By: Kerdisha St.Louis
I have had just about all I can take with the shadow of colonialism that sill hangs over this beautiful Nature Isle of mine. I can’t for the life of me figure out how we still have this mentality that light skinned women are not as equally held in value as their dark skinned counterparts. A Facebook video that has been circulating showing how rampant harmful skin bleaching is in Jamaica is heartbreaking. What really kills me though is when someone says “you’re pretty…for a dark girl.”
The suggestion that black women aren’t pretty grinds my gears, especially coming from a culture where women go through lengths to make their skin tanner, their butts larger and their lips fuller. All traits of “DARK” African descendant women. What really hurts me is that people don’t understand that constantly hearing that phrase while you’re growing up messes up your mind and you end up taking something that’s actually an insult and think it’s a compliment.
As I got older though I realized that the perpetrators often think that it’s the same as saying to someone, “You’re pretty for your age,” or “You speak good English for a Caribbean native”. It usually comes from a place of preconceived stereotypes. Telling someone that she’s pretty for a/an (insert race here) usually means that you have never found that race of women to be particularly attractive, which is completely fine. Never have I tried to change someone’s mind about who they are attracted to or find pretty, but if you’re trying to use that as a compliment, IT’S NOT, and never will be. So please stop. It doesn’t make the other person feel pretty or flattered — it’s quite the opposite. Instead it leaves them in defense mode, scraping to find the right words to respond to the compliment/insult you just gave them.
Looking back to situations in my life when this has happened to me, all I can remember are feelings of intense uncomfortableness especially as we live in a country that is PREDOMINANTLY black. Isn’t it enough that black women have to deal with having to relax our naturally kinky hair or downplay our naturally luscious curves to be validated by not just those of other races but their own race as well?
The more I think about it, the more I realize how disheartening it is that my own people do not think of their race as attractive. Coming from a background where lighter skinned people were the recipient of better treatment (a result of slavery) I can perhaps understand where this mentality comes from. But in 2017, when our people are supposed to be ‘woke’, this simply does not cut it for me.
Some argue that conversations about diversity are too uncomfortable, yet plenty of people live in discomfort and even fear, based on the racist stereotypes and comments they face every day. Feeling uncomfortable while talking about these issues in an effort to enlighten and progress, therefore, is nothing compared to years of feeling isolated or like an outsider all the time. Talking about diversity can be daunting, but seeing how much of black culture is misappropriated and how much black people are viewed through negative lens shows how imperative it it is that such discussions happen.
I know it’s not possible to change the perceptions or views of everyone, but if we’re willing to put ourselves out there and make the conscious effort to educate people about what they shouldn’t say to others of different races or backgrounds instead of shrugging it off or making excuses from them, change is inevitable.