Brown Skin

I gave myself the name Chocl8t. It came out of a need to celebrate and embrace my dark brown skin and to finally accept it as a positive attribute of my physical appearance.

Tar Baby

I thought I would make it through my blogging life without writing about this. However Senator Harry Ried had to open his big fat mouth leading to everyone else weighing in on the, often times, touchy issue of  “complexion” within the Black race. Allison Samuels hits many of the salient points in her article at Newsweek. (Click HERE to read) The subject is as old as slavery itself and for me it hits uncomfortably close to home.

For longer than I care to admit I did not look at my dark skin as a good thing. In fact, I was 18 or 19 yrs old before I really “looked” at myself in the mirror. How could that be you ask? Let’s go back to New Orleans, circa 1970s.

I was growing up in a city steeped in racial prejudice – racial prejudice within the black community. The same city that had black “social” clubs and bars that you could not gain entry if you were darker than a brown paper bag. This was before my time but the attitudes remained.

I have memories of the little school boys who flocked to the lighter skinned girls in school, little girls like Tanya Graham with her cafe au-lait colored skin and baby doll like hair. The boys were mesmerized by her. It remained the same through junior and senior high….different girls but the same “look”.

It was also during these elementary school years that I was teased unmercifully by school mates and family. I was called, among other things, Little Black Sambo, Tar Baby, or lil darkie. My dad’s favorite thing to say was that I was his little “ink spot” which originated from me sleeping on the bottom bed of a squeaky bunk bed set. The “joke” was one day my parents would come in the room to find that the top bed had fallen and smashed their baby girl leaving nothing but an…”ink spot”.

Yeah…go ahead….laugh. It’s all fun and games until someone goes through childhood, adolescence, and most of adulthood thinking she’s too dark and ugly.

Little Black Sambo

Can you imagine the havoc and damage this teasing wreaks on a young black child’s self esteem? I would look at the pictures of the Little Black Sambo and Tar Baby caricatures and think “this is what I look like?” So not only am I black as tar, but I’m ugly too? No wonder the boys flocked to the “Tanya Grahams” – the high yeller, redbone, high premium, highly sought after girls.

As I got older, I lost count of how many times I was told “Oh, you’re cute for a dark-skinned girl”. See, God didn’t make attractive girls in darker hues. That back-handed compliment used to annoy me. Now, on the rare occasion I hear it, I just feel pity for the ignorant bastard who says it.

Then there was the time my sister bought my niece a black Cabbage Patch doll. My paternal grandmother, in all of her color struck glory, asked my sister “Why did you buy this black doll?”

My mother immediately chimed in, “What’s wrong with the black doll?”

Well, nothing…but couldn’t you have bought the white doll and pretended she was light-skinned?” replied my grandmother.

****CRICKETS***

When Sen Harry Reid‘s statement became public and flipped the lid off the proverbial can of woims (yes…woims), he not only gave the political pundits fodder and a call for his resignation by republicans, he also spurred journalists and bloggers to re-visit some painful history…mine included.

I gave myself the name Chocl8t to celebrate and showcase what has taken a lifetime to LOVE.

My complexion.

My Beautiful. Brown. Skin.

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24 thoughts on “Brown Skin”

  1. I’m so glad you are happy with who you are and how you look(cause you be gorgeous…gimme)! Kids are bad enough with teasing, but family hurts the worst. My honorary godson’s grandmother was all but ignored and pretty much loathed by her own mother because she was too dark; and she MIGHT be a shade darker than me. I still pretty much believe that my grandmother married my grandfather because she wanted light babies. She certainly isn’t fond of my darker aunts. *sigh*

    At least there’s no more color issues when it comes to video hoes, right? Baby steps! *runs*

  2. Aw babe. What a beautiful way to tell such a heartbreaking story. And ugh, the hate in this country is so thick, it’s just hidden by a thin layer of the times. Two steps forward and three steps back. You are not just an ink spot, you’re a beautiful black woman!

  3. didn’t get a chance to respond last night a sista was tired lol

    I grew up in the “north” but the issue of complexion is still real up here but maybe not as “blatant”.

    As dark as I am and as much as I’ve had to deal with being “dark”. I still find myself saying things like she’s pretty for a dark skinned girl…it’s like I’m brainwashed or something lol. But that’s all I heard growing up.

    It’s a hard thing to overcome and I commend you for doing it and for having the courage to write about it here.

    I’m not quite there yet…

  4. I can add no comment that hasn’talready been said. Well I can tell you that you almost bought me a new laptop. I can explain later 😉

  5. Line Sister,
    I read this, and am happy that you now embrace yourself as someone who is as beautiful, as the next. In similarity to this, I have been talked about because of my weight since elementary. I’ve been told that I need to lose weight, etc; but, I am the HEALTHIEST one in my family, and I don’t have high blood pressure or diabetes or any other life-threatening disease. I have embraced me because I am a great person, beautiful and have some ‘extra.’ There have been men, who have passed me up because of my size; but those who saw me as a “woman,” have reaped MANY A BLESSING!

