In today’s society a non-African American female may look through our window and see progress. They will see us glorified on social media for our melanin and tightly coiled 4c hair textures. They will see endless collages of females embracing their heritage like they are proud of every imperfection that graces their bodies.
But what happens when you close your Twitter app and when you log off of Instagram? How do you feel about your dark skin when the guy you flirt with tells you that he only dates light skinned females? How does it make you perceive yourself as a light skinned woman when everyone around you is following the new trend that dark skin is now winning? What occurs when you look in the mirror and you don’t see an Instagram collage, but the rejection of someone’s affection?
Don’t misunderstand me, the newfound love for the Black woman is enlightening and empowering. It is such a stimulant to log on to social media accounts such as the Twitter account @MyBlackMatters and see a woman enriched with melanin as a representative of beauty, but if we don’t already have a sense of appreciation for ourselves, the attempt will not reach us. The love for oneself starts from within; it is an emotional, yet beautiful journey that transforms the perception and changes the woman in the mirror.
I was once a dark skinned, nappy headed, broad nosed Black girl. My mom always told me I was pretty, but the moment I stepped out of the threshold of her ruling, I came to the conclusion that I couldn’t be pretty. I did not have a perm so whipping my hair as I walked down the street was completely out of the question, and my dark skin made me invisible.
Getting a second glance from a male was like waiting for pigs to fly; it was not happening. I grew very comfortable in the “one of the guys” role or even the “we can talk, but never date” role because I felt as though it was the best I would ever get. There were many nicknames about my nose that spreads wide across my face and my abundance of hair that could not be tamed by any straightening comb or flat iron. Silent tears were the least of my pain; it was the conditioning of mind that caused the most damage. I was conditioned to feel mediocre about being a Black Woman.
In retrospect, my journey began the moment I accepted mediocrity because it was reluctant. I knew this could not be the end goal for my self-esteem, but conforming seemed like the only option, so that is what I did. I cursed my natural coils, and straightened them weekly as if the flat iron would remove all traces of my “imperfect” identity. I changed my clothing choices and demeanor to finally make my way to being “pretty for a black girl” or “cute to be chocolate”. One of those so-called compliments served as the highlight of my existence, and I strived daily to be seen that way.
The realization began to seep when keeping up with the façade proved to be too much and impossible. I could not even glance at moisture without my hair reverting back to its original state, and the summer heat only made my skin darker which took previous compliments to disgust and only described by the adjective “burned”.
I could not go back to square one because I was so far removed from that girl, but I did not know where I could go from this point. It was an insecurity that crept into every aspect of my life and began to dictate my actions. At this point in my journey, the turning point was right around the corner.
The moment I began asking questions, was the moment I began to love myself. Why didn’t I see beauty in myself without the “enhancements”? Why did I desire the recognition of people that didn’t even appreciate the woman behind the nappy hair and dark skin? Why wasn’t I trying to explore the woman that I was becoming instead of the woman I thought they would like? Why didn’t I listen to my mama? The answers to these questions were not simple, nor did they just appear overnight, but they were thought provoking? These questions forced me to explore myself, and decide whether the recognition from others was more important than how I felt about myself.
I soon found myself dealing with internal issues that were defining how I perceived myself on the outside. I became happier with the woman I was, which allowed me to see myself with new eyes. Appreciating my struggles and breakthrough allowed me to look at my nappy bush as a symbol of my story. My 4c coils are evident of a survivor, because despite the flat ironing, damaging, cutting, and despising; my coils will always revert to their true being, just as I have.
Raw beauty cannot be tainted; altered temporarily, but never eradicated. My dark skin holds melanin that glows without lighting, which is in direct correlation with the woman I am, and am becoming. No matter how dark my story may be, it holds an innate beauty that cannot be explained or dulled.
The journey to self-love and appreciation began with the nature of reluctance towards accepting something less than greatness. It took a strong sense of understanding self before I could truly look in the mirror and be proud and happy of the woman that stared back at me. Yet, it was a journey that has shaped me into the woman that I am today. Instagram pictures and twitter collages praising the black woman now are not taunting, but refreshing. I look at those women and know that I am one of them. I was once a dark skinned, nappy headed, broad nosed, Black girl and I am a dark skinned, nappy headed, broad nosed, beautiful, proud Black woman.