When I was a kid my Grandmother told me a story about going out with my Grandfather many years ago and being told that she could not come into an establishment with him because she was darker than a brown paper bag. He refused to go in without her, which made her feel good but, I remember the hurt in her eyes as she told the story about what happened some 30-40 years earlier. This was in Georgia, and I suspect that it was probably in the 40's or 50's but there are still signs that this kind of color complex still exists in our community.
One day while skimming through Essence magazine, I saw an advertisement for "skin lightening cream". I was surprised that a magazine which celebrates the beauty of African-American women would have such an advertisement between it's sheets. The fact that such a product still exists, is a sad commentary on our community. Because usually a product is created as a result of supply and demand, and the fact that advertising dollars were accepted to nationally promote this product is a complete contradiction in reference to what this publication proclaims to be its purpose.
Other's realize how beautiful Black is, and they spend time under concentrated, cancer causing light trying to achieve what we have naturally. Some bake themselves in the sun, and peel like a banana in an effort to be something that they are not. I can't say that I blame them though. There is no beauty like black beauty. 7 different shades of pretty brown, comparable to Jesus's skin as described in the Bible.
Society seeks to define everything in an effort to create its own version of reality. Mostly through misrepresentation and deception. If you compare the amount of money that African-American's spend in this country as consumer's to the amount of advertising dollars spent to accurately represent us in the media, there is a huge discrepancy . Actresses like Halle Berry are celebrated as examples of Black beauty, while actresses like Viola Davis are often overlooked and criticized. Both are beautiful in their own way but, it almost seems as if the world seeks to hold us to a standard of beauty that is monolithic. Some of us buy into it, and believe that we must achieve this false standard to be both Black and beautiful. But long before there was a media there was an industry based on our hard labor, born of hatred and founded on our backs. Being kidnapped and enslaved meant that we had to be psychologically primed to believe that we were sub humans not worthy of freedom. We had to be made to believe that because we were not like our captors that we were inferior. Our dark skin and tightly curled hair texture was deemed unacceptable to the slave master, and soon unacceptable to us because we were taught to hate ourselves. We were relegated to being property, our lives used at someone's else's discretion. Today some of us are still affected by the legacy of slavery, and many of us still believe in the negative propaganda which attempts to dictate our acceptance whether we realize it or not.
This is a cycle that must be broken by teaching our children to love themselves. Our daughter's are particularly exposed to preconceived notions of beauty. This is why it is important to reassure them from day one that they are gorgeous and worthy of each and every gift that God has to offer. We must teach them that different can beautiful, and that self esteem begins with loving themselves regardless of what the world says. It all begins at home.