skin like me

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Since I was a little girl, I had always noticed that the color of my skin did matter in society and it really made a lasting imprint on my path in life. As I am thinking of what to say and how to say them, my mother walks in and sits next to me staring at the time as I yet again beat the light of the candle to write this post. She looked at the first image I had used for my first post and she goes, “Oh, is this woman the reason why you are wrapping your hair in that way?” I laugh and shake my head because I could feel a speech coming on, and so I change the direction in order to save myself and my poor little ears. I begin to show her my blog and everything that I had added and done to it and all she says is, “Why haven’t I seen you with your Bible? You should be advertising for Jesus because all this that you are doing will pass away and only His Word will remain.” I chuckle as I shake my head in aweness at my mother’s ability to be unswayed by anything that does not involve glorifying God. But as soon as I say that it would benefit me in my profession and give me more job opportunities after graduation come this May, she all but jumps the boat and chastises me for not having one of my books published already. You’re doing great sweeteie, I think to myself as she continues to come for my whole life. Then my father all but jumps the bandwagon as he is the in the kitchen yelling out, “Satan!” Sigh, face palm. Now they have made homage in the living room with me having conversations about God knows what and my thoughts are but a mess of chaotic order. Saved by the cries of my little sister, my mom dashes away. Sigh peace and quiet…that is when my father doesn’t have something to say.

As I said in the beginning of my opening, I had not noticed that the color of my skin mattered until I stepped foot on American soil. Granted my little eyes never saw a fair skinned person in my whole six years of existence, but it did still come as a shock to me when I saw a lot of white people as if they were all being hurded in packs from one way to the other. That is not even when I realized that my skin mattered, no sadly it came in a much more traumatic experience for me. When I had started first grade at Bryant Woods Elementary, the teachers were so welcoming and warm towards me and even though there was a huge language barrier, I could feel their acceptance wash over me like a warm snuggy. But the children…oh were they a joy to interact with. As soon as I entered the spacious classroom, I could feel the heat of all their anticipated eyes bounce onto me. I slowly walked towards the front of the class and even though I knew nothing of what was being said between educator and scholars, I knew by the sunny smile the teacher dazzled my way was an indication of me being introduced. The next moment was a blur because I do not recall how I ended up being swarmed by all those children wanting to pet me as if I was an exotic animal at the zoo put on display. Suddenly it feels as if an arm is squeezing on my neck very tightly as it becomes very difficult to breathe. I frantically look for an ally in the sea of madness and come up empty. All of a sudden there was this little girl angrily coming through and for some reason that I cannot explain, I started to breathe normally again. That girl was surprisingly white and became my best friend until she moved to South Africa with her missionary parents in fourth grade.

Of course just because I made friends with a white girl, did not ensure I was safe from the racial slurs of other children. I remember coming home from school either really frustrated, sullen or in tears from the constant harassment of my peers. The exoticness of my arrival had worn off and the fact that I was from a Caribbean Island slipped their minds as they chanted to me, “Go back to Africa blackie!” as they continued to make clicking noises at me and my siblings. The same children that were bullying me for my skin color, were at times darker shades of brown then myself. I could not understand why my skin color posed such a threat to those around me and I would spend hours on end pondering the reasons why. Slowly I started to take notice of how the lighter skinned females as well as the white females were being treated so nicely and with so much care by the boys that it confused me. Why did the boys not spit on their faces [light skinned and white girls] when they declared their affections for the boy of their interests? Why were they not called dark, ugly apes or make jokes of how similar darkness was to them? Why were they always the first picked and never overlooked? I started noticing television shows and movies where white women and women of lighter complexion were always the object of favor for men and the darker women were always portrayed in such negative stereotypical roles. I did not think that the darker female was representing me at all and yet I could not connect with the fairer skinned women either. Somewhere around the age of nine or ten I decided that my skin color was a curse that God had put on me. and that He must have been punishing me for my past existence of sin or something. So I did as I was told and never went outside the line of what was expected of me because I thought that if I obeyed then God would reverse what He had done. When I realized that that was unlikely, I became angry towards God. Looking into the mirror and seeing my darkness reflected back at me was as if I was being slapped in the face with a bucket of ice water. Every moment I looked at my skin color, a piece of me died inside as I felt the glass of my heart begin to crack. It pained me to the core because I was consumed by shame for the skin I resided in. All I could think about was how unfair it was that I got a really bad deal in life and thought I could do a better job then God Himself–which is really ridiculous if I am being completely honest. But that was when I was still in my early stages of life filled with ignorance and lack of understanding.

Flash forward to my high school era and working at Five Guys near my house. That in itself was also an experience of learning my self worth–or lack thereof. Working there in high school tore my self-esteem to shreds as I would take the verbal abuse–because that is what it was plain and simple– and then proceed to cry myself to sleep at night as the words that I heard all day echo and bounce all around in my mind. I know they took it as a joke and because I laughed along with them they proceeded to believe that it did not affect me at all. But in reality, they were vocalizing every little insecurity I had built up about myself over the years. They played jokes after jokes on me and I took it with a pained smile stretched across my face. I wonder if anyone would ever take the time to really look into my eyes to see that my resolve was slipping and sooner or later I was going to burst like the Niagra Falls. They compared me to Google photos of black guys and would make a comment on my hairstyle of the day. One of them called me Ursula and had everyone in the store calling me that instead of my actual name and that diminished my pride in myself even more. I felt like I was being compared to the other females there and it became harder and harder to connect with the females fully because I was paranoid and thought that they thought the same thing as the guys did. After going off to college and coming back the first year, I grew this backbone I never thought I had and I surprised everyone at work. I spoke back against the insults and stood up for myself and actually made really great friends with two of the workers there that I still to this day have in my life. I remember as my coworkers were harassing me with insults they called jokes, customers would comment on how beautiful my skin was, how my smile lit up like a thousand watts and how my abililty to connect to them was profound. I did not know how to take the compliments that they were giving me as I felt my body flinch and tense up with dismay. I forced a smile on my face and made myself say thank you through a clogged throat full of cobwebs. I too thought they were mocking me and lying to me because, why would they have the need to be honest with me anyways?

Now this does not have a Deus ex Machina end to it mind you. (Deus ex Machina is a phrase used to describe any situation that is unexpected or implausible that is brought into the storyline to resolve a situation; Godlike feeling to it–everything happens for a reason, happy-go-lucky feeling to it.) No it is not a story that ends tragically nor does it end happily ever after where I magically accept my worth and beauty and plunge into a utopian world. No sadly if that was the case, I would not hold as much pride in myself because I would lack the cold hard experience to be who I am now. Which is someone I think pretty highly of. I, like so many others in this beautiful life, can never shake the little small voice that tells us constantly to not shine because we are not worth anything. Sometimes we will cave in because it is easier to not fight our inner demons, but there are days where we do stand to take charge and attack full force against our inner enemies. On those days, I know and accept that my skin color is flawless and one to be envied by others globally. I know that I am beautiful, sexy AF and fire that deserves to have everything I want and fight for because I am simply enough and worth it. I know and accept that I will not be every single person’s first choice or be beautiful to the eyes of every person I enounter, but that does not ruffle my feathers. Why? Because I am always going to be MY first choice and gorgeous in MY eyes. Even on the days where my esteem runs low and I question my worth and beauty, I won’t ever give up on myself.

***Everyone, I want to say I apologize for the long post today. You know writers; once we are on a role, we can’t be stopped. Inspiration is our high. But I want to say thank you to everyone that persevered through until the end–you guys are the true MVPs.

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