I grew up pretty color blind as a child. My father is light skinned and my mother is darker brown skinned. My dad always loved all colors so it was normal for me to see Black people love and appreciate all ethnicities as well as their own. My grandma encouraged us to welcome all people of all colors in our circles and romantic relationships, so I was used to diversity but that isn’t how most people are raised. I wasn’t aware that people could be treated differently because their skin contained more melanin than others. I was really unaware of the things going on right in front of me until I got older and analyzed why things were the way they were.
When I was younger, my sisters and I would pillowfight to mask out hidden anger since fighting wasnt allowed in my household. I have two banana skinned sisters and a deep espresso skinned sister. The older banana skinned sister would always subconsciously choose to pair up with the other banana skinned sister against me and my espresso sister. I’m sure that she didn’t like our darker sister but not just because of her skin tone. It was probably because she wanted to be united with someone who looked like her. I was the strongest for a while so I made sure to be the best champion my little sister had. But I always made sure to win for my darker sister because they weren’t gonna double team my baby.
My espresso skinned baby sister also had a hard time in my family because she was predicted to be a boy but she was the fourth girl and my family was tired of girls by then. Or that’s what they said. My grandmother told me years later that the older adults in my family were disappointed that she came out dark skinned. They slowly stopped visiting and my two grandmothers had to check everyone,even my own mother. I couldn’t believe that this happened in my own family. I was shocked and sickened at the behavior of fully grown adults.
In my public elementary school and most of my life, I was not the lightest but definitely far from the darkest person in any room. One of my best friends, Ariana, was a skinny, light skinned, gray eyed girl. She and I were best friends because all the boys wanted to date us. It was not just because we were ‘prettier’, but because we happened to be lighter than the rest of the girls. At one point, me and Ariana had a crush on the same two guys, Jerome and Ezekiel. Jerome was a green-eyed dark-brown skin and Ezekiel was another banana skin. I remember Jerome not rejecting me directly but turning all his attention toward Ariana who turned out to be his cousin when they saw each other at a family reunion. On the bus coming from a field trip, one of my friends accidentally told Ezekiel I liked him and he looked me dead in my face and said “I don’t like you. I like lightskins”. My heart stopped. Rejection was new to me but I played it off by saying “it’s fine. I didn’t like you, I liked your friend (some boy named Marcus or something) anyway.” which was an awful decision because later that year I had to reject Marcus multiple times. It was then that I began to realize we are separated by our color in our own communities.
Years later, I volunteered at an arts camp. It was pretty diverse considering the price of the camp. I was the dance assistant and we had a break during one of our classes. I was standing next to a girl who was around 12 years old. She was taller than me, darker than me and carried more weight than I did. I overheard some of the boys in her group making fun of her and other girls who were darker and larger than the societal norm. She looked at me and said, “You’re so pretty. I wish I was pretty like you.” I thanked her but I told her that she was beautiful the way she was because everyone has a different beauty like flowers. Flowers come in all different shapes and sizes and all of them are beautiful. I told her she didn’t want to be like me but she stopped me, complaining about her weight and her skin tone. I was surprised at the direct comments about her appearance. We looked in the mirror and her group had to move on to the next activity but before she left,I managed to tell her that she was beautiful no matter what anyone else thought.
As I got older, I realized that I too had become colorist in a way. I would walk down the street and see a Black person with light skin and do a double take right away, giving the man the attribute of “FINE” before I even got a good look at him. I began to notice this and trained myself to see features and not skin color as attractive and I’m teaching some of my family members to do the same.
Honestly, I get confused on how attractive I really am because I know a lot of guys will automatically take a liking towards me simply because I’m lighter than them. I just have to be honest with myself and guys.
I believe that skin color can’t make someone attractive or unattractive. I believe that society have made skin color a preference when it shouldn’t be. I think we all have to remind ourselves that we do live in a world where lighter skin and European features are favored and have become the standard of beauty. We have been programmed to think this way to the point of thinking its our own preferences when it’s society’s preferences. I think checking ourselves will help internalized colorism even though ultimately it takes restructuring our entire world and society.