Because It Matters

Open quote.

Black WOMAN, stop waiting for social media to tell you when to love yourself. Stop making your color a trend. It’s happened before, it’s happening again. #TeamNatural? #TeamMelanin?

So over all the years, you only notice your beautiful pigmentation now? It’s only relevant now? It’s a shame that self-love or rather just acceptance is being commercialized this much…it’s a pity. This is not empowerment, this is hypocrisy. I’m not here for it.

End quote.

I want to start off by saying that the author of this quote is a beautiful black woman whom I do not know personally. I have absolutely no intention to bash or disrespect another beautiful black woman. That is not the intention of this post. She is very much entitled to her opinion, and I must admit that I understand what she is saying. The intention is also not to single her out specifically as I am sure others agree and share her sentiments. However, I would like to add another premise…

Self-Love

Self-Love. Self-Esteem. Self-Confidence. These terms all begin with the word “self.” However, I think when examined closely we realize that many times the factors that affect these terms are not always internal (me), but external (they). What contributes to how we see ourselves, value ourselves, treat ourselves…on and on? This is a discussion by itself. We can look at personality and the fact that there are strong and resilient personality types while there are also personality types that are less resilient and less dominant. There are persons, like myself and probably the author of the above-mentioned quote, who define themselves for themselves. However, a large number of us are not there yet. Many times the things that end up shaping our self-view are the views or opinions of others, and even the media.

Now before you are quick to write this off as being “weak,” let’s all be very honest with ourselves. How many times have the comments, stares or maybe lack thereof from persons we love or value affected the way we feel about a dress that we have on, or lipstick or hairstyle or shoes we wear?? How many people have been affected by the comments they heard growing up as children? How many of us have been told we were “pretty for a dark skin girl” or asked why we are so “black” or told that we should “come out of the sun.” We may think that these issues (racism, colorism) are limited to larger countries or nations, but in truth they are in our own Caribbean backyard. I know even to this day I experience issues of colorism within my own race. In fact let’s address the elephant in the room, shall we…

Colorism

Light skin…dark skin…and fight!

It’s been that way since we can remember. In fact, we can most likely date it back to slavery. The remnants linger today…after effects…mental slavery. When we look at the black diaspora we notice trends in the associations that people have concerning various skin tones. Research shows that people subconsciously experience feelings of fear when faced with a darker skinned person that a lighter skinned person. What? Yes. Research. To bring the findings closer to home, we see preconceived notions within the black community that lighter skinned women are deemed more “lady-like” or “wifey-material” while darker skinned women are associated more with “lust” and “ratchet-ness.” Need I continue…

Blackness and Love

If you look across races with respect to love you will note something very interesting…

White men overwhelmingly prefer white women. Asian men overwhelmingly prefer Asian women. Hispanic men…I don’t think overwhelmingly is a strong enough word lol…but they love them some Hispanic women. Now we come to the black man and we see something a bit different. A large number of black men love and appreciate black women (thank God for you). However, a staggering amount is vehemently adamant about not dating or marrying a black woman. Why? Have you ever asked why?

If you look at media…yes media…dating back to 1915 with the movie “The Birth of a Nation,” you will notice the depiction of black women in media. Black women were made to be dominant, emasculating, independent and strong. Sound familiar? Sounds a little something like what black women are taught and encouraged to be like today. Now there is nothing wrong with being strong (you can be feminine and strong). However, when you abandon your uniquely feminine qualities to become more masculine, where does this leave our black men? In that same film, black men were depicted as stupid, frightened, subservient and lacked self-respect. This is exactly the image that black men (in particular) are running from today. Who are they running from? In large, they are running from the inflictors of those sentiments…which according to films like the birth of a nation is who?…the black woman.

