“You’re so pretty to be so dark.” I would hear this all the time from adults in the neighborhood I called home in Newark, New Jersey. At ten years old, new to America, color wasn’t an issue till I came to the US. Born in West Africa, I’d lived in Europe and my color was not an issue as a child till I came to America. The kids in my class made fun of me. I was a little African girl with a British accent. The kids made fun of me, where I was from, my dark-skinned complexion and my accent. As a top student, I was often ridiculed even more. When the teacher would say, “The only one who got an ‘A’ on the test is Annie.” They would laugh and say, “yeah cuz she knows voodoo.”
The main topic of disdain for my classmates and kids on the block was how dark my completion was. Because of my complexion, in their eyes, I couldn’t be beautiful. To the adults, they were dismayed that my beauty existed in spite of my complexion. “You a pretty little black girl,” they would say. I remember wondering why they couldn’t just say, “Annie, you are beautiful.” Why was my complexion an issue?
So when I read the hatefully small minded report by Psychology Today with its racist view of what’s beautiful & attractive, claiming Black women were the least attractive of all the races, I wasn’t surprised. The sad part about the report often African-Americans have bought into the lie that we’re not beautiful or pretty enough. We’re often quick to check others and not ourselves. We use the hate-filled N-word to address each other and favor those lighter in complexion, forgetting that true beauty radiates inside out.
I didn’t internalize hateful and mean-spirited words then, and I won’t do it now. My mother did a great job instilling in me who I am: I am a child of God and I’m everything God says about me and can achieve anything as along as He’s with me. So, I maintained a strong sense of who I was and what I wanted to achieve. Plus as Eleanor Roosevelt wisely said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” No one can make you feel ugly without your permission.