Beauty!! Beauty!! A question I always wondered was what is beauty, how is it measured? When I was younger, I had a very weird and interesting conversation with my father about the difference between someone who is beautiful, cute, pretty or handsome. I wish I had listened to what he said that day. However, I have always wondered, on what conditions and measurement where his definitions on.
Growing up as a young girl in Nigeria, I was darker in complexion compared to my other friends. I always wondered why I was so dark. I knew I was beautiful but secretly wished to be lighter in complexion. I knew a lot of people in Nigeria who bleached their skin so they could be fairer. I wondered what was it about being black that made us question and dislike our skin and want to be something else.
After I moved to America, my awareness of my skin color was heightened. I had discussions with friend about skin tones. Most of my friends said in general most black guys dated white girls, and the guys who dated black girls mostly dated the light skinned girls. Why the preference to white and light skinned?
I believe most of the reason for the preference of lighted skinned or white lies in the colonial oppression and slavery. Black people have been made to believe that aren’t beautiful enough. They have been told they look like apes and are inferior mentally and physically. The message during the colonial period was about spreading light to the Dark Continent. Also the spiritual connotation of white representing holiness and light while black representing darkness and evil was spread during the colonial era and still lingers today in our society. These negative meanings affect the way in which black women see themselves. Even in magazines there are very few black women portrayed as beautiful.
In our society today, the standards of beauty are being thin, skinny and especially being white. A lot of black women try and fit into this standard of beauty. They relax their hair so it isn’t doesn’t appear “nappy” and wear weaves and wigs. What is the problem I often ask myself, is that we are ashamed of who we are that hide under artificial hair and apply chemicals onto our hair just to achieve society’s standard of beauty of appearing white. Recently, I wonder why I am always so eager to relax my hair so it doesn’t become natural. The sad part is I have no answer to this question. I have fallen to this false standard of beauty.
India Arie is an amazing musician who I admire and respect a lot. She is a proud black. Her song I am not my Hair affected me so much. She says” I am not my hair, I am not this skin, I am not you expectations but I am the soul that lives within. Good hair means curls and waves, Bad hair means you look like a slave”. These words are very powerful. In society the standards of beauty are warped. However, we are more than the world measures us by. Since then I have been inspired to grow my hair naturally. I still have gotten there but I pray one day I will.