We face an enigma on the African continent today, of girls (and boys) who have been taught to hate their melanin. The force of this issue leers over all of us, embedded in our culture and our habits.
My own relationship with skin tone was unconscious for a long time, but very deeply rooted.
Every time I received a comment about how dark my skin was, every time I saw myself show up looking like a shadow in a group picture, every time I flipped through magazines and looked at images of light skinned models in beauty advertisements. Every time I watched a movie or TV series where the main character was a light skinned person. I internalized that this was what beauty was, this is what people wanted to see.
And because the Lupita Nyong’o’s of the world are very few and far between, many girls are left to form a definition of beauty, success and intelligence through the lens of popular media that offers little to no representation of themselves.
For a long time, I attempted to compensate for this disadvantage by being skinny, intelligent, having an alluring personality. Because there was nothing worse than being the dark-skinned girl who was also fat and ‘uncool’.
For many, the term “Colorism” is unfamiliar. Not because it does not affect them, but because it is not discussed at length enough. Colorism does not just motivate the desire to have light skin. Colorism is also behind the desire to have straight, ‘good’ hair. The closer it comes to white/Caucasian hair, the better. It motivates the desire to have petite features: lips not too big, nose not too wide. The closer they come to Caucasian features the better. It is linked to the desire to have a ‘proper’ accent or lighter eyes.
For many of us as Africans, especially as African women, white is the golden standard of being the best version of ourselves. And we do not even realize it. We do not consider the real reason behind our skin lighteners and hair relaxers. So much of the time, it is us attempting to disown our God-given beauty in exchange for an agenda sold to us for generations by the ones who colonized us.
Our worth as African girls and women is not defined by the tone of our skin, the length or texture of our hair or the size of our features. Our worth is not a physical object to be defined and manipulated at the choosing of any man or colonialist system. Our worth lies within us. In our minds, our hearts and souls. Let no makeup advertisement or western ideology dare to suggest otherwise. And let us, as Africans, adopt a new mentality where we can place value on who we are and how we have been created.