"Pretty for a dark girl? Or could it be that it's my dark skin that contributes to my beauty?"
In the words of Vanity Black.
I think the first time I heard the phrase was in high school. And I have to be honest, it usually came from Blacks. Not that other races didn't take jabs at me. Racist Whites have always loved to tear down the beauty of Black women, whether it's blatant, implied, or through a backhanded compliment. And other races... Well, they do it to. As a matter of fact, many of them have the same issues with skin complexion rotting at that the core of their existence. We are a world full of those with the need to tear down others to feed their own needs of supremacy and entitlement. A critical part in destroying a people is to remove them from the equation of beauty and desecrate on their symbols of beauty. And what better way to defame a people than to desecrate on the beauty of the queen. It's an equation of perception that supremacists know quite well. They understand the importance and power of symbolism and it's structure of perception. Standards of beauty are a critical part of that structure and must sustain the world's conscience for a said group to maintain supremacy. (We'll talk about that more much later). All hate is strange, but there is something even stranger to be the object of race-based hate at the tongues of your own so called people.
I'm not sure which was worst: those who blatantly defined me as ugly or those who defined me as pretty for a dark girl. Luckily, I grew up in a family who fed me a different kind of vocabulary as it pertained to all things dark, black, and uniquely African. So I pretty much wrote off such words as the bane of ignorance. I was also taught the history of how dark skinned complexions evolved into such a dreaded label, and why many need it to remain that way. Knowing the history of my existence as it relates to perception vs. truth liberated me. It influenced the way I walk, the way I talk, and even the language I speak as it refers to perceptions of my own beauty. Perhaps that is why I became such a symbol of power in my career, and for a time, so did my skin. Women loved and idolized what I exuded even when they didn't quite comprehend my beauty. Men longed to wine and dine me even though many feared me and were filled with discomfort as it pertained to my brand of femininity. For most, I didn't fit all they had come to believe that a woman should be. And yet, like an international beauty pageant with no other front runners, I was given one title after another, one label after the other: The Most Beautiful Woman That Ever Lived, The Black Ice Queen, Josephine Baker reborn, The Blackest Woman in The World, and of course, The Angry Black woman. The list goes on and on. Everyone wanted to sum up my existence without much success. But isn't that what beauty is all about? It transcends perceptions and expectations. You can't restrict it. Standards of beauty can be boxed. But beauty cannot.
Negative remarks by Blacks in relation to my shade of skin once made me angry, but today, I pity them. It's rather hard not to pity them. They hate the core of all they come from while demanding others, particularly Whites, to treat them as equals. But doesn't that sound like a schizophrenic? How do you demand equality while speaking of elements at the core of your existence as second class? How do you complain about bigotry while being a bigot? As I grew older and wiser, I realized that "pretty for a dark girl" implicated Blacks as a whole. Granted, people like me are used as the punching bag. But I realized later that such Blacks where actually throwing punches at themselves. They want to escape my reflection. They want to escape a history that many of them see as shameful. They want to escape themselves. They want to be detached from Africa. It's something that I wished most dark skinned people, particularly Black women, would come to understand. The hate of dark skin is a sad reflection of the disposition that many Blacks and other people of color have with the core of themselves and how it fits into the scale of White supremacy. Of course, it is self projected onto the darkest of dark skinned people. We, as in Blacks, were taught over centuries through media, scientific racism, racial castes, and even religion that dark skin reflects a lower class by nature. And unfortunately, many Blacks have subscribed to those belief systems consciously or subconsciously to this day. We will talk about these issues in months to come, but perhaps the worst ramification to this negative relationship with dark skin is that bigoted rhetoric towards Blacks among Blacks is what will ultimately put the nail in the coffin to the existence of Black people. Blacks must keep in mind that the vast majority of what we may call "light skinned Blacks" are considered dark skinned in most places in the world. Dark skin is quite relative. When Blacks degrade dark skin, they send a mixed message to the world who sees you as a member of the "dark race" of people regardless of your shade. In their minds, you have condoned a belief system that says Blacks as a whole are second class citizens. After all, you foolishly told them that you are descended from a second class of people by your own rhetoric ... spitting at the so called dark skinned girl's beauty while spitting at yourself. When we say "pretty for a dark girl", we are speaking a language of perception that says "some blacks deserve to be spoken of as second class". But see, in a racist world, it will never work that way. There will be no partial rise or liberation of Blacks. Our own discrimination of each other will continue to open the gateway to the discrimination of us all. Blacks, themselves, are giving the racist permission to do so.