“You can’t play with us, you’re too brown.” Those were the words of fair-skinned, 4-year-old, Ashley. I wanted to be friends with her so badly. However, according to her, the shade of my skin did not make me an eligible prospect for her friendship or that of any pretty, light-skinned girl in my kindergarten classroom. Before you get bent out of shape about little Ashley, I want to preface that at 4-years-old, her statements were not a reflection of her. Instead, it is important to recognize that this way of thinking was something she was taught. In my experience, children, unless taught otherwise, are a blank slate & are molded by their experiences, as well as, the behaviors & morals of those who have a hand in raising them. Whether we realize it or not, the adults that have the ability to influence children in this way, have a significant influence on the way we view ourselves; especially during impressionable ages. It was not until a few years ago that I was able to acknowledge that skin, regardless of how light or dark it is, is beautiful; equally.
Nonetheless, before I got here, before I could look in the mirror & find beauty; I unfortunately, allowed statements, like those of Ashley’s, to dictate my life. I let the world tell me I was ugly by what they showed me was beautiful. What I saw as beautiful did not look like me. My skin complexion added to so many insecurities that took me years to get over. Until recently, I believed I was too dark to date anyone lighter than I was. I convinced myself that anyone lighter than I was would never be interested in me based off of my skin complexion alone. I would avoid wearing certain colors that made my complexion look darker or brought too much attention to it. So my brown skin coupled with what I believed to be nappy hair, had me doing everything except loving myself, as I was.
Now, all women, including the brown ones, are Coming Out & are showing the world that whether big or small, slim or thick, dark or light, tall or short, we are all worthy. Regardless of what we look like, we now acknowledge all these features make us who we are but do not dictate what it is we can offer the world. Now, I say without a shadow of a doubt that I absolutely love my melanin. I am brown, (N)happy & no longer allow myself to believe that certain things are closed off from me because of my skin complexion. I look in the mirror today & acknowledge my beauty. I look at who I am & I see the roots of my ancestors. I see royalty.
The days of being ashamed about it are long behind me & I apologize to myself for ever feeling that who I was took me out of the race. The epiphany of my understanding is important to convey to those who come after us. We can not fail them by not doing so. We have to empower our little girls to realize that regardless of the message portrayed to them, they are beautiful, smart, strong, fierce, amazing, capable & enough. My hope is that they would never have to learn to love themselves like many of us had to. I hope that we can start to paint their blank slate with so much color it makes them so vibrant that they never feel the need to dull who they are for the likes of someone else. We have to teach them that loving themselves, as they are, is the greatest gift they could ever give themselves; even when the world appears to tell them otherwise. Teach them now that they are perfect as they are & no one will ever be able to dictate who they are in the world.
**I do not own the rights to the song linked to this memoir**