Dismantling Self-Hate in Black America
Here is what I know for certain: The ability to love another first begins with loving yourself. Coveting the life of another; hating and loathing one's self is a definite way to ensure an unhappy life. True love comes when you can first love yourself, regardless to whom or what. When you can look at your reflection and see past any flaws, and even the color of your skin, and tell yourself that you love you, just the way you are. That, color, size, and imperfections do not define or make you, but the beauty that resides within.
There has been a longstanding war when it comes to color: “light-skinned vs. dark-skinned”. This “war” is not only within the African-American community, but it reaches far and wide across continents. There are people of darker hues bleaching their skin; even at the risk of sickness and disease to obtain the “ideal” beauty that the western world deems as most beautiful: the white women that grace the majority of fashion magazines and commercials.
From the inception of slavery, there has been a divide among our people. A systematic line of division that has firmly planted its tentacles in the psyche of a people for generations. In the time of slavery, slaves were divided based upon their worth as “property”. They were divided by the hue of their skin, the size of their body, their age, and ability to work, breed, and nurse.
Families were torn apart. Most forever separated. Women were used to breed, to nurse their slave owners children, to be a sexual object for the pleasure of their owners, often bearing their seed. Most light-skinned slaves were kept to work in the home as servants. The darker ones were left to tend the fields.
This mindset has worked its way through generations; poisoning the thoughts of many until they despise who they are. They run from who they are. They suffer from self-hatred and self-loathing because, somehow, they believe that they are not beautiful, not worthy, not ideal.
As a child I understood that there was a difference and preference for those who were light-skinned over those who were dark-skinned. My mother would often take my brother and I on day trips to Manhattan. It was an adventure for us to ride the ferry and to go to Battery Park. During one outing, a woman asked my mother if she was our nanny. It wasn't the first time she'd been asked this question. My mother assured her, in no uncertain terms, that we were her children. That, she'd given birth to these two little light-skinned children, and had the stretch marks to prove it!
My mother, I love her! She is in fact shades darker than my brother and I. But even as a child, my mother, herself, cannot recall when or why, but she too was affected by the war of skin color. She would pray as a little girl that, she would have children that were light-skinned with good hair.
It stemmed from the split in her own family. While her father was a dark-skinned man, his brother was light-skinned. Her uncle married a light-skinned woman, who came from a family of light-skinned people that believed they were better than the rest of their family. My mother loved her Uncle, and he'd often come to visit, but his family would not. My mother says that they'd only acknowledged her younger brother as family because he was born with fair skin.
How tragic is that? How utterly painful is this? That, after generations of fighting for equality and our civil rights and freedom, that we, ourselves, would continue the division amongst ourselves? That, we would allow the seeds of hate to continue to grow and bear fruit of self-hatred and self-loathing; to the degree that when a test was given to our pre-school aged children to choose the pretty doll between a white and black doll, that our babies more often than not chose the white doll as pretty, and said the black doll, that looked liked them—was ugly.
What are we doing? What are we doing to our children? It is time to dismantle the self-hate within our community. It is time to recognize and start teaching self-worth and appreciation, and the value of who we are as a people.
I adore actress, Lupita Nyong'o, who recently won an Oscar for her supporting role in the Oscar winning film 12 Years A Slave (a must see.) She shared the following during her acceptance speech for Essence Magazine's Black Women in Hollywood Breakthrough Performance Award, about how she struggled with the color of her dark skin. How she prayed to be lighter. "I want to take this opportunity to talk about beauty, Black beauty, dark beauty. I received a letter from a girl and I’d like to share just a small part of it with you: 'Dear Lupita,' it reads, 'I think you’re really lucky to be this Black but yet this successful in Hollywood overnight. I was just about to buy Dencia’s Whitenicious cream to lighten my skin when you appeared on the world map and saved me...” She went to say: ”What is fundamentally beautiful is compassion for yourself and for those around you. That kind of beauty enflames the heart and enchants the soul..."
I repeat: The ability to love another first begins with loving yourself. Coveting the life of another; hating and loathing one's self is a definite way to ensure an unhappy life. True love comes when you can first love yourself, regardless to whom or what. When you can look at your reflection and see past any flaws, and even the color of your skin, and tell yourself that you love you, just the way you are. That, color, size, and imperfections do not define or make you, but the beauty that resides within.
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