy...), but because of what's beneath it all. You are such an amazing person! Wish I could get to hang out with you in person...know we'd have such a good time!

Georgina said...

I love this post even more than the first and honestly I love all the Caucasian ladies piping in with their support. Super sweet. Stay up Faith! I'll be trying to spread that message too xo

Nylse said...

1. You beat me to the punch with both of these posts. I saw the documentary and had the same feelings.

2. Perhaps its not only about allowing individuals to define how you feel (which was the more prominent message) but that alot of things happen to those who are darker hued because of other's ignorance. i.e. - while you may feel good about yourself, you would be delusional to think others feel the same way you do and will afford you the same opportunities as them. So when this begins to affect your livelihood, you shouldn't internalize, but some do.

3.Apparently I'm not dark enough to understand the plight of the dark girl - but as someone who never bought in to this message, maybe I don't. Self esteem and confidence are sometimes hard to explain and pass on to others.

4. Ultimately it starts with you, but theres only so much you can control from societal point of view and at that point you have to decide how you will deal with it.

hope this makes sense.

Kay @ Slightly 0bsessed said...

I'm sorry I missed your last post - but I just read it and want to say kudos to you! Good for recognizing your beauty and being vocal about it on your blog. Skin colour is SUCH A WEIRD thing across the globe. In North America being tan is SO popular - there are sprays, wipes, tanning beds and of course hitting the beach - but in Asia, being PALE is the ideal that women gravitate towards (and again, MANY products geared towards making yourself paler). As a pale Asian woman I've gotten MANY negative comments about how I'm SO pasty, and on the flip side, I've gotten a LOT of positive comments about how I'm SO PALE. Sometimes I feel like I'm going to get WHIPLASH from these awkward comments! But all I can be at the end of the day is me...I don't aspire to be tan...or pale...I'm happy in whatever colour my skin is :)

Thanks for this post Faith. It's a great reminder to see the beauty in ourselves and NOT to try to conform to what others try to tell us is beauty.

Katie said...

Oh my, I just love your confidence! My hope is to instill the confidence that I've always lacked, in our daughter! That was she can be kick-ass like you ;)

You are absolutely gorgeous!!

Haddy said...

I don't think in any of your posts regarding the issue you took the time out to contemplate the fact that your own journey toward self love and self worth might be completely different to another's. It is quite disheartening that you go on to negate and deny the feelings darker skin WOC have in regards to their skin color. As a WOC it is quite sad that instead of sending an empowering and supportive message, yours was highly egocentric and resorted to shaming and policing people who have faced insecurity as a result of growing up in a world where most peoples and societies subscribe to European standards of beauty as a consequence of colonialism and imperialism. None of those brave women appeared on the documentray and women who have these feelings deserve to be made to feel bad about their experiences as the effects of racialized colonialism and by extension racism run deeper than physical issues but has manifested dangerously in the collective consciousness of the colonized. You make it clear that you grew up in a home where you were constantly reminded that you were beautiful and even more so because of your skin color. Though your experiences in school may have been different you still had a solid foundation provided at home that enabled you to rise above the jokes and whatnot. A lot of young dark skin girls do not have this foundation and most times they not only get bullied in school for being darkskin but also by FAMILY members including primary care takers. I would know this as I was one of these children. My lighter skin mother often degraded my skin color and this has obviously led to many insecurity issues. However I will be damned if anyone makes me feel bad for feeling certain ways growing up. Of course my experiences led me to educate and empower myself perhaps you didnt have these experiences but it doesnt make anyone who does or did "weak" and most certainly is not their fault. I am a junior in college who stumbled on your blog a while ago and who has grown to love your blog as an African living in America. It is quite disappointing to see you write such a callous and inherently problematic posts on something so sensitive to a lot of WOC. It's also hilarious to see white women agree with you, I guess you are getting the validation you wanted somewhere. Hopefully you can one day learn to support and empower your fellow WOC as opposed to standing on your pedestal shaming and policing.

YeamieWaffles said...

I think it's the worst thing that somebody told you that you would be beautiful if you weren't dark skinned. I mean that's a ridiculous statement to make, you're absolutely gorgeous the way you are! I hope that the schools of today in the last few years have began to become more accepting as mixed marriages have became more common and we have kind of moved into being more accepting. I should hope so at least because that kind of treatment makes me sick, you're beautiful the way you are Faith and the best thing is you know it!

Reminds me recently I was Googling about a footballer/soccer player who happened to be black and stumbled upon this forum where basically people were hurling abuse around about his white girlfriend who was pregnant with his baby. They called her a traitor to their race and all this other stuff but it became quickly apparent that they were absolute idiots, that's the kind of person who mocks somebody for their race is.

