The Color of my Skin
Sometimes at SisterWives we are lucky enough to receive a submission from someone beyond our ‘usual’ crowd, who has discovered our site, found it helpful, and has recognised its potential as a platform for sharing the issues they are passionate about. In a beautiful and highly pertinent piece, Jolene describes a few of the harsh realities of living in a world where being a woman with dark skin is considered (by some) to be not only unattractive, but (appallingly) something which devalues her in their eyes. Her story should give us all pause to think about how we value ourselves and each other, and on what basis we mete out our judgement and acceptance of those around us. Thank you, Jolene – Lizzi
I bet you had no idea what what your future held as you lay in your mother’s loving arms that dark, stormy night. Bubbles of spit forming at the corner of your mouth,her holding back her tears of joy, everyone around you celebrating your birth. They kept on telling your mother, “Congratulations!”
You were a newborn African baby girl. By the time you were seven, your skin had fully ripened, and your dark chocolate complexion glowed for everyone to see. A boy in your neighbourhood, probably nine or ten years of age, would follow you around everywhere, giving you flowers and pecks and constantly asking if he could hold your hand.
Now, fifteen years down the line, you laugh at what was: those memories of the two of you playing hide and seek, and you wonder what became of him. A few questions here and there, and you find out you have mutual friends. They tell you how he’s 6″2 now, dark, handsome with finely chiseled features, pursuing a degree at one of the most prestigious universities here in Kenya. His clique, they add, considers him the leader of their pact because he always gets the hottest babes: the envied trophy girlfriend-the girl is always a lightskin.
You realize that he’s not the only one who’s no longer a fan of your skin complexion. Your fellow black, African dark skin men can’t get enough of making derogatory ‘darkskin jokes’. Even worse, they don’t feel the tiniest ounce of guilt about it, I mean, it’s not like it’s racism or anything, so it’s not wrong-it can’t be wrong.
You wonder why they hate your complexion so much when they themselves came from darkskin mothers. If you were to ever ask them if they find their mothers beautiful they would say “Without a doubt, more than anything in the world,” and you wonder if they can find their mothers beautiful, why wouldn’t they find any other dark girl equally beautiful. It puzzles you, but you don’t say anything-you keep your piece.
To your horror, the words “You’re really pretty for a darkskinned girl,” never miss you and you get to understand the underlying meaning behind that “compliment” is that you are a miracle. You were never meant to be beautiful in the first place- just ask your dark skin.
One time, on one of those lazy afternoons, you were walking down the street alongside your two bestfriends. As you enjoyed the cool, gentle breeze and the orange glow illuminating from the setting sun one of your friends happened to say, “If you were to ask me, I would say you have everything- everything a girl could ever want…” You don’t agree with her at all, but you knew she always harmlessly admired you, so you let her have her say. “..if only you were lightskinned,” she concludes.
This comment irks you, but even before you say a word, your other friend chips in, “So true, she would be so beautiful.” That’s when you realize, it would be wrong to tell them off, because in their minds, they are fully convinced that they’re complementing you. Although the message in their “compliment” is quite clear; your beauty doesn’t count as much as it would if you were a shade lighter.
You live to hear of the death of your high school friend, she was close. She died of skin cancer after using those dreadful bleaching creams. You were there when she started smearing them on her skin, and even with the constant sweating under the sun, and her skin at times turning purple from lack of their required continual use, she still insisted-it was the best decision she ever made. It was the constant attention that she now got from men, the way even those who didn’t necessarily find her beautiful told her it was a good thing she was lightskinned.
Those crude jokes didn’t refer to her anymore, so she didn’t have to cry herself to sleep ever again. She was different now- she was beautiful.
You got a call from her mother asking you to attend her funeral, and that was the day you decided you could no longer remain silent, it was time to speak up. You knew all too well that your people had a problem, and even though they had given you every right to resent them, you pitied them instead. Sure, colonization days were far behind you, but your people were never really mentally liberated.
It is shameful that colourism is still alive and well in your generation, but of what benefit is it to silently ignore their trash-talk, or hate yourself because of what they said? The solution is to unapologetically embrace your skin tone, and by conduct truly show that there’s nothing wrong with your dark skin, there never was, and hope others will truly believe the same. At the end of the day, it’s your dark skin,my dear.
Jolene Muroki, a 20 year old, Kenyan, LL.B student with dreams of, perhaps, becoming a full time, and quite influential writer in the future. Passionate about women, and the issues we face; forever a feminist. What she writes about is her truth, and she hopes that most people can relate.
Founder of Lenieproductionsblog and a home based book club, thus, an avid reader of all things non-academic, ambivert, a fan of anything philosophical but an even bigger fan of romance. Her biggest wish – to offer a new perspective to things not often thought about and start up new conversations.