I remember the day my daughter was born like it was yesterday.
The first time I held her I thought for certain she was an angel. She didn’t seem real.
I had a miscarriage in between her and my son, and to hold her after carrying her along with my hopes and dreams for 9 months; I was undone.
She was a beautiful olive color. Her skin wasn’t quite brown, but darker than white. She was like a scoop of pralines and cream ice cream, and I was smitten.
I remember the first day I noticed her skin changing. She was about 2 weeks old and her once caramel complexion was morphing into a “potato skin” brown. Her eyes were still golden , and I remember holding her close and praying, “Please don’t let her skin get any darker.”
But it did. And now she’s the color of a hershey’s bar…rich, sweet and chocolate.
I grew up in a neighborhood where we were the only black family until…well until about 3 years ago. Until middle school I was the only black girl in my class. Once in high school I had a hard time fitting in with the African American kids because they said I was an “uncle tom” because we lived in a nice neighborhood and my parents were still married. But, I didn’t fit in with a lot of my white friends anymore either. They would talk about the other black kids like I couldn’t hear them. Especially the black girls.
“Did you see her hair? It’s so greasy and nappy!”
“She smells funny”
“Her skin is so DARK!”
The black boys didn’t get talked about so badly because a lot of them were star athletes and dating white girls.
I often found myself eating alone outside.
I was the most unpopular popular person I’ver ever known. I knew everybody and everybody knew me.
But I didn’t have a “crowd”.
When I went to college it was no different. I went on a blind date with a guy who played football for Ohio State. When we sat down to eat he said, “I noticed you with your friend _________ walking across campus the other day. She’s more my type….tall and thin with long hair. But you’re light skinned, so I picked you. I don’t date dark skinned girls”.
I sat there in utter disbelief. And if I hadn’t been a starving college student who hadn’t had a meal that didn’t come from the cafeteria in over 2 months, I would’ve left.
When you look on the cover of a magazine it is RARE to see a woman of color. And if you do see a woman of color gracing the cover; she’s usually light skinned with long hair or “good hair”. You hear men talk about Halle Berry, Sanaa Lathan, and Jennifer Lopez….but I have yet to hear a man of any color refer to Lupita Nyong’o or Alek Wek as beautiful , sexy, or attractive.
You see….when I held my baby close….it wasn’t that I was ashamed of her color. I was afraid for her.
I was afraid that she wouldn’t make friends easily because she’s a little brown girl.
I was afraid she would struggle with low self-esteem because she’s a little brown girl.
I was afraid she wouldn’t be invited over for sleepovers because she uses oil in her hair and she’s a little brown girl.
I was afraid she’s be overlooked as a date to homecoming or to the prime because she’s a little brown girl.
I’ve even been afraid that she’ll be treated differently at our predominantly white church because in her class she’s only one of a few little brown girls.
It hurts my heart sometimes when she comes from playing at the neighbor’s house and says “I wish my hair was yellow and long like Bailey’s”.
It makes me sad when she takes notice of the fact that I am much lighter than she is.
But it makes me proud when I catch her looking in the mirror smiling at herself….twirling in her skirt, dress or leggings, scrunching up her puff ball, and singing in a pretend mic, “I’m prettttaaaaayyyyy yeah yeah…and I know I’m prettaaayyyy cause my mommy said I’m pretttttaaaaayyyyy”.
And I do.
I tell her she’s pretty.
Because she is.
Her pretty brown skin has been a joy to have in my life. I have learned that I can’t keep my children from heartache, but I can build them up enough in God’s word and in their esteem that heartache doesn’t stop them.
She may have brown skin, but her smile is the always the brightest in the room.
She is my jewel…my pretty brown girl.