I remember when I was in high school and people would approach me and ask, “what are you mixed with?”. It was always so random and I’d wonder what gave them the idea that I was mixed at all. I’d respond, “I’m not mixed” with a smile, and they’d almost always say something like, “wow really? You definitely look like you have some white in you”. This comment has always flattered me, because I associated looking half white with being prettier. I remember being a child and fantasizing about being white or being mixed. I’d have dreams that I had long wavy hair flowing down my back, and wake up disappointed when I realized that I still had my same 4b hair texture I went to sleep with the night before. In high school I dyed my hair blonde and wore it straight, to the point that it was damaged to know return by my senior year. By then I had started wearing weaves and wigs to continue to feed this toxic fantasy. I even remember going as far as googling, “how to naturally bleach your skin”, thinking, if I could only be a little lighter I could be prettier.
I can’t recall anyone encouraging me to embrace my skin color, or calling me out on my toxic behaviors. In fact it wasn’t until my early twenties that I even realized that my self image was so damaged that it had sent me down a spiraling path of self hate, low self esteem, and complete lack of confidence. I married my husband at 20, and I can specifically remember feeling embarrassed whenever my husband saw me with my natural hair. He was the first man that I can recall ever expressing to me how beautiful he thought my natural hair was. He constantly praised me and encouraged me to embrace my natural beauty, and that started me down a path of self love that I never could’ve imagined experiencing as a kid.
To my surprise, this journey intensified even more when our kids were born. I recalled myself as a child, saying I would never have children with a “black man” because my children needed to be mixed. Yet here I was birthing baby after baby with this beautiful man each one of them was perfect. I never questioned or felt regret about my kids not being mixed. I loved their brown skin, brown eyes and their kinky curly hair. So much so, that it made me wonder, how could I love them, and hate myself, even though I saw so much of myself in them? This realization forced me to go even deeper with examining myself and learning to love who I was, because I refused to allow my kids to inherit my negative self views.
I started by wearing my natural hair more often, which eventually led me to the decision of getting locs, something my old self would’ve choked at just the thought of. I started reading more about my ancestors and pursuing a spiritual journey. This was one of the biggest life changes that I made that allowed me to see myself in a different light. The more I was able to embrace my history, my true culture and my spirituality, I started realizing that my skin, my hair and everything that makes me who I am, is so much more powerful than I ever could’ve realized. I started to understand that I lived and was raised in a society that intentionally discouraged me from feeling empowered. Because if I felt empowered I might understand my
true worth, and if I understood my true worth, I would be unstoppable.
Today, no one could tell me that my brown skin isn’t radiant, my brown eyes aren’t mesmerizing, and my locs aren’t to die for. I grew up in a world that wanted to strip me of my identity and make me feel ashamed of my roots. I feel powerful knowing that what I’ve attained, no one will ever be able to take it from me again. I feel even more powerful knowing that I can pass this down to my children and hopefully put an end to this generational curse. I constantly make a point of proudly displaying all this “black girl magic” as often as I can, in hope that every brown man, woman, and (especially) child that sees me, feels impacted and empowered to do the same.