“…If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its whole life believing that it is stupid.”-Albert Einstein
Whiteness is everywhere and we’ve all picked up on it.
I can’t really say where it all started for me or how it became such a big part of my life, but I can give you some vignettes.
I remember loving my hair at one point. Not even loving it, actually. I just remember not thinking about it. I do remember first grade. I remember that day in first grade when I first saw a friend move her hair out of her face and place it behind her ear. I remember trying to do the same and it not working. I remember thinking “Why can’t I do that?” and somehow managing to notice every other little girl who could put their hair behind their ears. Then I started to notice how easy it was for each one of them to put their hair in a ponytail, a personal struggle I had and still have to this day. I then remembered the countless hair ties that broke with a snap! and immediately felt the pain of the hard bristled brush my mother used to corral my hair into those very hair ties.
I remember 7th grade. I remember two new girls entering the grade. They were black, just like me. But they had light brown skin. They had these beautiful sandy gold locks that they wore with pride (something I hadn’t done since early childhood) everyday. And, most striking to me, they had green eyes-just like the white women I’d seen in magazines. I remember wondering if there was a “better” types of blackness. And if so, why oh why had God left me with the boring brown eyes, the boring brown hair, and dark skin?
I remember 8th grade. I remember calling myself “mixed” and making it my mission to let everyone know that I was mixed. I remember the pure bliss and ecstasy I felt letting anyone who would listen know about every part of me that wasn’t black. I also remember crying at night, feeling sick with the parts of me that were black, wondering why I didn’t have green eyes or “nice” hair.
I tried not to remember 9th grade, when someone told me that I was “so black” for something I’d said afterschool. It was just a comment, right?
10th/11th grade rolled around and I decided to wear my natural hair for the first time in almost a decade. I remember being proud of myself for going a week, then two weeks, then three weeks natural. But, I remember not really feeling beautiful unless I straightened my hair.
I remember telling my internet friends “It’s okay if you call me the n-word as a joke. I don’t really care!”
I remember caring.
I remember being mad at myself for accepting that and allowing people to use such a hateful word to refer to me. Why did I feel this need to be accepted by any white person I came across?
I remember not wanting to demean myself anymore.
Then there was 12th grade. I remember dating a boy whose grandmother hated black people, but cried tears of joy when she saw a picture of me and determined that I was “one of the pretty ones”.
I remember my heart sinking into my stomach after realizing she only thought a black person was worth being respected because of the way she looked.
I remember my heart sinking further down when I realized I once thought this way about myself too.
I remember my best friend and I being taunted by a group of schoolboys dying of laughter because the “black girls were eating fried chicken” for lunch.
I remember being pissed.
I remember hearing them call each other “niggers” as an insult. And I remember telling them to shut up and threatening to shove my fist down their throats if they didn’t.
I got better. I felt better. I was standing up for myself, and I know it wasn’t much, but I felt like I was standing up for my people. MY people. For so long I’d felt so much resentment towards myself because I wasn’t white and tried so hard to distance myself from the very people, my people, who have not only been my biggest supporters, but the biggest promoters of black pride as well.
I’m terribly embarrassed by the amount of self-hate that ate away at my soul for such a large portion of my life. But that self-hate is a mistake that I won’t ever make again. Although I wish I’d always grown up loving my skin, I’m happy to know that I survived the beast that is self loathing. And I know that if I can survive that, I can survive anything life throws my way. I fucking love being black and no picture of some blue eyed, straight haired, girl or some idiot’s slurs or some private school girl’s comments will ever take that away from me.
As for my time in college, I will forever remember being a minority at school. I’ll remember the people who referred to me as “pretty for a black girl”, not “classically beautiful”, and who assumed I was “loose” as a result of the color of my skin. And I will remember so many of the white boys I know who would love to bend a “chocolate” girl over a table, but would never dream of taking her home to their parents because she wouldn’t fit into their image of the perfect American family.
But, most importantly, I’m going to remember how far I’ve come from that girl who idolized whiteness. I’m going to remember how good it feels not taking anyone’s racist/quasi post-racial bullshit. I’m going to remember how great it feels to have brown skin and never get sunburnt. I’m going to remember looking in the mirror everyday and smiling with my full lips. I’m going to remember these crazy, wild, big ass curls on top of my head and how god damn fresh they are. And I will most definitely remember how fucking proud I am, and always will be, to be an unapologetic black woman.