"Mirror, Mirror, on the wall, erase my dark skin, forever more!" Growing up as the “darker” child between my caramel, Afro-Latina, sister with long silky hair touching the bottom of her spine, and my never aging, fair skinned mother, I struggled with great identity issues. Like many other Afro men and women of darker complexions, I was no stranger to beauty issues when it came to my definition of beauty. For so long, I would criticize myself harshly about my beautiful hue. In fact, insecurity and I grew a faithful relationship. Fortunately, when my mother heard my unappreciative acknowledgements of my rich skin, she always assured me that I possessed this foreign thing called beauty. She even confessed once about how much she wished she was darker skinned like myself! “How perplexing!”, I thought.
By Tip Jordan, AFROPUNK Contributor *
As I got older and seen women like, Lauryn Hill, Naomi Campbell, Maia Campbell, and Nia Long on television, I began to envision myself beautiful like them, although I was just as beautiful. Due to the manipulation of the media that overflowed into households, kids unconsciously teased me. The standard of beauty was one-dimensional before great change occurred.
Entering adulthood, I would often be complimented about the texture and tone of my skin by random strangers; and of course the ignorant phrase, “you’re pretty for a dark skinned girl”- a phrase that I assume only applies if you have curly hair and, “look mixed”? The foolishness!
It took me having to travel seven hundred miles to break free out my miserable cocoon of self-doubt. I owned my beauty with a breath of fresh air, and a smile that extended openly when I shared the news to my friends about my stay in Brooklyn, New York in 2012 . I visited briefly to celebrate Labor Day Weekend with friends of mine. Seeing nature’s rainbow of Afro women and men with red, blonde, purple, green hair and beautiful tones of every shade, was the time I embraced my own beauty.
It came to be that the women whom I admired as an adolescent had indeed planted a seed in me waiting to blossom. That seed was of self worth and recognizing inner beauty- the beauty of the mind.
The media today has become more open to the diverse shades of Afro beauty since then, and yes we do have a long way to go but, we are moving forward. Due to the sudden success and praise of Lupita Nyong’o, Hollywood and media outlets from around the world have praised her for not only her acting capabilities but most of all, her skin! She is one of the most exalted Afro women of our time simply because of her ravishing dark skin, style, and natural hair- not to mention, her Oscar award.
As I grew into womanhood and gained knowledge of self, I researched the origin of this ill disease of complexion degradation. I came into understanding on why we as an Afro community tend to harp on the ill stereotypes, and habits of society when it comes to the “brown paper bag” ideology. I blame half of the cause on the Willie Lynch letter- a letter to other slave masters advising them on tactics to gain mind control over their slaves. The effects of the letter caused our ancestors to inherit a divide and conquer mentality. And equally enough, I blame the other half on us as a society.
Due to the mischievous commitments of past generations, our current culture has been programmed to carry out the objective of the Willie Lynch letter- be it in the Hispanic, Afro-Diaspora, Caucasian, or Asian communities etc. Ultimately, I strongly believe that it is up to us as brave individuals with the mental capacity to unite, love, forgive, and create, to stop degrading one another due to skin complexions and race. For those who haven't yet joined me in the celebration of self-worth, know and understand that you too are beautiful! Your beauty cannot be defined by another person. It is up to you to believe that the physicality of man sheds naturally, but the beauty that lives inside of us, lives forever!
* Tip Jordan's website: tipjordan.com