“We did it! We survived Coviding as a 4th grader,” I told my son jokingly. There was just one more task to do, a final project or Passion project of his choosing. It was due sometime in the summer but, of course, we were gonna turn in ours early. He knows he has to work twice as hard as a Black student. My mother told me that, and I’ve told him. So, I was so happy to assist my son on his Neighborhood Toy and Book Exchange project. After a week of planning and rehearsing in the house, and putting a little friendly pressure on him to get this down quickly, we crossed the threshold of the front door and stepped into the world of sales — not really sales per se, because he was actually ‘giving/exchanging’ toys and books…through he soon learned that giving, like selling, actually takes effort..and everybody doesn’t value books.
After three hours of standing on the corner with him, holding up the big white board begging drivers to stop, peruse and exchange..yelling at the top of my lungs, “Free Toys!”, (I learned quickly to omit the ‘free books’ thing — it wasn’t serving us well,” we called it quits and shut down the business. We were both relieved…relieved because it was too hot, even for me, and most importantly, no one took Tigger or Aquaman. Satisfied and swetty, we both trudged up the stairs, leaving the abandoned merchandise and portable speaker by the first floor shoe rack and laid out of the living room floor.
My clothes were literally attached to my body. About 10 minutes later, I carried myself to the bedroom and main bath, turned on the light and gasped, as if seeing another woman in my mirror. “I done got TOO BLACK!”
I said it with an energy I didn’t think I had at the time. My black yoga pants and tank top clung to me like my son does when he’s being sappy and cloy. I couldn’t stand it. As I removed my garments I noticed the color gap between my previous honey hue and that black tank had narrowed. It shocked the heck out of me. I hadn’t been outside like this in months and Corona was keeping me light-skinned beyond my normal turn time. This was my thought process, for real.
A LEGITIMATE CONCERN
Shocked at the statement and even more shocked at this new-found energy, I sat on the toilet and quickly lamented. “Where the hell did that come from?” “Oh, that came from Momma..that came from every person whose name I can’t think of but I know they existed. That came from prior, public Black knowledge on the playground, in church, at the picnic, at Thanksgiving and at summer camp.”
This was a legitimate concern..even for girls darker than me. I’m most certain that this was more of a concern for the girls, than the boys, but I would be remiss to think this is solely a female thing. Colorism is real for African American boys and men. We know this because our men are speaking on this now and rejecting past ideals.
I thought all these things, just sitting, not using the toilet..because I had to sit in this and address the epiphany and shame after the thoughtless outburst. “We don’t do enough of this,” I thought…”policing ourselves..putting our own thoughts into captivity.” And in this era of Black Lives mattering and the messaging being given to me all day, every day by my folk and other folk like Proctor and Gamble and Target and the freaking CEO of Smoothie King, I thought about how important Black internal and external messaging was and is…what we tell ourselves and our children, matters.
Black Messaging Matters. “There’s a long list of things my people taught me, that I’ve got to unlearn.” This list could very well be called, “Getting too Black and other things I can’t control or should even be concerned about, especially as a damn child…” (if you don’t mind the title length.)
Also on this list…
Go outside and run, jump and play with your beautiful, wide nosed, black kids. Get Black…get real Black. Make your list This is a fraction of my list. What’s on yours? And here’s the thing…I’m not mad at the system or teachers of these untruths in my family and circle or even in society. A lot of these things were told to us to protect us, to better us, to brace us from the inevitable fall — to shield us from Truth’s mighty blow. But it’s your responsibility to #rewrite , #rethink and #relearn a personal constitution that uplifts and does not promote inferiority or fear or exclusion…A mindset and list of precepts and rules for yourself that celebrate your own Blackness and liberates you and your children to think freely and flourish as human beings with boundless potential.
That’s your job , not your mother’s or grandmother’s — the sooner you accept that, the less brainwashed you’ll be. Unlearning is way, way harder than learning. Do the work.
Make your list…and literally, check it twice. Those things will come up like puss-filled pimples and your kids will be color-shaming themselves in the mirror because they saw mommy do it. Black, ALL BLACK, ANY BLACK, is simply, BEAUTIFUL.
Khoudia Diop, my favorite model
Check out my fav model. I simply love her. https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2016/11/20/501152390/how-khoudia-diop-learned-to-love-her-dark-skin
Catch Dark Girls 2 — so proud of this doc made by some of my hometown heroes (Nashville) http://www.oprah.com/app/dark-girls-2.html
Learn about Medieval POC and find a Black Renaissance Fair — https://blacknerdproblems.com/yes-there-were-black-people-in-renaissance-europe/