Race and Love

If you look across races, you will see the following. White men are open to dating white women, Asian women and Hispanic women. Asian men are open to dating white women, Asian women and Hispanic women. Black men are open to dating white, Asian and Hispanic women as well. Hispanic men are open to dating outside their race as well…you see the trend. Who is willing to date the black woman? Now don’t get me wrong. There are some non-black men who are open to dating black women. But when you compare those numbers to the number of men willing to date women of other races (excluding black), you see the difference. When you compare the black woman to women of other races in terms of desirability among men of all races, there is a visible disparity. A substantial amount of men of various races are willing to date women of the white, Asian and Hispanic race. However, in comparison, a handful is willing to date black women. Why? My opinion is in large part, the media.

I say all of this to say the commercialization of skin, and even to an extent hair, is necessary. Surprisingly, I did not touch on hair in this article as much as race, but I won’t leave it out. Hair is a huge part of how beauty, especially a woman’s beauty, is perceived. So let’s talk hair, shall we?

Hair

Growing up I was very interested in modelling. As a result, I followed (by followed I mean kept up with) models. Of course, as a little girl my favorites were the ones who looked like me…and by looked like me I mean “black.” I loved Tyra Banks, for example. I remember hearing her and other black models state during interviews that they had a hard time getting jobs. Sometimes the main problem wasn’t even their skin (as the doors were beginning to open for “models of color”), but their hair. The problem was that many of the hairstylists during those times had no idea what to do with “our hair.” So they would lose opportunities, gigs, jobs or whatever you want to call it. When I read or hear things like this, it is truly disheartening to me. While I am all for self-motivation and self-love and self-definition, I recognize the other end of the coin, which is… “That which is visible is recognized.” If you are able to see yourself in that which is labeled “beautiful,” then your love for self increases.

#TeamMelanin #TeamNatural…why commercialize it? Why rock T-shirts like the ones seen below?

 

Because it matters…

It matters that not just black women realize (yes some of us for the first time), but that all men and women recognize and acknowledge that black women are beautiful. This, whether we are light skin, dark skinned or something in between. This, whether we are natural, relaxed or anything in between (whatever that is lol).

Why commercialize it? Because media is, has been and always will be a powerful tool. It is a movement, in my humble opinion. It should continue to be a movement, in my opinion. That is until being black is recognized as beautiful across cities, states, countries and continents and across professions and across races, ethnicities and creeds and across relationships, friendships and love.

As a Naturalista, I honestly can say that I look forward to the day when natural hair is no longer a movement…or when it is no longer a big deal. That is the whole point! But the fact that it is even considered a movement by some is because it is not mainstream. Until it becomes mainstream the fight must continue. Until there is equality and acceptance, the movement should press on. Because there are little girls who want to see themselves represented in magazines. There are little girls and even grown women who want to see themselves represented on television.

So I guess I am pro #TeamMelanin and pro #TeamNatural

I know I was able to maintain my self-worth and my self-esteem although I heard comments like I’m pretty for a dark skin girl; and although I was teased when I was younger about my skin being burnt and my hair being picky and unable to grow. But I know many women who were more severely affected. I know many women who feel empowered and who feel a sense of sisterhood because of the unique movements mentioned above. It’s okay to disagree, but don’t knock it for those who have become empowered. For the friendships that have been created and the opportunities, doors and even businesses that are NOW beginning to open for so many…let’s acknowledge it. Let’s add fire to this flame.

Props to the women who already know that they are all that and a bag of chips!! But everybody should know. Why? Because it affects us all…our opportunities…our choices…our world…

…and because it DOES matter.

 

Interesting Reads:

Additional Sources on Colorism:

http://newsone.com/2000618/light-skin-vs-dark-skin/

http://www.finalcall.com/artman/publish/Perspectives_1/article_101437.shtml

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4365794/

http://racerelations.about.com/od/understandingrac1/a/What-Is-Colorism.htm

 

Additional Sources on Natural Hair:

http://www.dazeddigital.com/artsandculture/article/30536/1/the-problems-with-the-natural-hair-movement

http://www.clutchmagonline.com/2016/09/have-we-allowed-biracial-women-to-hijack-the-natural-hair-movement/

http://www.curlcentric.com/i-hate-the-natural-hair-movement/

http://madamenoire.com/604285/natural-hair-movement-and-types/

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