Beauty in Being Black

Image Credit: T.A.S. Photography on flickr

I’m currently reading a book titled The Girl Who Fell From The Sky by Heidi W. Durrow. I found this author because I was searching for more black, female bloggers to read and stumbled upon her own. Ms. Durrow is mixed, or multiracial, with Black American and Danish. When I first saw her picture, I thought, “WOW! She’s really attractive!” and I envied her blue-green eyes.

And in her book, the main character has a similar back ground; mixed with a white mother and black father, always being told how pretty she was as a child.

It reminded me of a conversation I had in college, sitting at a table with other black girls. I had commented that Terrance Howard had nice [green] eyes, and the girl across from me exploded into a mini tirade about how her “shit brown eyes” were just as attractive as Howard’s. Every part of me ached to say, “No. They’re not.” But I kept silent, wondering how she’d become under the delusion that brown eyes were appealing. 

At some other point in my not-so-distant past, I was talking with my grandmother about actors and actresses I thought were attractive. I can’t even remember who I chose, but I remember her reaction; why didn’t I find darker skinned women attractive? Someone like Angela Bassett? 

Then I’m reminded of how black women go natural to reclaim their own sense of beauty and power. And how straight hair is often times seen as black women trying to imitate white female beauty. Or of how black women will claim a dozen ethnicities under the sun, as if to exaggerate a mildly exotic looking trait. Or attempt to achieve some sort of otherness, that isn’t completely black.

My closest friend is mixed, and she would often tell me about how people would ask if she’s Indian (probably because of her hair and complexion). And jealousy would bubble to the surface and I reminisced of the few times where people asked me if I was Haitian. I talked about over and over (though to no one in particular) about how exotic or other I must look, especially when people remarked that I resembled two friends I had who were also mixed. I thought it meant that I looked mixed too.

I don’t.

I think about all these things as I struggle to read through the book, written by a black woman with blue eyes. I think about The Bluest Eye, an incredible story by Toni Morrison and I wonder if I’m like that character. In a way, I used to brag about being light skinned, as if it brought me closer to being exotic. I thought about how my mother sent my baby cousin in to tell me what color I was; “Yellow” he said, and I swallowed my excitement.

Do I want to be white?

Not necessarily. But I struggle find beauty in my own blackness, as I admire biracial girls, or girls from various ethnic backgrounds that aren’t mine. I spend quite a bit of time, wondering about my physical normalcy – how there’s nothing particularly exotic or interesting about the way that I look.

Self-esteem is so closely tied to our physical bodies, and I wonder how am I supposed to reconcile these feelings of not looking like Heidi W. Durrow, Halle Berry or some other individual?

I don’t have any answers, just loads of questions while I try to deal with my belief system regarding my body, and how unbelievably average it is.

3 thoughts on “Beauty in Being Black

  1. LOL, cmon snap out of it and be happy about the way you look.
    Step 1. Detox yourself from what mainstream media tells you/us is beautiful.

  2. Great post and very honest. I have also struggled with wanting ‘otherness’ or to be perceived as more exotic. That my avg blackness was not attractive enough. I know that I am mixed with both Chinese and Native American but far back enough that it doesn’t really show in my face and I don’t acknowledge it on forms that ask me my race.

    I think that our preoccupation with shadism/skin color has a lot to do with growing up in a post-colonial/post slavery world. All over the world brown skinned girls are encouraged to lighten up to be seen as more successful and attractive. It may take work but embrace your beauty. Whether you know it or not, someone somewhere is undergoing some kind of procedure to achieve what you have naturally.

    It definitely is a struggle to ignore the mainstream standards of beauty, even in the Black community. However it can be done and a lot of it begins with self-acceptance.

    • Oh thank you. So were your great grand parents chinese and native american?

      I spend a lot of time wondering what it would be like if I were born with mixed race parents. I know that multiracial people tend to grow up with an identity crisis but I think I’d risk that if it meant looking really exotic or more attractive. I don’t really know how to break myself out of that mindset (yet) though.

      Self-acceptance is really difficult, I’ve found, and I often wonder what exactly it entails. Or how people go about it achieving it since it seems so few people are actually happy with who they are or they struggle with maintaining their sense of self. I don’t really want to spend the rest of my life struggling for self acceptance.

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