I guess the answer to these questions relates to society’s standards as set by the global media which equates light skin with beauty, affluence, happiness and success. The same media portrays black people negatively. That is why black people procure expensive perms and hair weaves. And saturate themselves with skin-lightening creams, even when they clearly know the health dangers that come with the use of skin lighteners, such as skin discoloration, reduction to the skin’s resistance to infection and damage to the kidneys and the nervous system.
The wisdom of our forefathers tells us that beauty extends beyond skin and hair color and texture. It tells us that people are beautiful when they are confident in themselves, and compassionate towards others. It tells us that we should love people for who they are, and love different nations, races and cultures, each for their unique beauty and contributions to our common humanity. It tells us not to forget our own cultures and traditions. It tells us that our skin connects us to our culture, our African heritage, traditions and ancestry.
I am black, and proud of my black skin and hair texture. I am encouraged by great, distinguished black men and women. I am encouraged by men and women who challenge the norm. Men and women who have refused to ascribe to, and abide by, media ideologies of beauty. Men and women who embrace and love what God gave them naturally, their beautiful, thick, and kinky hair.
Take an honest look at the beauty and dignity of the likes of Lupita Nyong’o, Beyoncè, Harry Belafonte, Daniel “Churchill” Ndambuki, Nina Simone, Steve Harvey, Halle Berry, Zoe Saldana, Michelle Obama, Viola Davis, Maria Borges, Miriam Makeba, Whoopi Goldberg, Oprah Winfrey and Rosa Parks. The list is endless. These are men and women who proudly rock(ed) their natural black beauty. Men and women who stood up, and continue to stand up, for the sake of humanity; not just black people, but all humanity. Constantly reminding us that real beauty lies in the soul, that beauty comes from being prepared to affirm our own story, our own history and transform our pain and suffering into something healing to ourselves and others.
Look at the resilience of black people. In athletics you will find the likes of Usain Bolt, David Rudisha, Florence Griffith-Joyner, Tegla Loroupe, Henry Rono, Meseret defar. Examples in tennis and golf are Serena Williams and Tiger Woods, respectively. In professional football you will find the likes of Victor Wanyama, Emmanuel Adebayor, Kolo Touré, Pele, Didier Drogba, Yaya Touré, Samuel Eto’o and George Weah. Famous basketball players include Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, Shaquille O’Neal, Scottie Pippen, Oscar Robertson, Charles Barkey, Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Karl Malone. Great black leaders include Barack Obama, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King and Julius Nyerere. Do not forget the boxing legends of all time like Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, Lennox Lewis and Mike Tyson.
And yet, even with all this abundance of role models, we continue to bleach and wear fake hair. We continue thinking and behaving as if God made a mistake when He created us. We continue having low self esteem. We continue desiring to have a lighter skin and long, straight hair, blonde hair which can be blown in the wind, not our natural short hair that shrinks in the heat.
As for me, I will remain comfortable in my own skin, even when the black is so loud and it screams back.
I will continue loving my hair which defies the force of gravity and grows straight up. I will continue to love myself just the way I am, never comparing myself to others. I will continue knowing that the only competitor in my life is me, and strive to become the best version of myself. I will continue being proud of my heritage and my melanin.
I invite you to join me in this journey of self-love, a journey of love for our skin that “has been kissed by the sun”, like India.Arie says in Brown Skin
“I am not my hair. I am not this skin. I am the soul that lives within”, says India. Arie