Among the painful burdens Black women continue to bear on a daily basis is the devastating, seemingly insurmountable divide of colorism. Dating back to slavery, the sinister byproduct of racism has traversed centuries, manifesting in such an awful way that the darker you are, the worse off your experience with discrimination is likely to be.
As a dark-skinned woman who has been blessed to live in and travel to different parts of the world, my experiences have shaped my opinion on the subject; I cannot claim to speak for every dark-skinned woman in the world. Everyone’s experiences with race are different and this is why the topic remains among the most difficult to speak about. But what I can speak to is what I have experienced, what I have witnessed, and what I have been told. The following are secret struggles that many dark-skinned women experience:
1. Loving the skin you’re in will be an everyday journey, rather than a big life-changing moment.
Many dark-skinned girls get made fun of right from childhood. Imagine the kind of psychological track that puts a child on in life. I will say in my case I was very lucky because I had good parents and a good family and that provided the basis for seeing myself as I do now. But that still did not take care of the pains that I dealth with in childhood and especially the teenage years. It is not unusual for dark skinned Black women who go through much of their adulthood feeling insecure and insignificant in the very skin they occupy.
People want to believe that there is some magical healing moment where the insecurity disappears and you never hear from it again. But life doesn’t work like that. The truth is, I still get insecure from time to time. And it can be in little moments that you have to laugh off like almost always needing the camera flash. Or slightly bigger moments like wondering why your representations on television often seem so few and far between.
There is no grand magical moment that healing will just happen to you. You have to first make the decision to be free from the shackling mentality that can eat you alive. And when you make that decision, you commit to it. And you might still fail in some moments. But confidence and acceptance becomes your daily practice when you decide to commit to this as a matter of your outlook on life.
2. Some people will always find you ugly because of your skin and there’s just nothing you can do about that.
It would be a lie to say that I’ve never wished I was “lighter.” When the world’s messages to dark girls across the world is that lighter is better, you’re going to be affected by it in some shape or form. While I actively and absolutely detest anything to do with skin lightening products, do I understand why some women turn to it? Yes, I do. When women are being taught that their value is in their physical appearance must fit in a particular box, then of course they’re going to try their damn hardest to fit in that box.
In a perfect world, beauty would be as diverse as humanity is. But that perfect world does not exist yet; although we try to resist and redefine what beauty is and isn’t. The reality you have to deal with is that some people, and yes including Black people, are going to find you ugly solely because of your skin. And there is nothing you can do about that.
What is so lost on many of us is that physical beauty isn’t everything. And this is true regardless of how you choose to define it. The questions I asked that changed my perspective and continue to change my perspective are the following: So what? So what if someone thinks you’re ugly? Does it take anything away from who you are? Does it affect your ability to be kind, to be intelligent, to do good work, to be a good person, and to love and be loved? No? Oh, it doesn’t. Well, there you go.
3. Having to be your own heroine, your own confidante, and maybe even that one “confident” dark-skinned Black woman who young girls can look up to.
Depending on your experiences and the communities and people you engage, you may or may not be around a lot of other dark-skinned women. A lot of the time, it certainly does not feel that way. And it’s not always easy to explain how you feel to other people who do not share the same perspective as you do. They can’t. Because of their experiences and exposure.
When it comes to how you feel about who you are, no one can love you and save you in that way; only you can can do that for yourself. And indeed that might mean learning to be your own heroine. Learning to advocate for your own representation and beauty and diversity; learning to listen to your hurts and heal your own pains.
Don’t fake it till you make it – confront those insecurities point-blank. Give yourself the freedom to cry and bemoan that the world is unfair. But then you must challenge yourself too, to see yourself as you deserve to be seen. And maybe just maybe in doing so, you will realize that just by your existence, by the way you have chosen to hold your head high and own the skin that God gave you, you will teach little dark-skin girls to be free from the shackles of colorism that would have affected them too. And wouldn’t that be a beautiful thing?