1 step forward, 2 steps back?

We as Black people in the West have come a long way (pause for applause). We managed to have a remnant remaining after the Trans- Atlantic slave trade, go through colonialism, lack of access to education, money, and the right to vote and continue to face many other socio- economic issues.
We have also been taught to hate ourselves and have despised persons that have the features most associated with being Black. I am not a fan of simply branding features as being “White” because if a Black person has features such as a thin nose… how can the feature truly be considered as White? So before I get into some of the issues still prevailing in the Black community, let me clarify that I do not believe that certain features such as looser hair, a thinner or straighter nose or lighter skin makes a person less Black. Such perceptions are the ones that come back to frustrate people in the Black community who are tired of being asked, “What are you mixed with?” if they have hair that is more loosely coiled or not as dark in complexion as our other brothers or sisters. I have read comments of people… Black people saying that East Africans look like “white girls dipped in chocolate” and that is a statement that doesn’t sit well with me. Again, I think that it serves to divide the Black community and somewhat disenfranchise Black people who were born with a thinner nose, looser hair, etc. from their right to truly be considered Black. It’s like saying in order for you to be Black you have to have stereotypical features of blackness rather than to just be Black. Black people will even sometimes tell another Black person that they, “sound white” if the person is able to speak in complete sentences… do you see the problem with setting standards of blackness? Anyway, acknowledging that East Africans were not a part of the Trans- Atlantic slave trade does not negate the fact that they are still Black and we here in the West do not get to choose who gets to be called Black or not.
However, the problem is that we as Black people still tend to try to fit into the European standard of beauty. There’s a beauty popular YouTuber that is Black and has blue eyes and Black people seem to be in a frenzy over it. It’s like, “Yes, look at us, we can meet the standard” all while overlooking the fact that the young lady’s eye colour, as beautiful as they are, are an abnormality. There are posts all over Instagram saying that, “Mixed doesn’t have a look” pretty much stating that this girl is Black and her eyes are naturally blue. “Yes, take that! We as Black people can meet the standard”, is what I am getting from this obsession. Again, stressing the fact that I understand that features do not exclusively belong to a particular race, I still see us as Black people doing the absolute most to make it seem as if we can fit into the very tight box that the Western standard of beauty is stuffed into. Even these social media pages that are supposed to uplift Black women sporting natural hair sometimes look as if they are only trying to fill a quota of posting a dark-skinned girl with thicker hair once every two weeks. Whether we like to admit it or not, we as Black people have a long way to go in finding ourselves and loving and embracing who we are.
I believe as much as media representation is important in painting Black people as more complex than liking trap music, doing drugs and trying to be rappers and whatever else it is that the media says about us, it is important for us to love ourselves. No, I don’t mean look over at other Black people who we deem to be more attractive than us because that person falls into a certain standard of beauty but I mean looking into the mirror and loving the person looking back at us. Too often I have heard Black people say, “Yes, he’s fine.” And they begin to note the attributes that make him fine, “He’s light-skinned. And oftentimes, these comments come from people with the darkest skin tones. Or what about comments like, “I don’t have ‘nice hair’, I have real African, nappy hair”. How can a person that looks nothing like their own perception of beauty really think that they are attractive? This is why I believe it is so important for us to build up ourselves and not even rely on people in our own Black community to build us up because the people that we may be looking to for validation may be suffering from their own complexes. Recently, I heard a young man who is literally black say something to the effect that for a woman to be nice…. She has to be light-skinned. Granted that this guy is a straight up misogynist and idiot and I ponder what kind up-bringing he had, I still think it’s quite pitiful that Black people too often tend not to rate other Black people and try to pin negative characteristics on our own. We cannot even use adjectives such as “nice” to describe thick, tightly coiled, what is now known as “4C” hair, because we have given that adjective away to persons with looser hair types. For eyes, as soon as we see someone with lightly coloured eyes, the person’s eyes are immediately deemed as being “pretty” and he or she becomes bae. We simply do not celebrate ourselves enough, we do not wave our banner of blackness or black consciousness. We dismiss ourselves and because of our own self-hatred we cannot lift up our people. I think that we need to stop looking to other Black people to uplift us (yes, Black women stop waiting for Black men to do so), the Oscars and white media to accept us and learn to love ourselves. We should start on the individual level and let that light from within cause us to be a beacon of light to others because oftentimes in our campaigns to build up the Black community, it’s like we take one step forward and two steps back because of the inconsistencies in what we say we believe. We believe in Black beauty… but in only one type of Black beauty and that does not reflect liberation but a mental slavery that only we can free ourselves from.


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