I have a mirror in front of me, but instead of seeing my own reflection, I see what society has made me. I remember 1st grade like it was yesterday. My mother dropped me off at school, right before she left she said: “Jessica have a nice day at school” kissed me and departed. I walked to my classroom, and like atoms me and the other girls joined together, looking for friends to be with the remainder of the school year. I did not know the definition of skin color, and how it marked an individual like a tattoo. I went and sat with the group next to me. A girl approached me and asked,”Why is your hair so nappy? It’s not long like mines.’’ You could only imagine the way I was feeling the rest of the school day. When my mother picked me up, I cried to her, “The other girls at school told me my hair is nappy.” My mother replied, “I want you to go up to them and tell them that you are happy that your hair is nappy.” Going back to my own reflection in the mirror, I see that society’s control over the media gives them the ability to construct an image of “good” and “bad” to hair textures. Deep within me I know that my hair is what makes me different, and it isn’t something that I should be ashamed of. I was in for a surprise to soon discover that this technique that the media use to force self-doubt on my hair, a similar technique of creating self doubt is applied to my skin color as well. For the most part, these “bad” descriptions that society illustrate about African Americans, destroy a part of their self confidence, and soon an individual would start to believe in these fabricated views. I love the skin that I am in. Who would ever think that I would be ranked by skin tone?
It’s a common misconception that the lighter your skin is, the more attractive and “positive” you are. This illusion has not only led the elites to create a system of social stratification, but it starts a trend labeling an individual’s qualities based on the complexion of their skin. “Colorism”, a term that is mentioned in Alice Walker’s essay “If the Present Looks Like the Past, What Does the Future Look Like” suggests that there is a scale ranking an individual by their skin tone. The lighter your skin is, the more favorable you are. The darker your skin is you are often labeled as being negative. The problem with this is that other African Americans adjusted to this belief that lighter tones of brown is more attractive than darker tones. Causing yet another battle between our people. Once again I face my own reflection, and I don’t see myself fitting into this stratification system of color. The thoughts of running out of my skin to please society’s expectations invades my mind. The inner me interrupts, and reminds me that I am beautiful just the way I am. Though I have this double view myself, I have learned not to let these false images take over me and my perception of myself.
As I grew older, I became more aware of this double view. Although it has it disadvantages it made me stronger. I am able to put myself in other minorities shoes, like the LGBT community for example. From their standpoint they also possess this double conscious view of oneself. If you don’t stand for something you will fall for anything. My mother taught me that I shouldn’t change myself just because other people influenced me to do so to fit their standards. The next day at school I did go up to the girls that teased me, and I told them “I am happy that my hair is nappy.”
In my reflection I see what society wants me to be
In my mind I have this craving to be set free
I don’t want my skin color to get the best of me or take over
my soul and produce insecurities
If you don’t understand my life take a minute to learn
That my skin color shouldn’t be a major concern
open your eyes and see all that was created
we are all human c’mon let’s face it.
(Sources: Langness, David. “Skin and Character: the Colorism Connection” ).