By: Madison Jones
As a biracial child, growing up in a white household was definitely detrimental to my development into a woman of color but through the detriment I was able to learn a lot about myself. Having no knowledge of my race caused the majority of my life to be a period of insecurity and attempted assimilation. Whether it was internalized self-hate or other outside factors; I had come to the conclusion that my natural features were not okay.
I didn’t know I was half-black in elementary school. The few black people at my school were dark skinned, had beautiful shining skin, and wore their hair either relaxed or perfectly parted into braids. I didn’t identify with them because I did not have any of those features and had never been exposed to anything but whiteness. I unknowingly hated my blackness.
All the women I idolized had nice, flowing hair; whether it was my mother, the popular girls at school, or all the Disney princesses on my bedroom mirror who were a constant reminder that I could never fulfill eurocentric standards of beauty and therefore; I was ugly.
My mother and her family also had a certain disdain for my features, especially my hair. The back handedness of their comments only thickened the hate I had for myself.
“We relaxed it and it’s still a thick rats nest.”
“You want it long and straight or else you’ll look like a boy.”
Were just a few of the comments I had to endure as I grew up.
As I look back on it, my mother and her side of the family were attempting to erase the parts of me they didn’t like; including my father, whom they demonized as soon as I was old enough to have an opinion on him. They chipped at my individuality until I was old enough to do it myself- then they bought me a hair straightener and hair dye as weapons to destroy my features. I ran the iron through my hair out of hate for my blackness and damaged my hair, but i didn’t care as long as it didn’t hold any traces of blackness.
The hate I had for the blackness within myself transformed into a hate for black people without me realizing it. When middle school started, I told myself and others that I was white, because to me white was smart, beautiful, and from a biblical standpoint it was immaculate and pure. I believed white was what you should aim to be. All my life I had watched whiteness work, so because I was “white” I thought it would work for me. It didn’t. Ultimately, I was trapped in a glass box; I could see it working, but I couldn’t escape my blackness to attain the privilege.
This is when I started to becoming aware. This is also around the time my mother loosened her grip on me and allowed me to meet my father.
Meeting the black side of my family was probably one of the most intimidating things I’ve experienced. Based on all of the generalizations I had ingrained in me, I was scared. I remember when I first met my sisters. They were beautiful, and as I started seeing myself in
them, I soon realized that I was beautiful as well. This part of me that I had spent 13 years of my life trying to extract was one of the most beautiful things about me.
A passion for my skin and all of its celestial attributes developed and grew into a militant protectiveness over my newfound people. I became enamored- almost obsessed- with blackness. My kinks that “…looked like a rat’s nest.” became a lion’s mane; a symbol of my wild passions. I had begun the emancipation of my mental slavery.
My emancipation was not attractive to the side of my family that had tried to conform my traits to those of eurocentric nature. My features were too big- too robust- to be sanded down into their subtle ones. I just kept getting louder; arguing more with their white-washed ideals.
I can remember referring to black people as “my people” and my mother responding with,
“So now you think you’re special?”
Was I only special when I was hidden? When I had no individual voice? When I regurgitated their privileged philosophies and complied with the erasure of part of my being? Only when I denied my culture and regarded them with no respect, was I special. To them, I was a giant, thorny weed in their perfect rows of tulips.
They sent me to counseling, not because of my symptoms of chemical imbalance but rather in hopes that the doctor would somehow sedate me and make me quiet again because me being pulled up by my roots and left to starve and dry out was better than me disrupting the uniform rows of their hypothetical flower garden. They wanted my silence, so I gave it to them. I left and moved in with my dad.
Moving from a white household to a black one was definitely advantageous to my development into a woman of color. The fact that I now have knowledge of my race, causes this part of my life to be a period of self-love and freedom. I have come to the conclusion that my natural features are more than okay. They’re perfect.
To all the biracial girls reading this, never be quiet. Find passion in every kink and curl. Love your black features because they are an embodiment of radiance. No, you do not fulfill eurocentric standards of beauty and you don’t have to. People will try to strip you of and mask your blackness and at times you might wish to have whiteness working for you, but always remember who you are. Remember your individuality. Remember your unconventional beauty is the most amazing things about you. Diversity prospers and so will you.