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When You Called Me Light-Skinned…

July 20, 2009

complexDear Sista,

Please accept my apologies; I’m referring to you as “sista” because I don’t know your name.  In fact, I don’t know you at all, just as you don’t know me.

However, I did see you today in the grocery store.  You know, Safeway in Rainier Beach, it was probably, oh, around 3:30 in the afternoon or so?

I saw you first in the produce section.  I smiled…you looked away.

I’m not sure if you know this, but you’re beautiful.  You have flawless skin; I mean liquid dark caramel chocolate with nary a blemish!  I would kill for that!  Perfect bone structure, perfect cheekbones, regal neckline; you remind me that Black is so damn beautiful.

I saw you again when I was in line checking out.  You were a few people behind me, and you were talking on your phone, to, I assume one of your girls, voice layered with disgust.

“…nothing, lookin’ at this light skinned little size five bitch and her organic potatoes.  How stupid is that…”

I had a rapid succession of thoughts at that moment.  I wasn’t sure who you were talking about, until I realized I’d just put a bag of organic potatoes in my cart.

“…and her Beyonce front lace flowing down her back, like nobody can tell that shit is fake, I don’t know who she think she is…trying to be better than err’body else…”

“Oh,” I thought to myself, “she’s talking about me…size 5 my ass…”

Now sista, some think it’s a “bitch move” to not dress you down in that moment.  Some, maybe you even, would think that I was intimidated or downright terrified of you because you were talking negatively about a complete stranger.

I wasn’t intimidated, nor was I scared.  I never once felt angry or humiliated, nor did I feel the need to attack you back in any form.

Silly as it may sound to you sista, I have knowledge of self.  Do you know what that means?  That means I know who I am, and I know my history and the history of the original people all over this planet.  It also means I know who you are.

Sista do you have any idea why you hate me so much?  Do you have any idea why you can’t resist the need to intimidate me and otherwise convey your hatred towards me?

Maybe it has something to do with the relaxing perm and weave up in your obviously thick, “nappy”, African hair.

With love on my lips sista, I ask you, have you ever thought of that?  Have you ever thought about how you’ve been virtually brainwashed into hating yourself since the day you were born?  You hate your wide, beautiful nose, your deep, dark skin color, you traditional body shape, and even the shape of your feet.

I know that I am a reminder of the far removed but never forgotten memory…the ancestral, historical, biological memory.  My light skin is proof of so much, so much it can’t be spoken in just one letter.

But this, I must say:

It’s you who believes/fears that I am “better” than you because I’m “light-skinned”, not me- you.

You perceive me as closer to the ideal status quo of what is “good”, of what is “beautiful” of what is desire-able.  You perceive me as not as close to “true” Black, like you, you think I can’t know what it really means to be Black, you think- foolishly- that it has been easier for me (us) than it has been for you.

That perception is nothing but a lie created to manifest the attitude you displayed today, an attitude that is proof of the divisiveness the lie seeks to further.  It is a lie…but you have made it your truth.  Not me…you. I was minding my own, putting groceries in my cart, and you just had to go there.

Take the blue contacts out! Eyes are the window to your soul- sista where is your soul? It’s covered in the lie. You’re as dark as fresh molasses wearing sky blue contacts?!  That’s not pretty- that’s sad.  You’re wearing a texture of hair on your head that doesn’t belong there.  No matter how long you wear it, it’s always going to look wrong.  Covering up the real you with these Eurocentric accessories doesn’t make you pretty and it never will.

You need to learn to love yourself; there is no better place to start than with your hair.  Cut the chemicals out.  Go the natural route- your hair will be so long you won’t know what to do with it.  We (yes, I said we) don’t have European hair!  We have African hair, and it’s so gorgeous! Just try it, for one year.  Learn to bring your truest beauty to the surface by being who you naturally are- Black, and beautiful!  Strip yourself of anything and everything that detracts from who you really are.

When you reach that critical space along the path…forgive yourself…and then be better.  Live happier.  Be kind to your sistas and brothas.  Be a uniting force in your community, instead of someone who is ignorant, mean-spirited and toxic.

Your words didn’t hurt me- they just proved you’re in pain every day, every time you look in the mirror, every time you slip those contacts in…

I love you…I hope you learn to love yourself.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. July 21, 2009 3:59 am

    Good read. I enjoyed it very much. So true and unfortunate.

  2. July 21, 2009 5:31 am

    Are you serious?? Are we STILL dealing with this bullshit? You’re better than me, I would have had to drop the science on her. Damn.

  3. July 21, 2009 6:57 pm

    It’s unfortunate, but proof of how powerful a lie truly can be, especially when supported and reinforced in so many ways. Wheb I first started to read this post, I thought “oh we’re still having to talk about this topic??” But then I recalled my encounter not too long ago with a sista who berated my “light” skin…and I thought, “yeah, we are still talking about this.” Thanks for sharing.

  4. July 22, 2009 12:01 pm

    Wow – we are so impressed that you took this moment and added your lovely words to it. Thank you – we’ve been there.

  5. Phyllis permalink
    July 23, 2009 12:27 pm

    What could you have done to NOT inspire her to talk about you? Buy GMO potatoes? $5000 clothes instead of knockoffs? ??? How is it “stupid” to buy tubers and affordable clothing? None of these were good questions to ask in the Safeway, btw. In case you didn’t know. ;P

    OK, so let’s say her friend on the phone snapped to her senses, said some of the things you say above, and hung up on her. What would this gal have done to save face in the Safeway? Pretended to keep talking to her? Called another friend to talk junk about the first friend? Slunk off to another part of the store?

    Related anecdote: my mom used to buy me Ebony magazine when I was in college. One time the advice column had a letter (fake?) from a woman who said she felt bad about herself when she went out with a friend she perceived as light-skinned. Ebony advised her to STOP HANGING OUT WITH HER. In the same magazine that advertised fade cream and Bone Strait. *SIGH*

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