    We all have our trials and can only depend on God to bring us through. You are my beautiful sister. I LOVE the color of your skin, and I KNOW you are beautiful! Do your thang, Chocolate, and we will be a’ight.

    Love,
    Yogi

  6. Beth,

    Pray about it, and I will pray for you too. Skin is just a covering, and what counts is what is on the inside. Wear your skin proudly. I am sure that you are beautiful!

    Chocl8t’s Line Sister

  7. My heart was BREAKING while reading this. I cannot believe how shallow we are as a race. For the longest time our family was unaware of this problem (grew up in white world). My brother is very dark, I’m brown, and my sister is light with blonde hair and blue eyes– I grew up in the “rainbow coalition”. The racism I was used to was whites against blacks. Once I was out on my own, gaining new friendships with my “own people” (I was elated by the way), I was shocked beyond belief to realize that this was (and still is) such a problem. When we will ever ever learn?

    I’m sorry you have had to endure such lunacy. I personally think that dark skin (whether a woman or man) is a beauty that surpasses all! (I’M NOT JUST SAYING THAT EITHER). I am really upset that people will actually have the nerve to say “you’re pretty for a dark skinned person”. WOW!!! At least you’ve come out on the other side of that madness unscathed.

  8. I’m gleaming with much joy at how you are now able to embrace your beautiful brown skin, your beautiful YOU! Shoot, it makes me happy just to hear that you are accepting anything about you, as it would others, who have accepted themselves.
    Chocol8t, I, in my lighter complexion, experienced the downside of being “on the other side” and unfortunately was blinded by, what could have been a very healthy truth for me. The truth of simply accepting myself, my complexion and knowing I was beautiful just because and not because I was of a lighter hue
    I witnessed the pain that my cousins of darker hue’s experienced and it didn’t make me feel good, it made them bitter towards me and we never, ever got to develop a healthy whole relationship; so sad.
    This poison still exists and all we can do is do our best to teach younger ones that it shouldn’t, doesn’t matter what your complexion is in order for you to Love and be Loved. Acceptance has nothing to do with what’s on the outside, first. If you accept who you are underneath the covers than when you lift the covers off your head all you see is…Love.

  9. Shout out to ya Chocl8t, I am glad that you have taken a stand to represent your feelings after all of these years. Blogging is theraputic and black is “beautiful”.

    skinnaluv

  10. I keep reflecting on your post here and those horrible images that are throughout this post of what “being dark skinned” (and lovely) “means” (based the standard of our society). Hard to forget this post somehow. Don’t know why, other than it truly SUCKS that ANYONE would have to endure such a limited view by our “peers”.

    ::end post, tries to move on::

    Why O’ Why aka jazz. Take care sister!

    P.S. bring your pic back cuz you are just too damn GORGEOUS to be replaced by the M&M image! 😉

    1. Jazz, it seems I have struck an emotional chord with you and others with this post. My hope is that what people will take from this is a more keen awareness of their behavior and attitudes. My thought is that is has become so engrained into the subconcious of so many that don’t even realize it. Don’t dwell too much on the negative and know that I don’t. 😉 Thanks for the support Sis and I’ll be answering your email soon.

  11. It’s funny how in all of our talk about diversity and multiculturalism, most folk don’t understand that there is no one “blackness”and we are not all viewed the same by those outside or inside.

  12. I have family who are very color-struck. I was nicknamed “Paper sack brown” by my Aunt and have had comments made about why I’m so dark by a guy that I used to be interested in. How I witnessed a beautiful darker-skinned friend be humiliated by a guy that she liked by being called a patent- leather shoe in front of his friends. It used to hurt, but now it doesn’t because I’m confident in who I am as an adult. It’s sad that there are people who still dwell on the light/dark thing because it still divides us as a people. Thanks for posting this topic and thanks for being so positive!!

  13. Be it race or sexuality, to focus on our differences serves only to divide people. This makes it easier to prevent certain groups of society having access to the spoils of that society (i.e education, housing, occupations). We need to come to terms with the fact that there are only two classes – the owners of the means of production (captalists) and those subserviant to the means of production (the rest of us). Color only divides us as a group, making it easier to maintain the status quo.

  14. Soror,
    I definately feel you. Your story is my story. You are beautiful and have always been. Thanks for bringing this issue up and deciding to share. I must say if it was not for my father I would have never embraced my beauty. He always told me that I had beautiful eyes and beautiful hair but that my best feature was my beautiful skin. It so amazing that God left you in the oven just the right amount of time baby.

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