For the last few months, I’ve been bombarded with tons of articles, research, and personal encounters with the social issues of black women. I took all that information, and decided to use it to write a personal letter to black women. I’m hoping to encourage us as whole, and possibly change the way we perceive some of our issues.
I want to begin with why I named this article Love Thy Self. The second commandment is to love your neighbor as you love yourself. This is the simplest, yet most misunderstood commandment of them all. To love yourself as you love your neighbor is a simile. To do something like or as you do something means that those things should be the same, equal, or at least similar. To love thy neighbor as you love thy self means that the love you have for someone else and for yourself should be the same. Not less, not more- the same.
Commandment One: Love Thy Skin Tone
For a very long time, black beauty has been largely about skin tone. When I was a little girl, I wanted to be light skinned. It began when I noticed the light skinned girl in my first grade class got a lot of attention from other classmates– and even the teacher. She was always so well liked, even though she was constantly disruptive to the class. She was always talking, always giggling, and always out of her seat, but she never really got in trouble for it. She would get warned, but she would never get sent to the office or anything. I couldn’t figure out why. Then I looked around the room, and noticed that she was the only light skinned person in the class.
Fortunately for me, I grew out of wanting to be light skinned very soon afterwards. But many girls in the black community continue to feel resentful toward light skinned women for a large portion of their life. For most black women, being light skinned is not strictly about beauty. It’s actually rooted in survival. Back in the slave days, if you were light skinned, you got better housing, you got to sleep inside instead of outside, you got to do indoor work instead of outdoor work, you got better food, you got to use better bathrooms, you got to go to events where only whites were allowed. They used to have this “paper bag rule” where you were forbidden to enter an event if you were darker than a paper bag.
Being light skinned didn’t mean you were beautiful, it meant you could live a more comfortable lifestyle. It was about survival. Take a look at black history. The first black this, the first black that. What shade of black are they? Many of them are light skinned. Even now, our first black president is a light skinned, bi-racial man. He is just as black as he is white. Many of the black people in our country who have had the most success are in fact light skinned blacks. Obviously, we still have an unspoken use of the paper bag rule.
Because of this, many of us want to be light skinned for acceptance, for approval, for a chance to make it in this country-not because we want to be beautiful.
Think of some famous black models. What shade are they? They are not light skinned! Isn’t that great? Alek Wek is dark skinned, Jessica White is dark skinned, Tyra Banks is brown skinned, Naomi Campbell is dark skinned. The most famous, most beautiful black models are not light skinned women!
I used the example of models because models are always classified as world’s most beautiful people. And the world’s most beautiful black models are NOT light skinned! Yeaaa!!
Now, I want to scold you for a minute. How dare you feel so bad about yourself just simply because of your skin tone? Haven’t you done more important things in your life that matters more than skin color? Aren’t you educated, aren’t you a loving person, don’t you have things under your belt that actually matters in the world? Why are you worrying about skin tone if you have done more important things?
Sometimes our priorities are wrong. Sometimes we care about insignificant things, and ignore the important things. Light skin tone does help in this country. That is a known fact. But even if you aren’t light skinned, you can still make it! Is Condoleezza Rice light skinned? Is Gabriel Union light skinned? Is Janet Jackson light skinned? Is Oprah Winfrey light skinned? Is Whitney Houston light skinned?
If you want to make it in this country, you need to do a lot of hard work and have a lot of drive. Even if you are dark skinned, you can make it. Don’t ever let anyone or any circumstance make you think that you are less worthy just because you have a certain skin tone, a certain amount of money, or live in a certain neighborhood. You have to prove yourself to people. Show them that you are worthy. Show them that you can do it. If we want these prejudices to change, we have to have enough will power to prove them to be wrong.
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