Though the black community’s current conversation today surrounds colorism, black pride, and dismantling social injustices, the collective conscious hasn’t always been as resounding. Recollecting my childhood and adolescent years, I remember having very strong complexes regarding my skin, in specific my dark skin. Not helping most everyone’s personal struggle with puberty, I had to internally resolve the socially inflicted “issues” with being dark skin and failed. Bouncing from a predominantly white school where I was the token black, to a predominantly black school where I was consistently bullied and ostracized, back to a predominantly white school where my sexual orientation added to being more of an outlier; my skin and sexuality was an incessant insecurity that I worked to repress.
In my experience, the darker the berry didn’t equate to sweeter the juice; and if it did, no one was sipping. The lighter you were/are, statistically, the more advantages you have, and if that was the case, I was learning why. It became easy to internalize the many (seemingly harmless) “your black ass” jokes I got from my peers that looked like me, fail at enduring the pressure to fit in (or fetishized) when I was on the opposite end of the spectrum from those that didn’t, and adopt the self-hate from the rejection of the safe-haven of the LGBT. In the black LGBT community, we sometimes forget to acknowledge the self-hate we ironically create very easily in others. I can recall a drunken night where a dark-skinned friend of mine was told by an enraged light-skinned man, “You can say what you want, but I’m light, and I’ll always have access.” In fact, before dating an early ex of mine, I was jokingly called a ‘black roach”, yet I allowed it because I had grown accustomed to accepting it. Not confronting similar instances, I had made myself prey to my own negative, predacious mind.
Growing up in a household where my blackness was celebrated, and I endured my maternally given moniker “My Chocolate Jell-O Pudding Pop” (though I still cringe from embarrassment); I’ve accepted that I allowed societies perception and inability to receive my outward appearance to perpetuate self-hate. On top of school, my future, my identity, my coming into manhood, my attraction towards men, I had now fallen victim to the scrutiny of others.
It took a drastic reconditioning in college, and more importantly, increasing my own mental fortitude through positive self-talk. Shortly put, I stopped giving a fuck about what others thought. Fast forward, we have entire think pieces surrounding diverse experiences “at the table”, and I’m hopeful this generations experience with skin identity and colorism is lessened because of it. I had to learn we come in various shades because we represent such an immensely assorted group of cultures, and if the next person doesn’t understand it, it’s not my problem! My family instilled that positive reinforcement; fortunately for me I remembered that blueprint. I love the skin I’m in and apologize to the little boy that didn’t always!