I’m Black, and So Are You [BSonblast #2]

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?

10 thoughts on “I’m Black, and So Are You [BSonblast #2]

  1. Pingback: Links, Links, Links! 21st April 2013 - Redefining the Narrative

  2. I always find it alarming that we as black persons hate ourselves so much that we resort to the level of bleaching/lightening our skin to fit the Eurotrencic ideals. I am from the island of Jamaica, and this method is highly practised, it is disheartening. I may be of a lighter skin tone, but I also have relatives who are of a darker hue, and thankfully they have not reduced themselves to that method, as they love who they. Thankfully in our family, skin tone was never an issue. Unfortunately, our race has still not been emancipated from the mental slavery of the hue of our skin.

  3. “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? ”

    Did this happen in the United States? I know there’s still racial discrimination in the US. I’m black myself, but that’s ridiculous. I’ve experienced racial profiling a few times, but for the most part I’ve been sheltered from racist treatment. In Sudan you’re considered “dark”??? I thought you would be considered an average color. Somewhat on the lighter side. Sudanese must be really color struck.

    Another thing, I’m sick of African Americans ignorantly saying North Sudanese aren’t black people. Western media paints North Sudan as non-black and just “Arab.” White historians and the West love to divide Africans into honorary Caucasoids vs. “true blacks.” The definition of who’s black switches when convenient to whomever is the oppressed, slave, or ugliest or darkest. When Africans are particularly attractive like Sudanese, Ethiopians, Fulani, or Tutsi then they’re classified as not “truly black.” There’s also ignorance that Africans never had the same hair texture.

    “They must be mixed with Arab blood. They’re too beautiful.”
    Because “true blacks” have to be ugly. *sarcasm*

    Have you noticed this? I’m African American myself btw.

    • Hey Eve, thanks for your comment! Yeah, my college years exposed me to a lot of racism in the US, unfortunately, and that paragraph you quoted was from personal experience.

      North Sudanese (in my humble opinion) are very confused about their identity – the government is desperate for Sudan to be considered part of the Arabian peninsula, while we are most clearly on the African continent. It’s true that genetically we are most likely Afro-Arab, but we’re taught that you must be one or the other, with the obvious markers being skin color, hair, facial features, etc.

      In Sudan, I consider myself of average skin tone, at least that’s what I thought I was. But somewhere along the way this light-skin craze started to kick in, and suddenly i found myself on the bottom of the color pile.

      As for the misconceptions of African Americans, I totally feel you. So many times I’ve heard, “are you mixed?” or “well, you’re not REAL African….” and I’m like, what the hell does that even mean? All of which just confirms to me the disconnection and divide that is in the African diaspora at large (African Americans included). It’s sad.

      Thanks so much for this, feels good to discuss! 🙂

  4. Way late on this but excellent post. Wow @ “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” saddened, but not surprised by this.

  5. As a child my dad always used to tell me that when ur beautiful inside u glow outside. And I grew up listening to my mom telling me that you’re beautiful everyday! Among other things.
    May be this is what leaving me now with a (no make-up skills)!
    We come in different shades in my family and in Sudan as well.
    I have been touched by the subject of the shades and how pure I am as an african lady and do I have any arab bloods within my veins!
    Well I am a mix of Arican,arab and Nubians. I am a Sudanese lady who loves mama Africa.
    We should focus on how to build a healthy society!

    What hurts more is when such an attitude comes from well educated families!
    You should learn how to be proud of urself and how to help urself to be a better person, how to challenge urself?!
    And the most important thing is how to accept, love and live in peace with yourself!
    I dunno why but somehow the phrase (Fasi’7) which is shedding off ur original skin reminds me of snakes and pythons!

    Thanks for the lovely article 🙂

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