I wasn’t gonna blog about this. But I also wasn’t gonna drink last weekend and, well, that too was a fail.
There is an interesting kind of marginalization that goes on in communities, creating these sub-communities of sorts. It is prevalent in just about any group of people that share some fundamental similarities but other large differences; women get subcategorized according to whether or not they are mothers or career women, shouldering all the perceived attributes and scorn that may go along with being either. In the gay community, bisexuals are often further marginalized under the guise of only being “half gay” or “confused”. It happens, and is an ugly underbelly of communities that should be havens for the members that belong to them.
But none of these are quite as troubling to me as the way that we as black women marginalize each other according to skin tone.
Friday, when the press release and promo pics of new Carol’s Daughter’s spokeswomen Solange, Cassie, and Selita Ebanks were released, like many others I shared the prevailing sentiment; don’t no dark skinned women use Carol’s Daughter?
All over twitter and Facebook, I read the offhand comments and criticisms that I shared; while all three women are gorgeous, and obviously have different hair textures, skin types, ethnicities, etc., if the company really wanted to promote diversity, couldn’t they find some people more diverse? Other shapes, sizes, hair textures, skin tones?
I felt like that was a valid criticism. What started to bother me was when the conversation immediately devolved into the place it always does when we discuss complexion primarily and, to a certain degree hair texture, in our community; the prevalent thought that these women aren’t “black enough” to promote a black brand.
And here is where I start to have a problem.
But first a bit about me…
If you can’t tell from my black and white pic to the right, I am pretty fair. I have mid-back length curly hair. I have a tiny mouth and small nose (and a forehead big enough to be a projection screen, but we all need one feature that keeps us humble).You can tell I am black by looking at me, but that has never stopped some narrow minded asshole from cocking their head to the side, regarding my features confusedly and asking, “What ARE you?” as though they have encountered some three headed bird not found often in nature. My mother, while darker than I, shares many of the same features. My father has never considered himself anything but black, despite his green eyes and curly hair and often having to explain to concerned strangers when I was a kid that no, he did not kidnap the little black child who is holding his hand.
I say all this to say that I, by nature of my own ambiguous pedigree that I have never really bothered to explore, am uniquely familiar with this sentiment in a way that means I cannot be objective here. All of that being said…
I am fucking tired of being told I am not black enough by other people.
I get it. I do. For centuries we have been told that light, bright and damn near white is the European standard of beauty we should all aspire to, god given features be damned. That our personalities, sexualities, career trajectory and everything else is defined by our facial feature, hair texture and skin tone, that if we don’t pass the brown paper bag test, then we are less than.
Really, I get it.
My problem lies in what has becoming an increasingly popular method of celebrating oneself; disparaging another. Somehow, the push for acceptance and pride in darker shades has dovetailed with dismissal of lighter ones. Somehow, it is not enough for anyone to simply be happier in the skin they’re in; they must be superior to something else for some reason, no matter how disparaging, shameful or asinine.
If you can’t celebrate yourself without attacking and denigrating another, it is no celebration at all.
And really, isn’t this type of behavior just as bad as someone else telling us to be ashamed of who we are? Maybe isn’t it even a little bit worse because WE ARE ATTACKING OUR OWN?
Perhaps I am sensitive because this has been an ongoing affair throughout my life; my black mother and black father, my black relatives in my black city and going to a black school are simply not enough to quantify my blackness. Because of my skin tone. Because of my hair texture. Because someone told someone else that in order to have valid black pride, one must be what is “acceptable black” to other black folks. But who are you to enumerate what is “black” or not? Is there some sort of mystical mathematical equation that yields a numerical value consistent with what can be considered black?
Remove that shit all the fuck from the paint, b.
You don’t get to tell me that I don’t qualify as black.
It’s a shame really and no less wrong, ignorant and self-sabotaging as anyone else telling us what we should look like. And what is even worse is that now, we don’t even have to rely on others to tear us down. We will do it for them.