“Come inside from all that sun before you get too dark.”
“You’re pretty for a dark skinned girl.”
How many of us have heard that numerous times before we were even 10 years old? Micro-aggressions about skin tone and complexion uttered by even the most loving of family members and friends. I, malady patient as a 10-year-old girl, knew that I’d never heard these things said to my fairer colored cousins. They were always “striking” or “stunning,” and me?
I was pretty for a dark skinned girl.
As much as I’m 100% positive that my own mother meant no harm, her need to point out certain features of mine to explain my beauty despite my skin tone put me into a state of confusion. Her off handed comments meant reassure fell flat, leaving me wondering if she on some level had hoped that I looked more like her and less than my darker skinned father.
If I was pretty because of my features, If I didn’t have them- what would I be?
Around this time, I began struggling with hyperpigmentation on the joints. My grandmother then introduced me to skin lightening cream for the darkened spots due to the hyperpigmentation. I was 10-years-old with a cream that was promising to make my skin lighter and I was intrigued. I dreamed of what life would be like if I was a lighter skinned girl, how people would view and treat me. I had illusions of being light and finally desirable without the “for a dark skinned girl.”
With this illusion firmly clasped in the small plastic jar in my hand, I went forward and never missed a day. In addition to the dark spots, I’d apply the cream to my hands, arms, face. Months went by and it seemed like my dark spots were only getting darker as if to taunt me. I was miserable.
I didn’t want to be dark.
I felt too dark. Now middle school aged, I felt the preferential treatment towards lighter girls in my predominantly Eurocentric / fairer skinned place of learning. I hated it. I cursed my father and his genetics for being dominant and making me dark like him instead of being light like my mom. I cursed my mom for Just Not Getting It, tearfully yelling at her that she would never understand how it feels and how I’m perceived/ treated for being a darker skinned girl.
She’d never understand the pain of being considered undesirable.
I didn’t find peace until I attended a school where the majority looked like me, but I noted the almost reverential fascination with lighter skin tones, the most damaging punchline being light skin vs dark skin; ultimately grouping habits, looks and everything else under the sun into a weird sort of ranking system. So I started researching.
Website afrizap.com mentions, “Among African countries, lightening products are most popular in Nigeria – according to a report, over 75% of Nigerian women use them. Following Nigeria is Togo with 59%, South Africa with 35%, and Mali with 25%. The global concept of beauty in the 21st century tends to be dominated by eurocentric standards, which includes having a fair complexion. In this context, skin lightening products are appealing and has become a very profitable business.” In addition to being profitable, it’s also dangerous. Many of the ingredients found in these bleaching creams and solutions have been banned in many African countries for being harmful to the skin and negative effects for prolonged exposure and use. But still, for the hope of being better accepted, people continue.
Skin bleaching has even wound its way into Hollywood, with many celebrities denying that they are bleaching, but appearing notably lighter. One of the most obvious cases being rapper Lil Kim, who adamantly denies skin bleaching and instead blaming her makeup. Also of note is Azealia Banks, another darker skinned female rapper, who has actually gone so far to actually be selling bleaching kits online. Many Reggae and Dancehall artists have made skin bleaching a social norm, something on trend to do. The song “Cake Soap” by Vybz Kartel, a Dancehall artist who has skin bleached, documented his experience, noting that the ladies all were more interested when he appeared to be lighter.
So why do we romanticize one skin tone over the other? Going to harmful and life threatening means to be something that genetically isn’t written for us? When does one wake up and realize that they are beautiful, not for being lighter or darker, but being beautiful for being human and dope in their own unique way?
Written by Aubri Elle
2016 has come to a triumphant end and as 2017 settles in, symptoms I’ve decided to do things a little different and focus on the following:
1. 5 things I’m looking forward to in 2017
Having something to look forward to will bring happiness into your life well before the event actually takes place – in fact, sometimes the happiness in anticipation is greater than the happiness actually experienced in the moment. Everyone should be able to see at least a few fun things scheduled over the following weeks or months in their calendars, it gives hope for a brighter future and enhances your wellbeing by giving an atmosphere of growth.