Life with J and J said...
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Life with J and J said...

I love this post. It is a touchy subject but unless folks talk about it, it will continue to go on. I once had a woman move from the place I sat down at the train station to "go sit with my (her) kind". It was hurtful but I chose to not let ignorance rule me. I smiled and held the door for her when we were leaving the station. Above my skin color, I am also a Christian and that is what defines me.

Pegster said...

Faith - I love your confidence and the fact that you embraced this topic without fear.

I am an African who moved to America as a teenager, man I got teased for everything under the sun, my accent, smelling bad, being dark, having kinky hair. Really people, how does that define me. America was a rough place to be as a teenager I tell you.

I am so glad that my family was so supportive and reminded me everyday how amazing I was.

Guess what, all that only made me stronger and I hope to instill that sense of self to my future children

eaduran08 said...
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eaduran08 said...

God bless you for writing this post! As a black woman, it is disheartening to me that black people bring each other down. I saw Haddy's response to your comment, and it is sad to me that she made the comment that you are here finding the validation you need from other white women. To Haddy, do you see why Faith had to write this post? It is people like you, who are educated but fail to see how you tear down your black selves and can't find the strength to empower other BLACKS!! At the end of the day, it's about learning from every experience and looking for the TRUTH in what Faith said. We all go through things and in no way did she negate other your mine or experience for that matter, which is quite similar to yours. She is simply saying let us rise above and use common sense to recognize evil. Which has been done to all women, not just black. Faith was defending all women who have gone through this kind of pain, and was empowering US to see how ridiculous it is to believe your self-worth comes from your skin color! Once we believe that was is true about ourselves, is when we can experience true freedom. Great, great post!

Amy said...

It is tough to grow up as a dark skinned back girl from Africa. I got teased mercilessly like you did. If it wasn't for the safe haven I had at home and the constant encouragement and praise from my parent's my self esteem would be pretty low because of societal standards. Thanks God for good parents!

Emmett Katherine said...

I'm reading backwards here so I haven't made it to yesterdays post and let me say i'm intrigued. this was very intense to read and it's something that needs to be discussed.

I'm mixed so sometimes I'm confused as to where I fit into the conversation but I will say this. Growing up the majority of my parents friends were from the Caribbean so I did get to know both of my parents cultural backgrounds. I saw and heard a lot of what you mentioned above about skin tone, but I was told I was lucky I was fair skinned, had fairly loose curls etc and honestly it was so strange and made me feel bad because it's not something I could or my friends could control or change.

obviously it's NOT right but it seems to be so ingrained in the culture, this bs hierarchy that people don't give it second thought to tell people their opinions. kudos to writing this post.

now I'm off to read the post that started this.

Sharon said...

Great post! You are so right. People should never tease, bully, or be mean to anyone because of the way they look. I get bullied at my job for being 'dumb' and 'childlike' and it's really messing up my self confidence. I keep telling myself that I only have to stay working there till October so it's not a big deal.

I envy you and your confidence. I wish I had that. You're a great inspiration to me! You're not just beautiful, you're gorgeous :)

Maria said...

this and your last post could (and should) be published in a magazine...that's how awesome they are. i really admire all you stand for. you're such a beautiful person, faith. your friends and family are lucky to have you!! <3<3<3

Kiki said...

I love your post and i think you couldnt of said it better!!

Emily Gilbert said...

People will always find reason to put other people down to build themselves up. I know how it can warp a young mind (or even an adult mind). I've heard about women bleaching their skin. I always think it's sad when people can't accept the beautiful person God made them be.

Eesh said...

Um, did I misread your last post? Because in no way did I find your tone condescending and thought that you weren't empathetic or sympathetic to women of color. You simply expressed your views and touched on what went on in your household. Perhaps I need to read that post again to find this "condescending tone". But I will say this, everyone's entitled to their own opinions and beliefs.


Sarah said...

LOVE this!!

Mrs. Glam said...

Your last post wasn't condescending. AT ALL. Some readers will choose to misinterpret your post. That's THEIR problem. No clarification was needed for that last, spectacular post. They need to chill out, work on their own issues, and have some seats.

The commenters that took issue with your last post need therapy to work through their problems. It's obvious that they are still very hurt because no one in their house validated their beauty. As individuals, and especially once we are adults, we are responsible for our OWN happiness. If they cannot read a post about someone that did not receive disparaging remarks at home without catching feelings, then their issues go far beyond anything that can be remedied through blog reading.