Bismillahir rahmanir raheem
Asalaamu alaikum readers,
So in my last post, I gave a bit of the background to why I’m writing these posts but today we’re digging a little deeper.
Growing up, I always felt like ‘the darker one’. My sister always seemed considerably lighter than me but I’m more of my mom’s complexion. This was never a problem when I was younger, even though I grew up in a predominantly white area. My parents raised me to be ‘colour blind’ in the sense that I didn’t see race or differences I just saw personalities. It was always “aww that girl’s cool I like her” instead of “aww she’s cool for a white/black/asian/chinese girl” and for this I will always be greatful.
I remember my first encounter with racism. I must have been about 3 or 4, a boy in my class called me a golliwog. I had no idea what this meant so I went along happily with my day until I got home and told my mom. I had never seen my mom SO angry, she marched me right back to the school to tell the teacher and the boy and his parents were dealt with by the school. I still didn’t know what the big deal was. If you don’t either, check out these pics. My second encounter with racism was just 2 years after that when one of my ‘friends’ called me a “black cow”. Now, I thought she was loopy because to me cows were black AND white, subhanAllah the innocence of children. Again, I brushed it off being more hurt that she called me a cow and not a black cow. This is what it meant to me to be colour blind growing up.
I don’t remember many black faces on TV when I was growing up. I remember Mr Motivator on morning TV as people used to say he looked like my dad (cringe). Strangely, the first black child I remember seeing on TV was Susie Carmichael in the Rugrats (also cringe) I thought she was amazing, showing Angelica who was boss. Sadly, this seemed to be the ONLY positive black role model for a good few years on TV that I rememmber until I became a teenager.
My mom has always been beautiful to me. She has amazing dark brown skin, full thick lips and wide eyes mashaAllah. I’m proud to say I do look like her, may Allah swt preserve her. She never wore weaves or tonnes of make up, she is a true natural beauty. As I got older and went to secondary school, that’s when I really started to notice my ‘blackness’. All the other black girls had relaxers or wore weaves – slick down edges and make up. I was nothing like that. I was tall, used to be fat but suddenly became as skinny as a rake, and had a texturiser because my mom refused to let me relax my hair. I liked books not boys, and this was alien to most.
I got my first relaxer aged 16 and I was so happy, my hair actually looked like the woman on the Dark & Lovely box. I wanted to be like the girls who could slick down their edges. I wanted boys to find my attractive because that’s what the other girls were like. Social conditioning at its finest.
This got even worse when I went to university. All the girls looked the same and I still didn’t look like them. Yeah, I had the weaves and the wigs, I had the make up and the clothes but I was still ‘the dark one’. The social conditioning that fairer was better didn’t just affect girls it affected boys as well and I found that out at uni. Guys wanted short girls with curves in all the right places, “good” hair and less prominently black features. I was nearly 6ft, button nosed as they call it, more of a dark chocolate than a mocha with short hair because the relaxers had ruined what little I had.
My insecurities as a black woman would surface in everything I did. I didn’t like to smile because it made my lips and my nose spread, I slouched because I didn’t want to appear too tall and although I had now developed curves my self esteem was already soo low I didn’t realise.
I used to spend hours infront of the mirror scrutinising my face, picking at spots that weren’t really there causing hyperpigmentation (a skin condition caused by the excessive production of melanin among other things) which lead to more picking and more dark blemishes. An obsessive compulsive trait I still suffer from now, especially when I’m stressed.
I had boyfriends but that didn’t matter because I didn’t love myself. I felt like I’d never fit into my own skin. And then I started to read about ancient black civilisations and everything began to change.
Black Is My Colour will continue with me discovering ancient black civilisations and how that helped me to develop a sense of confidence inshaAllah.
Wasalaam – Peace Be With You