As I write this letter to myself reflecting on my days growing up, I’m sorry I doubted myself. I made up in my mind that I was, indeed, ugly. . . Dear Middle School Me:
Letter to the Ball-Head Dark Skin Girl,
Don’t turn the lights out. They might lose you. No one is going to see you. But when the lights are on, they still don’t see you. Chin up. It’s only words. It doesn’t matter what others say about you because you are beautiful in your skin.
“Ball-head, skally wag, ain’t got no hair in the back.”
Kids are going to be kids. Let them say whatever, as long as they not putting their hands on you, it’s fine. I’m serious, you’re going to be okay. You’ll be going to high school soon and no one will care if you’re dark skinned or not. Middle school kids have nothing else better to do but to talk about people.
“You still ball-head under those micro braids.”
I guess I was wrong. High school was no different. He said he only liked light skin girls. Forget him! There’s somebody else out there for you. Oh, I forgot that he doesn’t date dark skin girls either. Maybe if you start wearing bright colors, they’ll start to notice you. Even your friends will begin to think that you’re beautiful and they’ll stop drawing attention to your dark skin.
“We can have sex but, I couldn’t make you my girl or anything. You not my type.”
You can’t get rid of your skin, girl. Taking extra hot and extra long showers won’t make some of your color come off. Be smarter than that. Okay, this is the last night you’re going to cry about it.
I know it’s hard to get out of bed, but you must go to school. Just don’t look in the mirror while you’re getting ready. You don’t wanna keep looking at yourself. You see the darkness that others see. You feel the darkness inside. But you must get up and go to school. No need to tell anyone how you feel, they don’t care. They’ll just tell you again that what people say doesn’t matter. It does matter, though. You didn’t ask for this skin. You didn’t choose to be dark. You question why God made you this way. That’s when you stopped smiling.
“Nah, she too black"
As I write this letter to myself reflecting on my days growing up, I’m sorry I doubted myself. I made up in my mind that I was, indeed, ugly. I decided that I wasn’t good enough for anyone because I was dark skin and didn’t have much else to show for myself. I’m not sure where I lost my sense of self-worth in the process, but I found it.
I often hear people say that talking about colorism as Black people (especially as Black women) is adding more divide in the Black community. In actuality, continuing to sit in the shadows and insist that it isn’t an issue is the thing that keeps us divided. Rooted in white supremacy, the color complex is no is secret in our culture. From the time we were brought to this country, our oppressor separated us by light and dark and it has followed us through centuries.
Many of the images we see of Black women in leading roles often exclude those who are dark skinned. We live in a society where Zoe Saldana gets to play Nina Simone in a movie and the show grown-ish doesn’t have one leading dark skinned woman. We, as black women, come in many shades and that’s what makes us unique, but let’s not forget that representation matters. It mattered to me when I was growing up trying to stay out of the sun in the summer time with fear that I would get darker. It matters to my 13-year-old niece who is now going through the same emotions about her skin. It matters to the young girls who look up to the Lupidas and the Violas and the Beyoncés.
I remember the girl. I was the girl…and I want that girl to know, she is beautiful in her own skin. - I love you
Tristen is a 28-year-old Black woman working professionally in higher education and finding ways to navigate through life. Adjust Yo’ Crown is a space to be real and open about various aspects of life and what is happening in the world. It is a space where Blackness is celebrated and unfiltered.
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