2. 5 things you’d like to experience in 2017
Instead of writing down all the things you feel like you should be doing, focus on your experiences – this way you’re working on a number of achievements that you’d like to accomplish as well as broadening your life experience and making your year as enjoyable as you would like.
3. Envision yourself in a years time
Imagine yourself this time next year – reflecting on your eventful year; imagine all the things you’d like to say you’ve achieved, what shaped you and what made the year so special – meditate on these thoughts and act accordingly. Here are some great ideas from that I’ve taken from my Happiness Planner:
4. Make small life adjustments instead of major life changes
Get the drift?
5. Make a Vision Board
Visualisation is one of the most powerful mind exercises you can do. Creating a sacred space that displays what you want actually does bring it to life – when you create a vision board and place it in a space where you see it often, you essentially end up doing short visualisation exercises throughout the day. After reflecting on the past year and visualising your life in the future, you now should have more clarity about exactly what you want to achieve in 2017. You should feel more focused and determined now that you have identified exactly what you want to happen and what you will do to make those things happen!
Don’t feel discouraged, let go of expectations, be in control of your life and guide yourself through the New Year with love and light! Making goals is important for your self-development; and it’s just as important to make them realistic, specific and measurable, that way, nothing can stop you. Make this New Year yours!
Have you ever experienced this? You’re at a party, cost and you and your best friends are all having a great time. Maybe you’re a little tipsy, viagra dosage maybe you’ve been dancing like crazy for an hour and half, or maybe it’s 2:30 AM and your friends are ready to turn in. But just like always, someone said they were hungry, and all 14 of you end up crammed in two booths at a McDonald’s in downtown San Francisco. While your friends are ordering 20+ McNuggets, you’re trying not to cringe thinking about all the calories a small fry.
Maybe you’re the first person to sit down at the booth, telling everyone to go ahead and order because “you’ll save the spot for them” (because you definitely don’t want to wait in line and buy food). Or maybe your drunk friend roped you into ordering and now you’re trying to explain to the staff that you need your order of “just water!” to come in the drink cup and not from a bottle (so you can tell your friend’s it’s just Sprite). If your friends are anything like my friends, they’ve noticed that you haven’t bought any food and are trying to offer you their nuggets and burgers–you might eat one to appease them but deep down you feel so guilty, and maybe even…
That’s the way I felt whenever my friends would force me to eat. I resented them. I hated going out to parties, and I hated going to the club, because I knew that no matter what, someone would get the munchies and the whole embarrassing process would begin all over again. There would be questions, there would be frowny faces pretending to care, and worst of all, I’d have to eat some shitty food to get them to shut up. I even hated going home for the holidays–I spent as much of Thanksgiving and Christmas as possible away from the carby-fatty-sugary line of food that dominated our potluck.
Disordered eating runs on a spectrum. There was no point in my life where I said to myself, “I must be bulimic now”, but I knew I had disordered eating habits for quite some time. So many people experience disordered eating, but many don’t even realise that their habits are problematic. Add this to the fact that in communities of color, eating disorders aren’t recognized or accepted and you have a recipe for disaster. Add this to the fact that people of color, queer people, and transgender and genderqueer folk are at a higher risk for eating disorders, and you have the disaster itself.
This article is part 1 of a three part series I wish someone had given to me when I was struggling. What qualifies as disordered eating? Do black people get eating disorders? How do I talk to my family and friends about this? Do I even have a problem? Why do celebrities get magazine features for extreme diets, but I get criticized by my friends and family–even hospitalized? What is even going on? Below are some symptoms, warning signs, and side effects of disordered eating. You may have some, or you may have all–maybe you have none, but you know a friend who does. Part 1 is just about recognizing the problem. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet me @jessicaellenn –and stay tuned for part 2, where we consider eating disorders and minority America. #StopGlamorizingED
Written by Jess E.S