In 2004, Lebanese singer Ragheb Alama became infamous (in Sudan) when he was quoted saying that Sudanese women are the ugliest in the world.
In 2012, Abbas on the street corner echoes Alama’s same feelings, only this time no one is outraged. I’m talking about the fact that people don’t even realize that they hate themselves. Yes, not all Sudanese girls are pretty – that’s applicable to all nationalities. But what does it say when the single determining factor of a woman’s beauty is the shade of her skin?
Guess what, y’all, you’re black. I’m black. You’re black. The dude on the corner is black. That girl gettin’ in her car, she black, too. And guess what else! It’s NOT WRONG! It’s perfectly natural to be black. It also so happens that being black and being beautiful can go together. Isn’t that amazing? And you don’t gotta be light skinned for that to work!
I find myself visiting, then revisiting, then buying season tickets to this topic. Not because that’s all I like to talk about, but because it always comes up, and because it’s always thrown in our (‘dark-skinned’ girls’) faces, and because it is a much bigger issue than we all like to admit.
How can we expect people to accept and respect us, if we don’t respect or accept ourselves? What kind of generation are we raising that sees its value only in terms of color? What kind of young women are we raising who only think they amount to something if they’re light (read: white)? Sick ones, that’s what kind. Because they’ll be lathering themselves with toxic waste that burns the skin off their faces, hands, arms, necks, to create a nation of cancer victims.
A cousin once tried to convince me that when I get married I should use whitening creams to “surprise” my groom, because “you don’t want to be exactly how he sees you every day… you want to have a new look for him!”. So let me get this straight, in an effort to look different for the man who married me for (amongst other things) how I look, I should buy new skin? Beyond the physical damage we are unwittingly (or wittingly) causing, we are raising generations of women – and men – who will deem themselves inferior out the womb. In today’s competitive and just plain difficult world, what kind of chance are we giving these generations when we strip them of their most basic weapon – a healthy self esteem?
For those of us who think this issue does not affect men – *pop* and consider that bubble, burst. In our self hate, we are essentially creating a caste system. As long as our society continues to fall in line with the “white makes you more attractive” mindset, men will measure themselves by how light the girls they attract are (they already do, actually), and thus how attractive, eligible, and successful they are. I’m sure this argument will cause some backlash, but I have heard too many admiring, “Wow, he got him a light-skinned wife!… You know he also works for Zain, right? Living the dream, my brother!” to overlook it.
I spent three quarters of my life in countries where I was rejected for the color of my skin, where opportunities were literally stripped from me for the sole reason that I was black. Do you know what that’s like? To be considered ugly, dumb, lazy, undeserving just because you’re dark? To be denied awards and scholarships just because you’re “black” and as such can’t possibly have earned them? Oh wait, yeah you do, because the same rules pretty much apply here, too. As reluctant as I was to come back to Sudan, I figured if nothing else the playing field will be level.
Well, guess WHAT! It isn’t. It was a rude awakening with an alarm clock to the face, because apparently, from the time I left until now, someone decided that we’re all actually white but one too many dust storms have covered our true color. As a result, I have girls telling me, “don’t you want to be nadeefa (clean)?”. Are you trying to say that my natural brown color is dirty? No, I don’t want none of your “magic soap” that makes you pale in “all the right places” – whatever the hell that means!
This may seem crazy, but I happen to like the way I look. I like that I am the color of chocolate. I like that my knuckles, finger and toe joints are the same shade as the rest of my body. I like that I’m less likely to get skin cancer, just because God loved me enough to make me brown. I like that I look absolutely amazing in white. I like that my hairline doesn’t look like it was drawn on with a Sharpie. I like that no one has ever described my color as “orange” and tried to make it sound like a good thing. I like that on my wedding day, my groom will recognize me, and not try to dust the ash off my body.
Get with the program, ladies and gents. Once you go black, you don’t go back.
And why would you want to?